Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

August 30, 2017
Business Skills

By Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly 
Previously published article in RDBA Weekly

I have had the pleasure of working closely with many entrepreneurs during my career and have found them to be some of the most inspiring and energizing individuals to work with.  Now that I have found myself at a point in my career where I, too, am an entrepreneur, I’m applying my years of entrepreneur-observation.  

But, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to put their thinking skills to work for you.  In fact, I routinely encourage retail dietitians to think of themselves as intrapreneurs—entrepreneurs working within a business or organization.  Retail dietitians are often the “odd one out”—the lone team member who doesn’t have a retail business background.  This is not a bad thing—it’s an opportunity to bring new thinking and perspectives to the table, which helps businesses innovate.  And by thinking like an entrepreneur, you’ll be able to sell-in your ideas and move initiatives forward. 

Here are a few entrepreneurial characteristics that I have observed over the years and that can be readily applied to the work of retail dietitians.

  • Optimism. Successful entrepreneurs are relentlessly optimistic, and much of this optimism comes from their confidence, grounded in expertise.  Entrepreneurs have a “no excuses attitude”—you rarely hear them complain. For dietitians working in retail, optimism is critical. You must have a vision for your role, believe in it, and continuously sell it back to others in your organization.
  • Meet my friend, Risk.  As a dietitian, I can honestly say from personal experience that most of us are naturally risk averse.  I think a lot of this is stems from our appreciation of accuracy (hello, perfectionists!) and science.  But when it comes to trailblazing your career as a retail dietitian, you’ve got to put this thinking in its place and get comfortable with risk. Entrepreneurs are friends with risk.  They understand and live by the tenet that great risk can yield great reward.   And most importantly, they understand that risk is often associated with failure…and that failure is not a bad thing (an optimistic would say that failure is just an opportunity to learn). 
  • Adaptable. Ready to switch gears? Entrepreneurs do this everyday, multiple times.  They are quick on their feet, ready to respond strategically to changes in the business environment.  They’re constantly gathering information to assess whether or not their strategy is working, and they will tweak it or abandon it altogether when it looks like a change is in order. Entrepreneurs don’t get too attached to their ideas or plans, because they understand that much is out of their control and they have to respond to the marketplace accordingly.
  • Big and Small. Entrepreneurs have a very clear big picture vision—they see the landscape from fifty thousand feet.  But, the most effective entrepreneurs can come down from the clouds and get dirty in the weeds.  They can examine the tactical intricacies of daily execution while instantly relating back to the big picture goal and strategy. For retail dietitians, it’s important to know how day to day store operations relate to your health and wellness strategy—and vice versa—how the day to day execution of nutrition education relates to your retailers overarching business goals.
  • Surrounded by Greatness.  The best entrepreneurs understand the value of others—they surround themselves with people who are stronger than them and who have expertise they do not have. They recognize and appreciate other peoples’ strengths and talents and know how to leverage them to accomplish broader goals.  And ultimately, they demonstrate deep appreciation to these individuals because they understand that without them, their vision could not be accomplished. 

These skills and ways of thinking can (and should) be applied by retail dietitians as you trailblazers within your organization, carving out new paths to serve your customers while supporting your retailer.