Inspiration and Information for Starting Your Business

Embrace the Strivers in Your Small Business

There was a time, as recently as a decade ago, that a well-thought-out small business could thrive, in spite of the fact that many of its workers or employees were passive, or lacked that tell-tale drive.

Many of those businesses are now gone, dead and buried, according to Jeff Moore, founder of Moore Leadership, a consultancy based in Austin, Texas. Moore, who coached the University of Texas women’s tennis team to two national championships in a previous career, draws from experience. He has seen how one person’s competitive drive can fuel a team’s success and now advises clients that same thing can happen in the workplace.

Finding Workers with ‘the Striver Mentality’

Moore emphasizes that the best small companies should go beyond looking for just hard workers, and start seeking out what he calls “the striver mentality.” These employees are adept at working in an unpredictable environment. They live for the unexpected and thrive on creating new initiatives, products and services. They are also wired to compete.

Unfortunately, at a time when it is more important to have more strivers on board than ever before, it has become much more difficult to find them, according to Moore. He says that too many young people have been groomed for success, programmed to compare, and not inspired to compete. They have been trained to be smooth operators, conditioned to arrive, and not empowered to strive.

Charlan Nemeth, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, expanded on this notion with the following: “There’s this Pollyannaish notion that the most important thing to do when working together is stay positive and get along, to not hurt anyone’s feelings. Well, that’s just wrong. Maybe debate is going to be less pleasant, but it will always be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.”

The challenge may be identifying these strivers, or that competitive nature. Moore offers a few characteristics:

  • Are they willing to tackle complex problems?
  • Owing to Nemeth’s point, do they generate creative tension?
  • Do they exceed goals as opposed to attain defined goals?
  • So they embrace new challenges, as opposed to seek short-term rewards?