Employers need to recognise that many individuals consider a change of direction. Some seek a more equitable balance between work and life, or want more control over their destiny. Others harbour a desire to become entrepreneurs. They become fed up being a piece on someone else’s chess board and want to play their own game.

For reasons as varied as apprehension concerning a new role or a mid-life crisis people question what they are doing with their lives. Sometimes the imagined or available alternatives seem to bring their own problems and uncertainties. People weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different courses of action. They assess whether the risks and costs involved will outweigh desired benefits. They wonder whether the grass will be greener on the other side of the fence.

Certain business trends have implications for both individuals and employers. For example, as more customers demand bespoke responses front line staff dealing with them increasingly need to think and act like entrepreneurs. This creates an opportunity for enlightened entrepreneurs to reconcile personal and organisational goals.

An investigation into emerging opportunities for entrepreneurship has examined how people and companies can best respond. The findings - along with self-assessment exercises and checklists - are set out in ‘Individuals and Enterprise’, a guide for intending entrepreneurs*. They reveal the satisfaction and excitement people can derive from discovering their inner selves, breaking free and changing course.

Giving people opportunities to be true to their ideals and beliefs can be the key to retaining the allegiance of ambitious spirits who might wish to start a new enterprise or make fundamental changes in their current organisation. Challenges such as falling sales of existing products and the threat of redundancy can be turned into exciting opportunities for individuals to go it alone or collaborate with an existing employer to create a new offering or launch a new venture.

Let’s look as what people who succeed financially while also being personally fulfilled do differently. Firstly, they acknowledge that all is not well with their existing lives. They recognise that something is missing. They assess their current situation and decide that enough is enough.

Life’s winners also recognise the dawn of a new era of opportunity. They search for what is latent and tease out what is hidden. They are alert to trends such as falling barriers. They view emerging concerns, current problems and likely changes as potential arenas for entrepreneurship. They consider how such developments will affect them and others, and assess what new qualities, lifestyle options, strategies, offerings and markets will be required to cope with them and benefit from them.

Next, our winners look at what it would take to succeed in the new arenas of opportunity they identify. They consider changing requirements, the limitations of current approaches and potential conflicts of interest. They assess themselves and review their current circumstances and obligations in relation to the essence of what will be required for an effective response.

The most fulfilled are more self-aware than others. They seek to understand the person within and assess which opportunities - if pursued - would most allow them to be true to their inner selves and excel. Organisations too need to assess themselves in relation to new requirements and opportunities, and consider the implications for ways of working and future relationships with people whose aspirations are changing.
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Smart intending entrepreneurs consider opportunities for collaboration before they burn their boats, leave their employer and launch out on their own. They explore options for cooperation, buy-out possibilities and the scope of working with rather than for organisations. Confident companies do likewise. They consider whether they should become a sponsor or business partner rather than an employer, and encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to become internal intrapreneurs or joint venture colleagues.

Successful entrepreneurs look at the world differently from others. They retain a sense of wonder and excitement at the possibilities. They question, probe and explore. They bring new combinations of elements together and assemble winning formulae. When the time is right they seize the moment and have a go.

Winners appreciate collective endeavour and understand the value of the right networks and relationships. If appropriate, they collaborate with others. They are not afraid to ask for help, but select colleagues with care. They avoid leeches and parasites. They seek soul mates who share their visions. They attract contributors, energetic business builders with complementary qualities.

Rather than imitate and copy others the most fulfilled ‘do it their way’. They recognise individuality, both in themselves and in others. They achieve a healthy balance between reflection and action, and secure flexible access to the capabilities they need to turn their dreams into a reality. They avoid siren voices and the vanity of size, seeking a scale of operation that is right for the opportunities they pursue.

Confident business leaders view the entrepreneurial aspirations of their people as an opportunity rather than a threat. They encourage and benefit from them. They call for proposals and back the most promising and commercial ideas. They provide corporate support services to help intending entrepreneurs get started. In return for a share of new ventures they offer finance, development advice and access to a customer base.

© Colin Coulson-Thomas, 2005

Further information

*‘Individuals and Enterprise: creating entrepreneurs for the new millennium through personal transformation’ and ‘Shaping Things to Come, strategies for creating alternative enterprises’ - a guide for creating new offerings- can both be ordered from Blackhall Publishing by Tel: 00 353 1 6773242, Fax: 00 353 1 6773243, email: blackhall@eircom.net; or from: www.ntwkfirm.com/bookshop

Colin Coulson-Thomas, an experienced chairman of award winning companies, has advised many entrepreneurs and over 90 boards on board, enterprise and business development. He is the UK’s first Professor of Competitiveness and can be contacted by tel: 00 44 (0) 1733 361 149; fax: 00 44 (0) 1733 361 459; email: colinct@tiscali.co.uk and via www.ntwkfirm.com/colin.coulson-thomas