Clarifying The ‘Entrepreneurial Mindset’

Over the weekend I was approached by a friend who read my latest article and asked me a question that was perplexing them which I thought I’d share, especially for those whom may be new to my work. The question was this:

“Your article made a lot of fair points, but what I didn’t understand was how you equated “waiters and waitresses” into the mix.”

It’s a fair question for it’s a topic (or sub category, if you will) very few in my field ever include, let alone even equate, as a relevant topic into the whole business genre. Most (and it’s near all in my opinion) so-called “small business specialists”, as well as the so-called “corporate specialist” don’t even give the idea of such entrepreneurialism a second thought. Most are only concerned with either, “Can I sell this recycled “new and improved” gobbledygook to another HR Dept? Or, “Can I sell this recycled “new and improved” crap to an audience, lathering on enough jargon and mumbo-jumbo that they’ll be so confused they’ll clap rather than ask questions?”

(See the scientifically proven and disavowed “Left Brain – Right Brain” thesis for clues on just how long a brain-dead idea can remain within HR circles, culture, and seminars. And if you’re one of those who had to sit through one of these presentations? You have my condolences. But I digress.)

So, back to the question, “Why do I include waiters, waitresses, and others such as these into the small business or entrepreneurial categories?” Here’s why…

The term “entrepreneur” means different things to different people. Especially those who take the word literally. You can put the term into your search-engine or dictionary of choice, and the definitions are all about the same in one form or another. Here’s what you’ll get in a simple Google™ query:

a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
synonyms: businessman/businesswoman, enterpriser, speculator, tycoon, magnate, mogul…

So, does a waiter or waitress fit into that description? Most will say no for reasons such as, “They don’t own the business of which they’re working. So that in, and of, itself excludes them from such consideration.” Fair argument. However, I disagree wholeheartedly, and here’s why…

First: For the sake of argument we all need to put the term “entrepreneur” into context as it is currently being used today. Entrepreneur used to mean (literally): building a business bigger than oneself. Today, the term has morphed into a catch-all phrase to now include anyone who’s self-employed.

Seth Godin uses the term “Freelancer” as to clearly distinguish between the two. e.g., Entrepreneur, freelancer. I agree, however I’ve just found the term easier to use then explain my rationale for using it later. (i.e., adding the “mindset”, or “spirit” descriptor) But that’s just me.

Here’s a quick explanation and sample from Seth’s blog back in 2006 which should be required reading to anyone thinking about entering the realm of business in any fashion. To wit:

“Most companies are not appropriate sites for VC money. That’s because they’re freelance ventures, not entrepreneurial ones. A freelance venture is one where you work to get paid. An entrepreneurial one is where you can make money while you sleep. Meaning that you work really hard and you scale and suddenly you own real estate or media properties or technology or a system or a brand that people pay for without you actually doing any incremental work yourself.”

“Freelancing”, in my experience, sometimes sets up the same kind of questioning that “entrepreneur” does in many of my conversations. Why? Because some people just want to take a thing far too literal (Usually, so they can argue about something they believe will show how they’re correct and I am not. e.g, One-upped the teacher syndrome.) rather than understanding the context of the discussion. This is why I use the term, “entrepreneurial spirit, or mindset.”

Waiter, waitress, or anyone who works where “tips” are part of their income are more times than not more entrepreneurial minded than most business people I know. The ability to earn “tips” is one of the only ways other than commissioned sales compensation that one has direct control over one’s ability to increase their income without acquiring or needing approval from management.

The better they do their job – the more compensated they are. Regardless of anyone else. And a good waiter or waitress can make or break a customer’s experience faster than a poorly prepared meal. Think about it; how many times have you been served an adequately prepared meal, but the waiter or waitress made the experience above average, and you tipped accordingly? i.e., Well above the 15% norm.

While conversely; how many of you had a wonderfully prepared meal – but the table service was lousy, and tipped accordingly? i.e., Left little to nothing.

In the latter scenario – which do you remember? The great food? Or lousy service?  And which one gives more weighting as to not going back? For many – It’s the latter. Are you beginning to see my point?

This is another reason why I railed against the idea of waiters and waitresses arguing for “gratuity entitlement” in accordance with impending minimum wage increases.

A waiter or waitress (or anyone where “tipping” is part of their income for that matter) who takes their profession to heart and executes their duties under the mindset that they’re the one’s who are in control of their income usually are not only in great demand – many can average incomes on par with some of the most senior white collared positions.

Some (meaning the wait staff) are the sole reason patrons frequent these establishments to begin with. You can usually tell a good restaurant when the same wait staff has been there for years.

I personally know a few “wait-staff”, and have a few friends who were put through Ivy League colleges paid solely by their mother’s income derived by waiting tables.

Don’t take my word for it, just ask people like Laura Ingraham and others who routinely will note such. Waitering, and waitressing are noble professions and one of the few which allows the entrepreneurial mindset and benefits to work near instantaneously when applied.

If you want a working example of how to start your own business using other people’s money? This is clearly one. Think about it.

However, you have to understand the principles at work – and apply them – to take advantage of them. If not – you just become someone similar to those which never receives more than a sympathy tip. (See: All those “tip jars” you now see at places where tipping is really not appropriate.)

As I always state: No matter the size or scope of one’s business, the first and foremost foundation of it all is:

“The Business of I.”

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr