5 signs you’ve lost the entrepreneurial spirit

Anup Batra


We start our own businesses for many reasons, perhaps the most prominent being to avoid the corporate snooze-fest. Working from 9 till 5, striving for someone else’s goals, so much bureaucracy and – worst of all – working without vision, passion, spirit, or an overall motive.

No thank you! That’s why we have our own companies, to avoid –uh oh.

Wait a second.

Did you just describe the very situation you’re in now? Is that how your employees feel? Has your company grown so big, and so fast, and been doing it for so long that you’ve lost that very spirit you were chasing in the first place?

Here are 5 ways to tell if your business has lost its entrepreneurial, start-up spirit.

1. Employees define their role by their job title

How do you define your job? How does Brian, who sits next to you; or Susanne, with the smelly lunches; or prankster Joe, define theirs?

If you ask them, do they respond with a non-committal shrug? Do they give a brief answer – ‘accountant,’ ‘HR,’ ‘IT,’ and leave it at that?

If you ask them why they work here, do they look even more alarmed? Worse, do they answer with the dreaded response – ‘the salary package?’

Imagine if they had given any of these responses during the hiring process.

They wouldn’t have been hired!

Back in the early days of the business, people wore many hats. There was collaboration across teams, tasks split between people, and roles that were tweaked and changed.

While set roles can be beneficial, team collaboration and switching up job roles can help avoid employee entitlement.

Employees with this mindset prefer stability over change. They don’t believe that they should have to chase leads, that they deserve more benefits without putting the work in, that they shouldn’t have to touch tasks even slightly out of their job description.

Don’t be fooled – bosses are just as likely to develop an entitled mindset too!

If it looks like bosses and employees define their job by their title it’s because they’ve settled too far into the comfort zone.

2. Employees are settled and stuck in the comfort zone


When taking on the role of CEO at Palo Alto Software, Sabrina Parsons heard the motto, “This company is so great to work for that people stay here forever.”

Immediately, she decided the motto needed changing.

Staying in a company forever isn’t necessarily a positive sign – it can be, but it often means employees have become so comfortable in their position, they’re no longer innovating, challenging processes, or striving for change.

When deciding to keep the start-up spirit and hire entrepreneurial people, it can be expected that some of them will go off and start their own company – it’s a good thing, and shows that you hired well.

Anything set too much in stone – strategies, people, or processes – is generally a bad thing. Often, when companies get comfortable, the company legacy becomes more important than success. They focus on their way of doing things, instead of the best ways of doing things.

There’s a tendency to move toward complacency and complexity over change.

In fact, the only thing that should be set in stone is the company values.

3. No one knows the company values

sandwichIf you ask anyone –Brian, Joe, or Susanne with those damn lunches – about the company’s values, can they answer succinctly?
Or does the mere mention of company values cause them to furrow their brow and stir like a student who wasn’t listening, looking over at others for the answer?

When the business was first started, there was a reason. There was a drive, a vision, passion. Things were going to be done differently at this company – they were inspired!

What happened? Well, the start-up spirit dwindled.

Everyone working for, involved with, or who have accidentally stumbled across your website should know the company values.

What is your motivation and your drive, what differentiates you from the competition?

4. All talk, no action

If you wanted to implement a change in your business right now – be it altering a process, changing a button or design, or addressing a common customer complaint – how long do you think it would take?

Days? Weeks? Months?

Oh, the bureaucratic process! What happened to the days when people had a fire lit under them, so afraid that if they weren’t moving forward, they were moving backwards?

The larger a company becomes, the more ingrained the hierarchical structure, the harder it is to take risks – measurable, calculated risks, but risks nonetheless – and move forward with decisive action.

Do you remember the days of being action-oriented instead of getting caught up in the planning process?

Christian Jennewein, Tech Manager at the ride sharing start-up BlaBlaCar, believes tiny, frequent changes help to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive in the face of hyper growth.

Changes means action; talking about change without implementing it with fervour and speed, means the start up spirit is fading.

5. It’s been over 6 months since the team all hung out together


When was the last time everyone in the company went out together to do something other than sit through another long-winded meeting?

Have you all grabbed lunch or coffee together recently? Gotten a little loose over a few drinks at the nearby bar?

Have there been any team building exercises at all?

A loss of spirit is characterised by a less fun, creative and passionate work environment. It creates a lack of atmosphere and an unhappier team, where employees hardly know each other, support each other less, and spend very little time together.

Recreational activities – be they laser tag, a BBQ, or simply grabbing coffee – are a sign of a happy, healthy workforce with plenty of zest and spirit inscribed.

And who could say no to a company-sponsored drink?

(Anything to get away from Susanne’s darn lunches!)


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