Saturday, March 18, 2017

Soledad Tanner Consulting LLC​ business networking brunch at Hanover Rice Village

Soledad Tanner Consulting LLC​ business networking brunch at Hanover Rice Village; We met great people with amazing businesses!

Soledad Tanner Consulting seeks to improve your company profit & productivity. We will help you with strategies to grow the margin of your business or medical practice. Contact us for consultation @ (832) 998 2136 or,

Event was sponsored by: Chef Penright & Company and Rosinka Wine and Tea House.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The importance of learning a second language

The importance of learning a second language

Learning English at “The Benedict School of Languages” opened many doors in my life, changed me and increased my opportunities personally and professionally

Hi, I'm Soledad Tanner, MIB, I was born in Guayaquil, I studied English in The Benedict School of Language and I currently live in Houston Texas.
When I think of The Benedict I think of the incredible influence that English has had both in my professional life and in my personal life.

In my studies, I started to study English at the age of 10 and graduated from Benedict's advanced courses when I was 16 years old. I am a Commercial Engineer (Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Management) from the Catholic University of Guayaquil, a diploma that I studied in Spanish, and I also have a Master's Degree in International Business from St. Thomas University in Houston, which I studied in English.

Professionally, both in Ecuador and outside the country, all my works and projects have required my two languages. From the beginning of my career at the Swiss Consulate in Guayaquil to the position of Global Director of strategy performance & metrics for Deustche Post DHL in Germany, in addition to the different work trips that took me to India, Switzerland, Brazil, England , Mexico, Hong Kong and many others ... all were made possible thanks to English.

I am currently the President of Soledad Tanner Consulting, a consulting company, which helps companies to improve their profit and productivity. My clients are diverse and being bilingual opens up possibilities to offer my services to bigger, complex and interesting markets, than if I would only speak one language.

Personally, English has allowed me to read wonderful books, travel to magical places on almost all continents, be able to understand other languages, other cultures and meet diverse and interesting people.

Without a doubt, I can say that English has been the vital tool to be able to know, live and enjoy a globalized world and be an active member of a constantly evolving society.

Thank you Benedict!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How to grow your medical practice

It’s time to decide that you are no longer going to continue to run your practice as you did in the past. You can achieve more. We will provide you with the tools and strategies necessary to make real, lasting change in your practice.

Soledad Tanner Consulting seeks to improve your company profit & productivity. We will help you with strategies to grow the margin of your medical practice. 

Contact us for consultation @ (832) 998 2136 or



The paths of most medical professionals, like dentists, physicians and chiropractors, pose a conundrum. These individuals go through immense amounts of schooling, and then they work years – if not decades – to acquire the technical acumen and artistic skill they need to be successful at their chosen craft.

And then, after dedicating this massive amount of time and effort, many take the entrepreneurial route, choosing to start their own private practice. It’s an entirely new journey, with a whole new set of skills – this time, in business. But where along the way did they learn how to become business owners? Where were they taught how to grow their practice and take it to the next level? For many, it’s the biggest (or only) gap in their education.

Tony specializes in helping these types of business owners learn the core principles of business. At Business Mastery, he provides the tools and strategies for business growth and also the foundational psychology they need to lead their team. For medical professionals, though, he has custom advice. Here are Tony’s keys to growth specifically for medical practices, taken from a recent interview he had with MedMark CEO Lisa Moler,


The first thing you have to realize is that the chokehold on the growth of any business is always the owner. And while 20% of that chokehold may come down to mechanics of running a business, a staggering 80% has to do with your psychology – that is, your own fears, limits and stories about why your practice isn’t where you want it to be.

Most people think that they need to redirect their focus toward new strategies to make real change. But while strategy is absolutely important, it’s the wrong sequence to start with. What’s the strategy for being fit and healthy? It’s not that complex, yet 70% of Americans are technically considered overweight. Because it’s not a strategy problem; it’s a mindset problem.

Take a moment and think about your perceived limitations. (It might help to think of them as “reasons” you can’t achieve something. For medical practice owners, here are some of the common ones we’ve heard:
It’s so hard to find a reliable long-term receptionist. They either leave after a few months or a year, or I have to fire them. The cost of that kind of turnover is killing my bottom line.
I have to stay in urban areas to keep volume of patients up, but then the overhead I’m paying on my space cuts deeply into my profits.
Patients get so frustrated from dealing with their insurance that they can’t ever be fully satisfied customers from start to finish. They subconsciously blame us for their insurance troubles.

It’s easy to throw your hands up and say, “I’ve tried everything.” But if you keep saying that, then you will undoubtedly convince yourself that your growth is limited. The reality is, the only limits that exist are the ones that you create for yourself, and it is those that prevent you from reaching your business goals. Once you come to understand what your limiting beliefs are, you can begin to shed those constructs.

It’s time to decide that you are no longer going to tolerate the way you’ve run your practice in the past. It’s time to decide that you deserve more. Your staff deserves more, too, and they deserve to see that there is a different way. Step out of the state of learned helplessness and resolve that you are going to arm yourself with the tools and strategies necessary to make real, lasting change in your practice.


You worked hard to earn the title of “Dr.” – But it’s time to step out of that title and into the one of “CEO.” You are not just a doctor or a dentist, you are also a business owner, and you have your own brand to build. And to do so, you must make constant and consistent strides to innovate and market your practice.

Innovation means finding a better way to meet your clients’ needs than anybody else. Anybody can make some money for a certain amount of time. But if you want to become successful and sustain that success over years or over decades – if you want to build a sustainable brand that you can pass down to your colleagues, children, or be able to sell to a competitor for a great price – then you have to find a way to add more value than anybody else in your space.

Marketing is equally important. Even if you are massively talented with a wealth of knowledge and skill, if you cannot find a way to market your service, then your business will have a hard time getting off the ground. Because the best product or service doesn’t always win. Do you think McDonald’s has the best burger? Probably not. What about Nike? Are their shoes and apparel really that high quality? Not necessarily. But the marketing strategies of these two companies are top-notch.

That’s why you need to understand what your “X-factor” is. You have to know what value you bring – what you are here to deliver and how you can improve your customer’s life.


Your business has a purpose. And that purpose has nothing to do with you – it’s about your customer. Don’t fall in love with your product or your service, fall in love with your customer, or even your ideal customer.

Understand who your customers are: What do they want? What do they fear? What do they desire and how do you meet those needs for them? How can you give them the experience that they want?

Answering these questions will allow you to create a culture where every single employee in your practice will know that is your purpose – and you will collectively be able to add more value than anyone else. Forget about having satisfied customers. Satisfied customers will go away when a better offer comes along. What you want is a raving fan. You have to over-deliver in a way that makes you irreplaceable to them. When you can do this, you will be able to make your way towards dominating the marketplace.


It’s not the person that you hire that will make a difference in your business, it’s the person that you fail to fire that will take a toll. That’s why it’s so important to hire slow and fire fast. The sooner you part ways with employees who aren’t the right fit, the better. Most of us, however, do the opposite. We hire quickly to fill the position when we really should be taking our time to determine if the candidate has the right nature, the right personality and whether or not their core values align with those of the company. Then we are slow to let the person go, even though we know in our gut that it isn’t working.

Consider the person working your front desk. When hiring, you may have focused more on whether or not they were capable of handling logistics, and if they were pleasant enough, then you deemed them the right fit. But even if they are nice and can handle the position’s duties, if they aren’t able to truly connect with people, they may actually be hurting your business. Interface is everything in that role.

So rather than settling for people who just get the job done, refuse to have nothing less than superstars in all positions. You will not only find that it is more efficient and effective for you, but your business and, ultimately, for that person in their own career.


Consider Apple. Apple was in a slump until they transitioned into building simple, cool technology that connected people to what they love. Before long came the iPod and iTunes, then the iPhone and the iMac. Their net sales soared. And since that point, Apple has never stopped innovating, and their marketing campaigns have helped propel the company to an entirely new realm.

Now consider Zappos. Zappos disrupted the shoe business by creating an online market that offered free delivery and free returns. While many scoffed at the business model, arguing that it was sure to flop and force Zappos into bankruptcy, founder Tony Hsieh knew that the offer he was creating was so irresistible that it would succeed. He was right; Zappos has since achieved enormous success.

How important was it for these companies to change their offers? It was monumental. They were able to completely transform their business, and the landscape of the industry. So step back and ask yourself what you can do to elevate your game. Does the answer lie in innovation or marketing? Or what about making an offer so irresistible that they customer can’t deny it? Remember: Change your offer, change your business – change your business, change your life.


One of the most important questions you can ask is, “What business are you in?” And then step back and really consider what value you want to provide the customer. For example, Zappos is not in the shoe business – they are in the business of “creating happiness.” And Apple is not in the tech business, they are in the business of connecting people with their favorite things: music, photos and other people they like. So if you are a dentist, you are not in the teeth business, but perhaps you are in the business of creating smiles, or lighting people up. Whatever it is, you have to find something that is your mission. So when anyone asks you about it, instead of talking about the process, you talk about the value that you bring.

People don’t care about the process; they care about what they ultimately get. Focus on the result, not the path you must take to achieve that result. If they go to the dentist or the doctor, they don’t want to focus on the pain and the process. They want to think about the fact that they are going to get the most beautiful smile of their life.

So focus on what business you are really in, and make it a core component of your company’s culture. That way, you will be able to immerse your customer in the experience you want to create from the very beginning, and, eventually, turn them into a raving fan.


