University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Working for an Entrepreneur

Student Success

October 23, 2019 | By Mark Zweig

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Many aspiring entrepreneurs (and others) may find themselves one day working for an entrepreneur as an employee.

While at first that may seem exciting—and a good learning opportunity (It could be both)—it also has its challenges. I know. I have been both the entrepreneur and employee working for one at various points in my life. Here’s some of what I’ve gleaned from that experience:

Entrepreneurs often have ADD. They bounce around like balls in a pinball machine from one thing to another. It may be hard for them to focus on anything for more than 10 minutes. That can be frustrating for you if you need them to do something that is tedious or time-consuming yet necessary.

Entrepreneurs can be stubborn. They think they know better on some subjects than everyone else. If you disagree with their position on something, it may be hard to change their mind about it. They didn’t get where they are by listening to everyone else who is telling them why something won’t work. And they may interpret disagreement with them as disloyalty. That can be difficult to negotiate.

Entrepreneurs are terminally distracted. It may be hard to get their attention. They are on their phones constantly and rarely paying full attention to what is going on around them because they are so focused on what they are doing. That can lead to them forgetting about conversations or decisions they may have participated in making.

Entrepreneurs are working to build long term value vs maximize profitability. Not understanding this very basic fact—that the entrepreneur has a different orientation from many other businesspeople who are seeking shorter term results—tends to lead to a lot of frustration and dissent at the top. What many insider observers may see as an unwillingness to deal with a problem is because the entrepreneur is working on solving a completely different problem.

Entrepreneurs love people who show they are committed. Entrepreneurs themselves are fully engaged in their work and want to see what they perceive as that quality in others who work for them. That means showing up at the office on weekends, occasionally staying late, and quickly responding to phone calls, texts, and emails at all hours of the day and night. People who don’t show a willingness to do these things may be quickly written off.

Entrepreneurs aren’t conventional people. They may dress differently. They may act weird. They may say things that others could find offensive or not understand. While they may not always appreciate individualism in others, they want to project it themselves. Being recognized, being able to grab attention, and having a unique identity may all be part of their “schtick.”

In summary—it may not always be easy or fun to work for an entrepreneur. You also may not want to spend your entire career working for one. But you can learn something from them!

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Mark ZweigMark Zweig – a leading expert in management and business for the architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental industry – is president of Mark Zweig, Inc., which has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies; chairman and founder of Zweig Group – named to the Inc. list three times – and entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.