The words entrepreneur and corporate don’t usually show up in the same sentence. One connotes a penchant for creative, seat-of-the-pants risk-taking, while the other usually suggests “we’ve always done it this way” risk aversion.
But “out-of-the-box” thinking is more necessary than ever in today’s marketplace, as corporations respond to changes in the world economy. Professionals working within corporations are being increasingly rewarded for using entrepreneurial skills to meet challenges in innovative ways.
Marie, for example, pioneered an integrated system at the corporation she works for that gathers and compiles data from around the 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 merging three products from three previously separate 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.”
Professionals with an entrepreneurial bent—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 won’t align with their company’s objectives.
They have good communications skills and a high sense of curiosity and self-worth. Their mindset is more of creating a business than running a business.
Intrapreneurs definitely don’t buy into the “It’s not my job” way of thinking, and they are more concerned with achieving results than gaining influence.
Successful corporate intrapreneurs understand that it’s 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 limitations. This is usually where coaching comes in and can be of great benefit.
Entrepreneurs 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.
For the organization, when individual barriers to performance are removed, retention, productivity, and profits go up. Commitment and company loyalty surface; so does innovation and creative problem-solving.
An infectious entrepreneurial begins to take hold, which attracts even more entrepreneurial-minded management.
In one example, the CEO of a privately held restaurant chain realized that 95% of his corporate assets left the building every night in the form of his employees. Protecting his assets became a priority. He created an environment that appealed to the needs of his employees: on-site physician visits, social work, a daycare center, a cafeteria, and a gym.
He brought in a pianist and massage therapist regularly. The result? Turnover was a mere 3% instead of the huge 20% corporations traditionally experience. People had fewer sick days. These two aspects alone saved his company millions of dollars. He saw company profits increase even during the dot-com crisis.
Most corporate cultures do not foster an environment of trust or safety for presenting new ideas. Add to that the stress of deadlines, cutbacks, and communication difficulties, and it’s easy to send the wrong message.
The coaching process provides a safe haven to explore and position new ideas. Having the opportunity to evaluate a new idea, understand its impact on the organization, and role-play how to best present it for buy-in, is crucial for creating solutions that benefit the corporation and its employees.