Thinking Like an Entrepreneur within the Corporate Walls

Woman with earringsThe words entrepreneur and corporation are not always used together in the same sentence. One connotes a penchant for creative, seat-of-the-pants risk-taking, while the other usually suggests hierarchy, structure and some level of risk aversion.

In rapidly changing environment, innovative thinking is essential for growth. Technology and dynamic economic markets forced corporations to become more responsive to changes and at a faster rate than ever before. Professionals working within these corporations are being challenged and rewarded for leading with more of an entrepreneurial style.

Marie, for example, pioneered an integrated system at her company for executives to use in their decision-making. It has evolved into a necessary part of data management for the corporation worldwide.

Rich suggested and took on the challenge of integrating three products from several divisions within the multinational corporation where he works. By bringing these products under one umbrella, the organization realized a cost savings of $5 million a year.

Intrinsic in these real-life corporate examples are characteristics normally attributed to “intrapreneurs,” a term defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as, “A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.”

Women w-coffee cupProfessionals with an entrepreneurial spirit—intrapreneurs—feel a degree of ownership, take risks, make decisions and take responsibility willingly. Intrapreneurs are visionary and independent. They thrive on change, but they also know how the changes they desire align with their company’s objectives. They have good communications skills, intellectual curiosity and possess a high degree self-worth. Their mindset is more focused on creating vs. managing. Intrapreneurs take ownership beyond their immediate job description and they are typically more influential and results focused.

Successful corporate intrapreneurs understand that it is not enough to have a good idea. They also have to know how to get their ideas sold in the organization. Sometimes, those with innovative ideas have a hard time articulating and selling their ideas because of self-imposed boundaries or inability to influence others. This is usually where coaching can be very beneficial.

Intrapreneurs benefit from their “find-a-way-to-get-it-done” attitude in the form of praise, promotions and increased job satisfaction. They see how they can make a contribution and bring value—playing in the game, rather than sitting on the sidelines.

When barriers to performance are removed, retention, productivity and profits go up. Commitment and company loyalty increase, as does innovative thinking and problem solving. When an intrapreneurial culture thrives, the company can attract more intrapreneurially minded people.

In one example, the CEO of a privately held company realized that 95% of his corporate assets (his employees) left the building every night. As a result, protecting his assets became a top priority. He created an environment that appealed to the needs of his employees: on-site physician visits, day care center, cafeteria and a gym. He brought in a massage therapist regularly. The result? Turnover was a mere 3% instead of the huge 20% corporations traditionally experienced in his industry. People took fewer sick days. These two aspects alone saved his company millions of dollars. He saw company profits increase even during the economic crisis.

Most corporate cultures do not foster an environment that nurtures new ideas. Lack of trust, stressful deadlines, conflicting priorities, and poor communication often stifle productivity. The coaching process can provide a safe haven to explore and position new ideas. Having the opportunity to evaluate a new idea, understand its impact to the organization and role-play how to best “pitch” the idea, is crucial for creating solutions that benefit the corporation and its employees.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

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