As a professional services provider, you may not see yourself as an entrepreneur.

You’re not inventing a new gadget. You’re just one of thousands performing a similar service throughout the world.

Well, that world is changing. There are lots of opportunities for law firms, accountants, consultants, and other professional services, but expertise alone is no longer enough.

Let’s talk about how to Thrive — and not Just Survive — by adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, no matter what you do!

What Is an Entrepreneur, Anyway?

Is it the Silicon Valley tech genius? The Wall Street hotshot? That neighbor who owns the gift shop down the block?

Being an entrepreneur is about much more than starting a business, or even whether you’re “the boss.” Bruce Bachenheimer, who leads the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University, defines entrepreneurship as a mindset. It’s about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value.

Here are some key characteristics of an entrepreneur:

  • An eye for opportunity. John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, exemplifies this sentiment: “Some people see problems, and an entrepreneur sees opportunity.”
  • A keen self-awareness. Jenny Ta, founder and CEO of social commerce platform Sqeeqee, describes entrepreneurs as confident, self-motivated individuals who understand their own limitations and are willing to fail and start over.
  • A strong tolerance for risk. According to MJ Gottlieb, co-founder of consulting firm Hustle Branding, an entrepreneur must be willing to take on extreme risks in order to transform ideas into reality.
  • Practical know-how. Elizabeth Amini, CEO of Anti-Aging Games LLC, says you need more than just a great concept. You must know how to reach the right customers who will benefit from what you do.

Why Should You Think Like an Entrepreneur?

Why would your professional service organization benefit from these entrepreneurial traits?

  • The entrepreneurial mindset helps you focus on value. When you’re always on the lookout for emerging opportunities, you’ll learn to anticipate the needs of clients and prospects and end up being their go to advisor.
  • It helps you differentiate yourself. Today’s consumers are awash in a sea of me-too marketing tactics from businesses trying to get their attention. But while everybody else is bending over backwards to get noticed, you’ll be nurturing sustainable win-win relationships.
  • It helps you respond to change. Whether it’s demographics, technology, or culture, an entrepreneurial mindset helps you find the opportunity embedded in all these challenges, so you’re better equipped to navigate today’s unpredictable environment.

How Can You Build Your Entrepreneurial Skills?

Here are some good habits that will help you develop the skills of an entrepreneur and succeed in your service industry — whether you’re flying solo in your own practice or you just “made partner” in a multi-million dollar firm.

#1: Bring the Enthusiasm

A few blogs ago, I asked whether you would still do your current job even if you didn’t need the money. In other words, do you have a career, or just a job?

One of the most important qualities of an entrepreneur is passion. Something that energizes you just thinking about it. Something you would enjoy regardless of the financial outcome. As I’ve always said, if you don’t have passion, nothing else matters.

Kristyna Zapletalova, founder and CEO of business app review tool Maqtoob, says to treat your passion like a business. When you balance the things you care about with practical know-how, the entrepreneurial mindset will come to you much more naturally.

#2: Continue Your Education

What are you talking about Neal? I graduated years ago. I don’t have time to go back to school!

My answer: That’s okay, and so what?

Education does not start on your first day of preschool and end the day you walk across the stage at your dear old alma mater.

Education is a lifelong process that starts the day you’re born and continues throughout your life. Acquiring new skills is an important habit if you want to bring an entrepreneurial orientation into your professional services organization.

Author Valentine Belonwu, founder of blog site Business Gross, recommends many possible avenues for developing entrepreneurial skills — from enrolling in an MBA program to reading books to volunteer work or even travel. The key is to find learning opportunities that are a good fit for you — and there are lots of them out there, so no excuses!

Learning also includes researching your effectiveness. Content marketing expert Sujan Patel, for example, suggests the ability to do a simple A/B split test to gauge different marketing tactics. He also suggests making friends with numbers — as in being able to manage money wisely.

That last paragraph may have you feeling a little anxious. Neal, I’ve never conducted a study! I’ve never taken an accounting class! How can I do all those things? Here’s your answer:

#3: Tap into Your Most Valuable Resource: People!

Successful entrepreneurs know that relationships — not money — are your most valuable resource. This is especially true in professional services industries.

Relationships with Your Team

Even the smartest among us will bump into things that need to be done that fall outside of our areas of expertise. You’ve got to enlist other qualified individuals to help along the way.

Whether you need help managing your money or managing your digital marketing strategy, reach out and hire, train, and manage the right people to make your team the best it can be.

And while we’re on the subject of relationships, don’t forget about your customers and prospects!

Relationships with Customers and Prospects

You may think you’re going to dazzle them with your perfect sales pitch or wow them with your snazzy advertising.

But the real question is…are you listening to your customers and prospects? That’s the most important communication skill for any entrepreneur.

When you converse with a prospect in person or over the phone, do you let them do most of the talking? When you respond to an email, are you just trying to persuade, or are you actually answering their questions and offering meaningful solutions?

When you publish your blog, post to social media, or run advertising, is your message in tune with the interests of your audience?

#4: Build Your Mental Muscle

Finally, you need to drop the illusion that it’s going to be easy. Instead, you must work on the habit of mental toughness, one of the most important characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

While all of these habits can help you become a more successful service professional, I’m not here to promise that they’ll magically erase all challenges overnight. Life just doesn’t work that way, whether you’re rich and famous or just barely getting by.

Trying new things and adapting to change can be beneficial to your service firm, but it’s also stressful at times! However, if you’re passionate about what you do, you don’t look for the easy way out. You’re willing to do the boring stuff that other service professionals gloss over.

You’re prepared to accept the occasional failure, learn from it and do better next time. You learn to cope with stress and keep going even when the going gets tough.

I hope this article has helped you see why thinking like an entrepreneur — and developing the knowledge and skills needed to be an entrepreneur — will help you and your professional services firm to Thrive and not Just Survive!