If you have the ambition to be an entrepreneur, but have no idea about a startup or lack the risk-taking mindset that might be needed, where do you go? You go to big corporations where people like you really have to be creative and innovative, maybe even disruptive but not to the point of leaving the company. Being an entrepreneur is a very fine line for hiring key employees and managing them effectively by working within a large company. Let’s see how these companies can define and support corporate entrepreneurship.
Corporate entrepreneurship is senior management that helps employees think and act like entrepreneurs within the confines of an existing organizational structure. Employees with the right attitude and skills are encouraged to identify opportunities and create ideas that lead to innovative new products, services or even new lines of business.
Corporate entrepreneurship programs, if they are defined, should create solutions to problems or opportunities that are disruptive in nature, rather than small, growing changes. Also, innovation and new product launches are managed by these employees rather than implemented by the management. So, let’s look at the types of corporate entrepreneurs who can thrive in a corporate environment where entrepreneurs are expected and rewarded and see if you can be a corporate entrepreneur.
Toilet Entrepreneur. It is the person of an organization who is actually a real entrepreneur but loyal to the management (to a certain extent) but has all the power to create a new product or service, perhaps even a new company. Think of Mark Benioff who worked at Oracle but left to build a salesforce. They look at market changes or opportunities and have a strategic approach to understanding what needs to happen. If you give this person room to improve, they will create new divisions in your larger company. If you don’t they will leave.
Troubleshooter. This type of corporate entrepreneur is a problem solver from day one. Even when they started with an entry level company, they were good at solving small, simple problems. They are curious, they ask good questions, they like to do their own research and they don’t give up. They have basic skill sets like sales, marketing or finance and work well with teams. They are a quiet leader that usually earns the respect of co-workers, and over time they build their reputation with senior management for ‘getting it done’.
Reason / Mission. This type of future corporate entrepreneur has purposefully joined a large company. And because of the company’s mission, they chose the company. Think of Patagonia as an example. Although their goal is to wear the best outdoor in the world, their goal is to do no harm to the planet. This person will work in and out of what is needed to complete their work and over time will rise in the company because of their loyalty and ability to know exactly ‘what to do’ based on the company’s mission. Over time, they will be given more responsibility and if they have a strategic business chop, they will be asked to lead a new endeavor that actually builds the business but will never deviate from the core mission.
Competitors / teams. This version of a corporate entrepreneur has probably been competitive all their lives. One who sees the potential market as a playground and always thinks about ‘how to win’. If their team has the skills to be a ‘captain’, people will follow them because they want to create a strategic win for the company. You would expect that this person is not completely ruthless and probably has a win / win mentality but not often, they are looking for a corporate win. While they may not be able to come up with a solution to a new product or service that creates a segment, they will probably lead and grow that segment.
You don’t have to build a startup or run a small business to use your entrepreneurial skills. But you need to know who you are and choosing the right company to work for will embrace and support your corporate entrepreneurial potential and ambition.