Matthew Cox
Jun 9, 2011

OPINION: Embracing internal entrepreneurs

The Engine Group's Matthew Cox on embracing internal entrepreneurial spirit to empower employees and fuel better decisions for greater returns

OPINION: Embracing internal entrepreneurs

I have always respected the way Asia approaches business, especially as a Western business person. I have partaken, observed and aspired to what I see as the Western dark side - the single-minded approach to success, living by the mantra of ‘dog eat dog’, creating cut throat rivalry between colleagues. Without being too unfair to the West, the first strategy when things go wrong is often to pass the blame and forget about individual values.

What I respect about customary Asian business culture is it doesn’t allow personal values to be degraded. The humble attitude is what allows the East to learn more from their mistakes than the West and ensure improvements are made towards efficiency and growth. 

In the West, our economy relies heavily on small businesses and the government promotes the entrepreneurial spirit. The problem however is it can create a boundary to creative thinking within large businesses, especially at the lower hierarchical levels. Western business people seem to be separated into two pots - mavericks and risk takers driving their own businesses and those unwilling to take the risk and restricted to someone else’s drive. 

What I propose for the Western economy to grow and move away from the heavily Americanised business models, particularly glorified within a certain hit business TV show, is to see people as people and not numbers. We achieve as teams and not as individuals. We have drive and passion that doesn’t confine to the mechanics of a single business model, changing from generation to generation to be better and achieve our personal dreams.   

From my experience, the creative industry does go against the grain of the Western single-minded brashness. I believe this is due to the need to constantly share and participate towards creating something that deals with emotion and human behaviour that becomes personal. This is one of the main reasons it has been my industry of choice having worked across marketing, PR and advertising.

My worry is there are very few places that will employ and cultivate this thinking as it’s categorised as entrepreneurialism. I have personally experienced on more than one occasion an employer recommending I remove entrepreneur from my CV (particularly as a graduate), as it can imply you’re not going to stay for the long run. I now mention entrepreneur repeatedly within any interview. If taken negatively it says to me all this business wants to do is fuel the same ideas and bottom line it’s become accustomed to.

I want to fuel a lot more. I know there are a lot of people that feel the same. In no way do I think the rate of business start ups should slow down. I just want to see big business across the board, especially in the creative industry, become more entrepreneurial and personal. Taking what employees have been paid to do and empowering them to improve their organisations, loving change to develop satellite projects outside of job titles and hierarchies. 

By loving change and fueling better decisions for greater returns through embracing the internal entrepreneurial spirit, the West can build from how I believe the East will continue to grow. We can build from the honour and transparency that’s required in our industry to inspire clients to create something wonderful to pass on to the next generation, ready for them to make their own mark.

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