Maybe You’re an Entrepreneur After All

Ever heard of Paul Van Doren? Likely not, but you might be wearing his shoes.

The entrepreneurial co-founder of Vans shoes passed away last week at age 90. Who knew that a simple pair of shoes could give skateboarding a global footprint (pun intended)? Van Doren saw the makings of a movement swelling and found a way to ride that wave. Rather than step into an already crowded shoe industry (yes, another pun), he got close to the generation he was compelled to reach and gave them what they wanted: respect. Paul was genuinely curious about the kids rolling by, their gear, and how they felt doing it. His company sponsored scores of future professionals in the sport when no one else would take the risk. Since 1966, Vans has invested in an ever-growing, gritty community that thrives on ingenuity and individuality. Like any entrepreneurial adventure, Van Doren’s success was no easy feat (ok, last pun, I promise!). The best part? Vans is way more than just another shoe company; it’s a worldwide influencer that’s still striking a chord with up-and-coming generations.

A lot of leaders don’t know what to make of wildly successful stories like Van Doren’s footwear breakthrough. They watch the highlight reels of great leaders and think: “I’m no entrepreneur like [insert name here].” Before they even get started down the path of innovation, they decide coming up with fresh ideas and/or securing funding isn’t in their wheelhouse. As much as they want to take the leap on the inside, many leaders resist because their definition of entrepreneur is just too narrow. Fortunately, leadership is all about influencing people and the future toward a greater good, and that has entrepreneurship written all over it.

You don’t have to make it big in business to be an entrepreneur. What you create doesn’t have to go globally viral to count in this world. You just need to take what matters most to you and run with it. It will help if you can rally others around it, but that will come naturally if whatever “it” is really gets your blood pumping. When you get stuck thinking being an entrepreneur is for someone else, take some time to lead your mind and heart in a new direction. Below are a handful of ways to redefine entrepreneurship for yourself and those you lead.

You might be an entrepreneur after all if…

  1. You’re asked to bring something you’re stellar at to the party

That family recipe people always ask you to bring came to life because someone decided to innovate along the way. Cooking might not be your thing, but maybe you’re incredible at leading strategic meetings, designing marketing plans, building teams, or keeping finances well above board. Bring what you’re stellar at to every party!

  1. You notice broken things and find ways to fix them

Entrepreneurs and engineers have a lot in common. If you find yourself paying attention to what other’s don’t see, it’s possible that you are wired to pave a way forward where the road is missing or unclear. It’s even better if you go beyond pointing out issues and offer inventive solutions. Take a good look around and see if seeds of entrepreneurship start growing in and around you.

  1. Your creativity comes alive in the face of inaction

Unlike risk-avoiders, entrepreneurs say “yes” and dive in. You might not consider yourself a true trailblazer, but it’s possible that the people around you describe you otherwise. The next time you’re in a problem-solving situation, take notice of how you engage when most people disengage.

  1. You’re excited by both change and challenges

Rarely do people say, “I love change!” (Unless they have some entrepreneur DNA, that is.) What happens inside when you consider all that it takes to get from here to there? Do you like jumping in to see for yourself what today will bring? If you’re an entrepreneur type, you routinely get jazzed up about taking a new path and dealing with whatever comes your way.

  1. You get stuck people moving forward

Like Van Doren and the misunderstood late-1960s skaters, the best entrepreneurs bring value, support, and guidance to people who can’t seem to find their stride (sorry, the shoe puns just keep coming). Your role as a leader is to show up in a way that paints a clearer, possible picture of a shared future, and help those you lead move that direction. Keep giving people this gift and you’ll multiply other untapped entrepreneurs!

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