Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creating the Intra-preneurial Spirit

I recently read an article about encouraging employees to display the same entrepreneurial fervor as the biz owner; it’s obviously got a great variety of benefits for all involved:

1. The owner transfers responsibility for a number of tasks and business functions from her/his head to those of capable and trained employees.

2. The owner gains – with smart training – a group of empowered employees who’ll think and decide with the company benefit at heart (not really – they have their own benefit in mind and the degree to which the smart entrepreneur ties these benefits together is the degree to which you get loyal, committed employees).

3. The owner adds tremendous value to her/his company, thereby improving the long-term reward (read: profitable sale) s/he’ll enjoy when ready.

4. The owner adds a level of creativity and new possibilities for the company by taking advantage of all the different lenses through which each employee views the company procedures.

5. The owner gains more free time to do what s/he wants, whether with this company, the next company, the next vacation or whatever s/he wants.

Anyway, while reading this article, I was reminded of my first 2 lessons with internal entrepreneurship (which I call ‘intra’-preneurship), both of which happened at the same employer; take a look below and tell me what lessons you get here.

Story #1: Way back in the 80’s, I worked for a great, entrepreneurial subsidiary of a huge American corporation. Each company had broad name recognition and each had radically different corporate cultures. The parent recognized this and maintained a hands-off demeanor for 2 decades. As a result, the subsidiary became hugely successful with the entrepreneurial spirit encouraged by its own company president and it contributed significantly to the happy story its parent told in annual reports. However, the very entrepreneurial, shoot-from-the-hip spirit encouraged at the subsidiary soon dwarfed, in the mind of the parent company, the great financial success its unit brought it. So, within 2 years of my own departure, the entrepreneurial spirit was shot down, every senior-level executive that had helped the unit thrive was gone and a family member of the parent was throned.
Moral of the story: It’s important for a company principal to be completely objective about what they seek with its employees’ creativity because ego and self-image can over-power almost anything – even profitability.

Story #2: In that same subsidiary company, the president understood it takes more than conferring responsibility on a willing internal entrepreneur (which he called, and I’ve since adopted “intra-preneurs”); you have to give them authority and resources as well so know they have the confidence and ability to take action, with the necessary support, to execute their ideas. During the 10 years I was very happily employed there, I was given almost carte blanche to take an idea which had begun to show fruit (and conceived by others) and leverage the heck out of it so it became a model of sky-high profitability and success; and hey, I’m not modest: each year’s profit eclipsed the prior year’s revenue.
Moral of the story: 20 years later, I still enjoy giving a client’s employees the means and encouragement to dream and do big because it’s the model of the perfect win-win scenario: the employee is encouraged to excel at what s/he does well, thereby enjoying a sense of empowerment and success to do it again; and the company reaps the added productivity, creativity, revenue (or cost-savings) rewards.

Two different views of intra-preneurship; which will work for you and how will you get there?