You have to decide what is most important to you and what you are doing all this for. If you’re just doing it for the money, you’re eventually going to burn out. Because no matter how much money you make, if you aren’t fulfilled, then you will never be happy. Remember, success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. 

So you have to ask yourself what you don’t want to give up on – why did you get into the business originally? What is it that you really want? What lights you up? The answer will be different for every single one of you – but the common denominator is always the same: it’s living life on your terms. And the clearer that you can get on that, the more inspired and driven you will be to grow your practice. Because it becomes a vehicle to achieving happiness, and bringing you fulfillment.

There is no worse fate than to achieve everything but not be fulfilled. Make the decision today to create an extraordinary life. Make it a point to stop and celebrate your success and acknowledge your accomplishments. But at the same time, make it a priority to find what brings you passion and joy and how your practice fits into that. When you understand the merits of the science of achievement and the art of fulfillment, then you can start to make the shifts that lead to real, lasting change in your business – and in your life.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

STC service value

How Putting Profit First Prevents Entrepreneurial Crises

By not putting aside a reasonable profit each year, we set the stage for a crisis. Revenue doesn't make you a viable business. Profit does. So, what is profit? Expenses are what’s left after you subtract profit from revenue. 

We should have the discipline of setting aside a percentage of revenue for profit and spending only what’s left. Expenses actually can be avoided, eliminated or delayed. More efficient processes must be developed. The hardest part is making costs fit the available money.

Soledad Tanner Consulting seeks to improve your company profit & productivity. 
We will help you with strategies to grow margins and reduce expenses. 

Contact us for consultation @ (832) 998 2136 or



How Putting Profit First Prevents Entrepreneurial Crises

I could have avoided a million-dollar bank scare with the strategies in Mike Michalowicz's book, Profit First.

Years ago, I got the kind of letter that entrepreneurs never want to receive. It was a certified letter from my bank saying that they no longer wanted to be my company's lender, and requesting I personally deliver $1,411,400.10 to their offices within two days. I didn’t have a million dollars and couldn’t have raised a fraction of that amount even if I had sold my house, my car and any non-essential organs.

My business partner got the same letter, too. So did our spouses. The bank was invoking the personal guarantee that we had signed years earlier to close on a line of credit.

That was almost certainly the worst day in my business life. In 10 years, we had gone from a bootstrap startup to a successful 8-figure business in the growing home computer market. We had built an office and warehouse facility that was both highly efficient and, in our eyes, beautiful. We employed dozens of people. Other entrepreneurs sought our advice.

There were many factors that brought us to this financial impasse. Our bank had gone through two consecutive acquisitions. Instead of the local, entrepreneur-friendly bankers we had dealt with for years, now a faceless loan committee in a distant city was deciding our fate. We had been a customer for our entire history and never missed a payment, but the committee decided they didn't like our numbers. Game over.

In our core business, meanwhile, the global brand that was our largest supplier and the driver of sales for many of our other brands was itself teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Product introductions were delayed, shipments were erratic, and market support was rapidly eroding. Revenue growth went from positive to negative.

While these external factors were important, much of the blame for the dire situation we found ourselves in rested with the way we built the business.

For more than 10 years, we had focused primarily on growth. Every year, we had double-digit increases in sales. Rather than pay taxes, we spent the profits we eked out on things we thought would help us grow even faster. We thought that to be viable, we needed to break the $100 million sales barrier, a goal achievable in just a few more years.

According to author Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine, our approach was the complete opposite of what it should have been. By not putting aside a reasonable profit each year, we set the stage for our eventual bank crisis.

Revenue doesn't make you a viable business, as our strategy implied. Profit does.

So, what is profit? Check any business textbook, and you’ll find that profit is what’s left when you subtract expenses from revenue. The math is simple and intuitive, and just about every entrepreneur knows that formula. Here’s the problem: that equation is a key part of why so many young businesses fail.

In Profit First (newly released in a revised and expanded edition), Michalowicz turns that long-established equation on its head. His math is also simple -- expenses are what’s left after you subtract profit from revenue.

That concept seems strange. We think of expenses as unavoidable -- cost of material, for example. Rent, salaries, utilities and so on seem equally intractable, at least in the short run. If we didn’t need to spend on something, we wouldn’t, right?

In fact, the discipline of setting aside a percentage of revenue for profit and spending only what’s left is what makes Michalowicz’s concept work. Expenses actually can be avoided, eliminated or delayed. Doing that can be uncomfortable, of course. It may mean some spending for growth doesn’t happen immediately. More efficient processes must be developed. Sometimes, difficult decisions about people and positions must be made.

It is counterintuitive, but Michalowicz says that a profit-first approach is actually growth-friendly. When you encounter a truly attractive opportunity that will add to revenue and profits, you will have the resources to invest in it without endangering the current business. When a business without a profit cushion plows every spare dollar back into the business, much as we did so long ago, it is planting the seeds not for growth but for a future crisis.

