Throughout my career, I’ve often been challenged to think “entrepreneurially”. However, as entrepreneurs are defined by their innovation, risk taking and ultimate business success, I struggled with how to really make this happen on a daily basis. I was never going to be a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, or Elon Musk – spectacularly successful business people who took an idea from conception to multi-billion dollar enterprises. So where does that leave me or the average employee in a retail business? How are we supposed to think entrepreneurially?
We’ve all had new ideas at work – maybe it was a new spreadsheet, a new way of training or new store design- but does that make us entrepreneurs? Others have invented new things, but does that make them entrepreneurs or just inventors?
Most businesses take some risks from time to time, but typically they aren’t playing for sheep stations and the downsides are managed pretty tightly for good reason. But are they really entrepreneurs or is that just the nature of business and keeping up with the times?
It wasn’t until I read something about the etymology of the term entrepreneur that the penny dropped for me and how we could all think “entrepreneurially”. Around 1800, Jean-Baptise Say, a French economist, first coined the phrase entrepreneur, “The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” This was written in the greater context of entrepreneurs being rare individuals drawing together labour and capital to create wealth, but at last I could see how we could all be entrepreneurs in our own little way. Here are three simple examples on managing economic resources – products and people.
The retail buyer can be an entrepreneur by dropping one old product and backing another.
The allocator can be an entrepreneur by sending one more pack to a store that is trading well and taking from another that isn’t.
The store manager can shift resources from one task to another or from one area to another.
If we open the scope a little further and include our time as an economic resource, we can add to the list.
When we are short staffed and cannot get everything done, we can all prioritise our work better.
Make a judgement as to return on effort.
Thanks to Jean-Baptiste Say, I could finally rise to the challenge of being more entrepreneurial!
If you are a manager, help your staff understand what it really means to be more entrepreneurial and if you are the most junior allocator, tell your boss at your next performance review that you are being entrepreneurial by thinking about every allocation by asking the question; “If there was only one pack left in the warehouse, which store has earned it?”
Graham Lack has over 35 years retail experience in senior management roles at Luxottica and Suzanne Grae, in retail operations, finance, IT, marketing, merchandise planning and logistics. Contact him via graham.lack@