Why Everybody Needs to Think Like an Entrepreneur | TopMBA.com

Why Everybody Needs to Think Like an Entrepreneur

By Niamh O

Updated March 17, 2021 Updated March 17, 2021

To succeed, entrepreneurs need four skills according to experts:

  • Innovative mindset
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Intrapreneurial skills
  • Creativity

There’s no one route to success for entrepreneurs, but the journey is definitely a lot smoother if your business can be adaptable and stay relevant to the latest industry trends.

To ensure startups and established businesses alike can succeed in the modern world, organizations must incorporate four skills: entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, innovation, and creativity; at least, that’s what one panel discussed at the AMBA and BGA Festival of Excellence.

TopMBA heard from some innovative minds across the spectrum of industry to find out more about how these four ingredients are vital for every business to succeed, from global corporations to independently funded start-ups.


One advantage start-ups tend to have over more established competitors is the ability to move fast and adapt quickly. This was particularly useful last year, when companies big and small had to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by shifting to remote working and deploying digital solutions to help their customers.

Matthew James heads the UK and Europe scouting function at NatWest, encouraging the organization to adopt new technologies and innovative solutions. He said: “I think we wouldn't have been able to adapt to COVID-19 if it hadn't been for the innovations we put in place over the past five or six years.

“I think most banks now have a real desire and appetite to innovate and experiment. One of the things they've realized is a lot of the real talent that's out there now resides in these startup organizations.

“If you want to access the best people, have the best insights, the best technologies, then you’ve got to engage with the startup community.”

Marianne Gaulhet of GE Healthcare agreed: “For us large companies, we used to think we were the only ones who knew how to innovate, but with all these startups today, there are good opportunities of working together.

“It's not the startups against the large companies, the startups against the banks, but it's all together, we have a role to play. We can really work collaboratively small and big together.”


A desire to innovate is unlikely to go far without the creative juices that will help you generate new ideas and concepts.

Sharon Cunningham is CEO and co-founder of Shorla Pharma – a speciality pharmaceutical company, with a pipeline of products in the oncology space for women and children with rare cancers.

When asked about the traits that are needed for an entrepreneurial mindset, Cunningham said: “I've found creativity tends to be a mindset that is very consistent among entrepreneurs, but certainly successful ones – knowing there's no need to think outside the box, but rather realize there is no box, and there's always a solution, but you just have to find it.

“Secondly, passion - being hyper-focused on what it is you're trying to achieve so that you're jumping out of bed every morning with that purpose. And then finally, risk tolerance; being able to take calculated risks.”


Intrapreneurship is used to describe work environments where innovation and creativity are encouraged across the whole business, with every employee capable of finding new ways to innovate and improve.

This more holistic approach to evolving a business is vital for ensuring a business can maintain relevance and adapt quickly.

James said: “I work more as an intrapreneur than an entrepreneur. One thing that I always say to people when they join the team is innovation requires three things: inspiration, a bit of perspiration, and a bit of frustration. You’ve got to be resilient enough to deal with all of those things.

“You've got to be able to learn to adapt to change, have lots of agility and the resiliency to pick yourself up when you fail and start again and keep trying.

“Particularly within large organizations, you've also got to recognize that sometimes you'll be pushing against the way things have always been done in the status quo, and that you've got to be able to continue to keep going, when you feel like you're that lone voice in the wilderness.

“To me, resilience and persistence are really important attributes for anyone.”


Finally, we get to the most crucial skill of all when it comes to being an adaptable, flexible, successful business - the ability to engage with business from an entrepreneurial perspective.

Frustratingly, this isn’t necessarily something you can just learn. James admits that it comes with time, although an MBA can give you the right foundation.

He said: “The thing for me about being either an entrepreneur or intrapreneur is it takes practice.

“You've got to give it a try, fail, learn, and try again. You might be lucky, come up with an idea, and walk into it successful first time, but I think most successful entrepreneurs will probably say to you, they failed more times than they succeeded. Giving it a go, trying it, having that resilience is a big aspect of it.”

While a certain level of practical experience may be required to hone your entrepreneurial mindset, Cunningham added that the MBA can have a transformative impact in other ways.

She said: “Having done the MBA, it was extremely beneficial, and I took huge earnings from it.

“I think the academic knowledge you learn is like a jukebox, it’s a given. Outside of that there are three things I strongly believe have impacted my success today.”

Cunningham went on to list building your professional network and your personal brand (“what makes you unique”) as the first two aspects, while the third was mentoring.

“Mentoring has been hugely impactful for me. I’ve had mentors for different things since I started my career, and I mentor people in different areas for different reasons. Mentoring is extremely powerful. You'll be surprised at how willing successful people are to help you once you can demonstrate to them that you are committed.”

This article was originally published in March 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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