In the years that led up to my $1.4 million demand letter from the bank, we could have been far more profitable. Some of our growth-oriented “investments” never returned a fraction of their cost. We increased our inventory using our line of credit when we could have freed up cash by aggressively clearing out slower-moving items. 

Profit First is the book I wish I had when I began my entrepreneurial career. It describes both a philosophy and a system for building businesses in a sustainable way that creates long term success. The philosophy is that certain items -- profit, taxes, and owners’ pay -- are accounted for first. Then, what’s left is what the company can spend on everything else.

Naturally, the percentages for profit and owners’ pay must be reality-based, particularly in the early phases of a venture. One can’t arbitrarily set a profit level inappropriate for the industry and expect it to magically happen.

Undoubtedly, the hardest part of Michalowicz’s prescription is making costs fit the available money. Fortunately, a big chunk of Profit First is devoted to strategies to growing margins and reducing expenses. The book shows how even apparently fixed expenses can be cut and that increasing profit margins can often be a no brainer.

From hiring and firing practices to eliminating low-profit clients, Michalowicz outlines simple techniques that can be applied in any business. Some steps may be painful, but the discipline of limiting expenses while protecting profit makes the pain worthwhile. The book is sprinkled with examples showing how tough decisions brought businesses back from the brink of disaster.

Michalowicz covers some aspects of accounting, but the book is definitely not about debits, credits and ledgers. Since the first edition of Profit First was released, some accountants have formally adopted its techniques for their clients. According to Michalowicz, the number of entrepreneurs using the system is now in the tens of thousands.

The Profit First philosophy and system for building businesses would have prevented at least a few major pain points in my ventures. Had I adopted those practices, who knows how outcomes would have differed?

The final chapter of my $1.4 million crisis could have been far worse. We slashed costs, liquidated inventory, built on profitable segments, and eventually paid off the bank. We never had to deliver any personal assets. But, the stressful workout process permanently changed the company. We sold our custom-designed building. Long-time employees were let go. The business itself emerged as a greatly diminished entity with a different business model than my co-founder and I had pursued. We both left the business and went on to entrepreneurial success in divergent fields.

Even today, I keep the original bank letter in a frame on my office wall. On days when I think things aren’t going well, I glance at it to remind myself what a bad day really is.

Profit First came a bit too late for me, but if you know an entrepreneur or struggling business owner, give them the book. It will change their business and, quite possibly, their life.

Monday, March 6, 2017

University of St. Thomas career day 2017

University of St. Thomas Career day 2017: Honored and proud to be a panelist for Finance session (disciplinary focus) and Entrepreneurship session (Industry overview). It was great to share career experiences with UST students who are ready to graduate and move to the business world.

Also, great conversations with UST faculty and friends: Dr. Anne Davis - Director Human Services Management and my professor of Strategy (many years ago), Dr. Martin Lindenberg - Director of the McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship , Dr. Daniel Perez-Liston - Chair, Department of Economics & Finance, Hank Emery - Director of Alumni Relations, Elizabeth Knapp - Director of Career Services and testing. 

Many thanks to Dr. Davis for the invite. 

Soledad Tanner, MIB
Profit & Productivity
Soledad Tanner Consulting, LLC

Created with flickr slideshow.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Great Companies Obsess Over Productivity, Not Efficiency

Writen by: Michael Mankins


Business leaders often think of “efficiency” and “productivity” as synonyms, two sides of the same coin.

When it comes to strategy, however, efficiency and productivity are very different. At a time when so many companies are starved for growth, senior leaders must bring a productivity mindset to their business and remove organizational obstacles to workforce productivity. This view differs substantially from the relentless focus on efficiency that has characterized management thinking for most of the last three decades, but it is absolutely essential if companies are going to spur innovation and reignite profitable growth.

Let me explain.

The common definition of labor efficiency is: “the number of labor hours required to accomplish a given task, when compared with the standard in that industry or setting.” The typical way of assessing labor efficiency is to compare the number of hours actually required to produce a given product or service with those usually required.

Efficiency is about doing the same with less. Companies most often improve labor efficiency by finding ways to reduce the number of labor hours required to produce the same level of output. This translates into savings because the company spends less on wages and other labor-related costs. Efficiency, then, is about shrinking the denominator — inputs (headcount, labor hours) — in an effort to improve profitability.

At first glance, the definition of productivity appears remarkably similar. A common definition of labor productivity is: “the ratio of the output of goods and services to the labor hours devoted to the production of that output.” Productivity is typically measured by comparing the amount of goods and services produced with the inputs used in production.

Productivity is about doing more with the same. Growth in labor productivity is measured by the change in output per labor hour over a defined period of time. For a country, productivity is closely linked with living standards. For a company, it is directly tied to performance. With higher labor productivity, a company can produce more goods and services with the same amount of relative work. In contrast to efficiency then, productivity is about expanding the numerator, the output, in order to deliver greater top-line growth from the same workforce.

For most of the last three decades, senior executives have been encouraged to take an efficiency mindset to their business. Six Sigma, process reengineering, spans and layers analysis, and many other tools have helped executives uncover waste in their operations — in effect, identifying labor hours (or materials) that are unnecessary in order to produce the same level of output. In the absence of growth, efficiency gains are most often monetized through workforce reductions. General Electric, Honeywell, HP, and many other companies have showcased their efficiency programs as well as the bottom-line results these efforts have produced.

Today’s business environment requires a different worldview. The benefits from improving efficiency appear to have petered out. In the 1990s and 2000s, leadership’s focus on efficiency produced solid results. Earnings growth for the S&P 500 ran at nearly three times the rate of inflation over this period, despite tepid top-line growth in many years. Starting with the quarter ending March 31, 2015, however, S&P 500 earnings began falling, and earnings growth has remained negative ever since. Without top-line growth, continuing to wring out greater profits through efficiency has become the managerial equivalent of attempting to squeeze blood from a stone.

If efficiency is no longer the secret to superior performance, what about productivity? Bain & Company recently completed a comprehensive study of workforce productivity and performance. We collaborated with the Economist Intelligence Unit to survey more than 300 senior executives from large companies worldwide. We complemented these survey findings with the results of two dozen in-depth organizational audits to identify the steps companies can take to unleash the productive power of their teams and accelerate profitable growth.

This research, combined with our experience as consultants working with senior leaders over the last three decades, highlights three fundamental tenets of a productivity mindset. Leadership must recognize:

Most employees want to be productive, but the organization too often gets in their way. Our research indicates that the average company loses more than 20% of its productive capacity — more than a day each week — to what we call “organizational drag,” the structures and processes that consume valuable time and prevent people from getting things done.

Leaders that take a productivity mindset seek to eliminate organizational drag at every turn. They simplify their organization’s structure and align their operating model with the true sources of value in their business. They fight bureaucracy and create ways of working that allow employees to focus their time on delivering for customers and shareholders.

The company has a few talented people who can have a disproportionate impact on strategy execution and performance, but these “difference makers” are too often put in roles that limit their effectiveness. Despite the countless millions that have been spent fighting “the war for talent,” our research suggests that relatively little has been devoted to safeguarding the spoils. Fifteen percent of most companies’ workforce are star players, employees with exceptional performance and the potential to have an outsize effect on strategy execution. Both “the best” companies and “the rest” have roughly the same amount of star talent.

But leaders with a productivity mindset make sure their scarce star talent is assigned to business-critical roles. In retail, for example, if superior merchandising is essential to competitive advantage, then leaders ensure that most (even all) critical merchandising roles are filled with star talent. This allows for more and better output from this function and better (and faster) execution of the company’s strategy.

People have huge amounts of discretionary energy that they could devote to their work, but many are not sufficiently inspired to do so. Virtually every employee can bring more to their job, but many don’t invest the additional ingenuity and creativity that they could. Inspired employees bring more discretionary energy to their work every day. As a result, they are 125% more productive than an employee who is merely satisfied. Stated differently, one inspired employee can produce as much as 2.25 satisfied employees.

Executives with a productivity mindset do everything they can to tap into every employee’s reservoir of discretionary energy. They strive to align the firm’s purpose with each individual’s purpose. They invest in improving the inspirational leadership capabilities of their managers at every level. And they build a culture of autonomy and accountability that provides every employee with the opportunity to do their very best work. While these steps may not inspire every employee, they can increase the level of inspiration across the organization and, with it, workforce productivity.

Each of these tenets has important implications for the approach leaders should take in managing the scarce time, talent, and energy of their workforce. Adopting a productivity mindset can be challenging, but the payoff is enormous. Our research suggests that the best companies are more than 40% more productive than the rest. And this difference in productivity results in significantly higher profits — operating margins 30%–50% higher than industry peers — and faster growth.

In the coming decade, it will be critical for business leaders to adopt a productivity mindset. Instead of focusing on continuously managing the denominator, by cutting headcount, executives should identify ways to boost the numerator, and increase output. By systematically removing obstacles to productivity, deploying talent strategically, and inspiring a larger percentage of their workforce, leaders can dramatically improve productivity and reignite top-line growth.

Hiring an Entrepreneurial Leader

Writen: Timothy Butler


Entrepreneurs have become the new heroes of the business world. In the same way that Robert McNamara and his fellow Ford Motor Company “Whiz Kids” elevated general managers to star status, figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have made entrepreneurs the latest business icons. At Harvard Business School, where I advise the career development program, even students who plan to join blue chip firms and have no intention of ever launching start-ups would be insulted if someone told them they weren’t “entrepreneurial.” I understand why: Entrepreneurialism is highly valued in today’s labor market. Companies of all shapes and sizes aspire to be seen as highly innovative, nimble, and agile—all qualities traditionally ascribed to entrepreneurs.

Yet in their recruiting efforts, companies do not have a scientific way of separating true entrepreneurs from other talented candidates. Instead, they fall back on broad stereotypes.

In my research I’ve explored how firms can address that problem. In an effort to understand what makes entrepreneurs special, I’ve compared the psychological-testing results of more than 4,000 successful entrepreneurs from multiple countries against those of some 1,800 business leaders who described themselves as general managers but not as entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly, the two groups had much in common. On 28 of 41 dimensions of leadership, there was little or no difference between their skills. Yet when I looked more closely, combining their skill assessments with data on their life interests and personality traits, I discovered that entrepreneurs had three distinguishing characteristics: the ability to thrive in uncertainty, a passionate desire to author and own projects, and unique skill at persuasion. I also found that many of the traits commonly associated with entrepreneurial leaders didn’t truly apply.

For instance, entrepreneurs aren’t always exceptionally creative. But they are more curious and restless. They aren’t risk seekers—but they find uncertainty and novelty motivating. In this article I’ll tackle some of the myths about entrepreneurs and explain the more nuanced reality. I’ll also offer evidence-based, practical advice on interview questions and résumé screening that hiring managers can use to distinguish entrepreneurial candidates from other high-potential talent.
Know Your Requirements

Before looking to hire entrepreneurial leaders, managers must answer an important question: Does the company really need one? Not all organizational challenges call for an entrepreneurial approach. In my research successful founders as a group scored extremely high on a scale that measures the desire for power and control—and notably higher than the nonentrepreneurial leaders. This quality can cause conflict in situations where the sharing of information and power is vital to organizational performance. What’s more, it will often not play well in organizations that have established matrix structures, need porous boundaries between working groups, or require high levels of collaboration.

Hiring managers should carefully consider the particular leadership challenge they’re recruiting for. If it’s a greenfield situation, a turnaround, or any other circumstance that demands intensive initiative on a contained project, then an entrepreneurial style is likely to add value. But if the situation involves a highly interdependent matrix of working units, you might well do better looking for a different leadership profile.

If you do conclude that an entrepreneurial leader is what your organization needs, then it’s important to understand the entrepreneurial character in a nuanced, sophisticated way. Let’s take a look now at the popular perceptions about entrepreneurship and at what the research indicates really drives the people who are good at it.

The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs are unusually creative.

The Subtler Truth: Entrepreneurs are curious seekers of adventure, learning, and opportunity.

One popular notion is that entrepreneurs and people who enjoy constantly changing, innovative environments are more creative than others. But there are many types of creativity in business. Some managers, for instance, are highly creative at fixing things that are broken and enjoy the challenge of returning a system to a previous state of optimal functioning. While it’s certainly true that entrepreneurs excel at original thinking, so do many nonentrepreneurs. In reality, what sets entrepreneurial individuals apart is something slightly different—something both broader and deeper than what is typically evoked by the word “creativity.” It’s the ability to thrive in uncertainty.

A critical aspect to this dimension is openness to new experiences. In my research, I’ve found that it is the single trait that most distinguishes leaders who are entrepreneurial from their more conventional peers.

Openness to new experiences is about having a restless need to explore and learn. It entails not just a willingness to proceed in unpredictable environments but a heightened state of motivation that occurs at the edge of the unknown and the untried. For individuals who score high on this dimension, the unknown is a source of excitement rather than anxiety.

Consider Charlotte Yates, who brought her entrepreneurial leadership style to Sprint and IBM before eventually leaving to help found the telecommunications firm Telwares. When she was in a larger corporate setting, she saw herself as taking an approach that differed from the one used by the majority of her fellow leaders. “I didn’t follow IBM’s design process and their normal chain of command, because my task would have never gotten done,” she says. “I didn’t see myself as having a tightly defined box; I didn’t see the boundaries. I was looking at a blank piece of paper and saying to myself, ‘Now, what do I want to create here?’”

Entrepreneurs enjoy the “dreaming it up” process. Like Yates, they are less bound by convention than their corporate counterparts, and they’re more likely to assume things can be done better. For this reason, they thrive in environments where there is a market opportunity but no product or service, or where there is a product but the go-to-market strategy is not clear. They relish the early stages of projects and tend to become less engaged as projects become more routinized and steady state.

The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs enjoy and seek risk.

The Subtler Truth: Entrepreneurs are more comfortable with risk.

Another prevailing view is that entrepreneurial people love risk—that they enjoy the thrill of taking chances. This is not true; entrepreneurs are not the skydivers of the business world. Like every good businessperson, they seek to minimize risk at every opportunity. However, many studies have shown that entrepreneurs have higher comfort with risk than conventional managers. In other words, when accepting risk is necessary to reach a desired goal, entrepreneurs are better at living with it and managing the anxiety that might be disabling to others. My research likewise showed that the colleagues of entrepreneurial leaders rated them significantly higher than more-traditional executives on comfort with risk.

Entrepreneurial leaders aren’t necessarily tougher and more stress-hardy than their corporate peers—in ratings of their resiliency, taken from 360 reviews, I found no significant difference between the two groups. Rather, the point that emerged was that highly unpredictable and ambiguous environments are, for entrepreneurial leaders, a source of motivation. This is a second reason they thrive in uncertainty.
Assessing the Ability to Thrive in Uncertainty

Openness to new experiences and comfort with risk are the main components of the ability to perform well in unpredictable environments, although many people misperceive the essentials to be tough-mindedness, hardiness, or resilience. Those are highly desirable qualities in a leader (and your organization’s situation may demand them), but they’re beside the point if your hunt is for an entrepreneurial leader.

Here’s what to examine instead: Has the candidate made choices that clearly favor adventure and learning over convention and minimization of risk? Examples might include choosing a less recognized college to pursue a particular passion; spending a year abroad in an unusual setting as a growth experience; opting to work for a highly innovative small company rather than a big brand-name company; vacation destinations that involve hardship but unusual experiences; living in a diverse and interesting part of a city rather than the usual professional enclaves; taking genuine risks in previous organizational roles; and taking on projects for which resources are scarce and outcomes uncertain.

When interviewed, entrepreneurial managers will ask bold questions, take the initiative in the conversation, exhibit little anxiety about fitting in or providing the desired responses, and exude sheer, almost impatient, enthusiasm. Do candidates’ answers feel safe or “rule-bound”? Don’t miss any opportunity that allows candidates to demonstrate their willingness and capacity to explore the unknown.

The following questions will help you identify candidates who will thrive in uncertainty. But don’t look for the best answers; look for the extent to which the candidate champions the value of exploration, learning, new approaches, and willingness to take on risk to achieve an important outcome.
Some interview questions to consider:

Which do you fear most: anxiety or frustration? 
Are you willing to get into trouble in order to make something important happen? 
Which is more valuable: instinct or wisdom? Why? 
Which is more valuable: imagination or analysis? Why? 
A space explorer is looking for people to colonize Mars. Have a conversation between the part of you that would say yes to this mission and the part that would say no. 
We (or a competitor) decided to launch this product in this way. How could we have done it differently? 
Rapidly, choose one option from each of the following word pairs. (Do not try to score these responses, but look for a general pattern.) 

Consistency or Flexibility  |  Proven or Potential  |  Careful or Bold  |  Explore or Settle  |  Predictable or Possible  |  Bonus or Salary  |  Safety or Opportunity  |  Medal or Joy  |  Puzzle or Blank Canvas  |  Nimble or Steady  |  Change orConstant  |  Known or Unknown  |  Patience or Excitement  |  Frontier or Home  |  Set or Open  |  Wild or Tame  |  Variety or Certainty  |  Inherit or Create 

The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs are more personally ambitious than other leaders.

The Subtler Truth: Entrepreneurs are driven by a need to own products, projects, and initiatives.

As mentioned earlier, entrepreneurial leaders, as a group, score exceptionally high on the need for power and control, and notably higher than conventional general managers (though that group scores quite high too). Intrigued by this, I interviewed entrepreneurs to learn more. I began to discern an interesting variation on the need for power often associated with entrepreneurial leaders: For them, it’s less about dominance and more about ownership. It’s not about having supremacy over subordinates or commanding respect or authority; it’s about having control over the finished product. In this way, entrepreneurs have more in common with authors and artists than with dictators.

Entrepreneurial managers are hands-on. They want to be in the middle of the buzz and hustle as a new venture, day by day, comes into the world and starts to walk, then run. They are not ones to sit in tastefully appointed corner offices moving chess pieces for a game being played out floors below them. They want to be the artisans with their hands on the wet clay. They want to take a finished piece from the kiln and say, “This is mine”—not in an egotistical or acquisitive sense but in the sense of “I shape materials that become valuable and useful things.” Long after Apple had become one of the largest companies in history, Steve Jobs still had to be part of every critical design discussion, hold prototypes in his hand, and assess every detail from gleam to heft. Power, for the entrepreneurial spirit, is about being the owner of and driving force behind an initiative.

One entrepreneurial leader I interviewed, Andrea Kimmel, CEO of Sweet Kiddles, a child-care start-up, put it this way: “I want people to see me as the person who can make ideas happen. For me, part of being the boss means that people in the organization will come to me to try to make things happen, to bring change.”

This expression of power is different from positional power (which is based on your rank), charismatic power (influencing people through your personality), or expert power (when others defer to your knowledge). Entrepreneurial leaders do not see themselves as exerting power from above. They see their role as being at the center of a circle rather than the top of a pyramid. An entrepreneur may or may not be charismatic, but his method is not to inspire the masses at the annual convention and then step off the stage and retreat to the corner office. He wants to have a hand in the immediate game.

That is not to say that entrepreneurial leaders do not display aspects of authority, expertise, or charisma—many do. But the aspect that unites them is not the desire to be a decision maker. For such leaders, a venture is an expression to the world of who they are.
Assessing Passion for Ownership

To find out who has a hunger for hands-on involvement in projects, from start to finish, try to tease out the following: Has the candidate been a founder rather than a joiner? Instead of running for class office, for instance, did she start a new club, campus initiative, or business? (Points should be awarded for a pattern of seeking out leadership of any kind, however.) Did she make early career choices that would give her creative control? Has her path been atypical or opportunistic rather than one of lockstep promotions? Has she been “in charge of her life” from an early age? Has she been an entrepreneur, successful or not, at any stage?

Then watch for these signs: Does the candidate “own” the interview by starting to sketch out a vision for how the demands of the position could be met? Does she (ideally without arrogance) participate almost right away as a mutual “owner” of any problem at hand? Does she probe for assurances that she will have the requisite autonomy to lead the new venture?
Some interview questions to consider:

Which business leaders do you admire? Why? 
What do you take pride in? 
What causes new ventures to fail more often: a lack of leadership or a lack of collaboration? 
Which is a better attitude for a business leader: passion or professionalism? 
Psychologically, do you take work home with you? 
How much of who you are is what you do at work? 
Rapidly, choose one option from each of the following word pairs. (Again, do not try to score these responses, but look for a general pattern.) 

Own or Manage  |  Suggest or Direct  |  Lead or Participate  |  Shape or Control  |  Captain or Navigator  |  Ownershipor Title  |  Grace or Power  |  Complete or Reflect  |  Aspire or Accomplish  |  Membership or Possession  |  Knowledge or Power  |  President or Minister  |  Profit or Equity 

The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs are natural salespeople.

The Truth: This one is correct.

My research corroborated many earlier studies that highlighted the importance of confidence and persuasiveness among entrepreneurial leaders. When it’s crucial to get somewhere or make something happen, but it’s not clear how to do so, you must, first, believe that you can reach your goal and, second, convince all the people whose help you need that you can, too—and very often, with little or no evidence to back you up.

Entrepreneurs must be able to sell their vision to prospective team members before they have anything else to offer. Many have to sell their ideas to initial investors and later to venture capitalists and joint-venture partners. And all entrepreneurs must be able to sell to the customer.

The same applies to people spearheading new ventures within larger corporate entities. The renowned U.S. automobile executive Lee Iacocca was an entrepreneurial leader who spent his entire career in large corporate settings. Though he’d been trained as an engineer, he switched to a sales track early on, and it was his sales ability that made him exceptional. His persuasive skill helped him at every turn. Two of his sales feats assumed mythic status: Convincing Ford’s leadership that the firm should make a large investment in the development of a lower-priced sports car (which led to the phenomenal Mustang success story) and getting Congress to pass an unprecedented act bailing out Chrysler.

Assessing Persuasiveness

Evaluating persuasiveness is different from evaluating the ability to thrive in uncertainty and the passion for ownership. Most of the evidence will come directly from interactions with candidates. Leaders high on this dimension will exude confidence and genuinely convince you that they can get the job done. Their confidence won’t feel like bluster or hype but will seem well-founded. They’ll probe the relevant issues and potential courses of action in a steady and intelligent way. They will be honest about the unknowns of the situation but, at the same time, not waver about their ability to overcome contingencies.

Here are some interview questions about past behavior that may be helpful, although the answers should be weighted less than a candidate’s actual behavior and attitudes during the selection process. Essentially, you should assess this entrepreneurial leadership dimension as if you were hiring for an executive sales position.
Some interview questions to consider: 
What experience have you had with sales? 
Could you tell me about a particularly challenging sales experience you’ve had? 
Could you describe a life situation when it was extremely important that you change the opinion of others? 
How does persuading a group of executive peers differ from selling to a customer? 


Exceptional leaders have much in common, and most can adapt to the demands of whatever organizational challenges they face. Leaders who are truly entrepreneurial, however, excel when a situation demands complete ownership of a venture or problem, become more motivated as uncertainty increases, and have a remarkable ability to persuade others to follow their course of action. This profile can be problematic in complex organizations where established business units need to work intensely together, across boundaries, and leaders need to share both information and power on a daily basis. But if your organization needs someone to turn innovative ideas into full-blown, standalone enterprises—or invent and bring to life completely new models—it may be time to hire an entrepreneurial leader. And by following the advice in this article, you can make sure you actually find what you’re looking for.