Want to ditch your day job and become an entrepreneur? Read this first.
Previously published in Dynamic|Business on May 12, 2016
It seems like everywhere you look now there are ‘experts’ telling you the best thing you can do is ditch your secure job and risk it all to follow your dreams, become an entrepreneur and start your own business. The vision around creating a laptop lifestyle, earning passive income or making millions while sipping cocktails on a desert island is one promise we are all likely to be seduced by as we start the daily commute to our not-so-dream-job.
We’ve all been there. You’re in a job that is not stretching you/your boss is a nightmare/there is no career progression/ you’re bored out of your head (*delete as applicable) and it’s tempting to want to pack it all in and start on a new adventure. But before you do I have a Plan B for you…and it’s one you might not have thought of.
Plan B involves joining the ranks of those who are using their entrepreneurial skills, but in-house, as an intrapreneur.
From Google to Dell entrepreneurial types are being employed as Entrepreneurs In Residence or Chief Innovation Officers to take hold of innovation and drive their organisations to push into new frontiers.
An intrapreneur is someone who disrupts from the inside. They are the risk takers, creatives and people within an organisation who are working on clearly defined projects that could transform where and how they work. In a way you get the best of both worlds as you can use the resource, brand, stability and support of a big company (and regular pay checks) combined with the innovation, creativity and boldness that comes with being a disrupter.
I see so much focus on entrepreneurship at the moment, however, the reality is that most people don’t want everything that it means to be an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur takes over your life, can be hugely stressful and means you never know what your salary will be month to month (if anything in the first year or two) – things that not everyone is comfortable with, and I don’t think there is enough honesty around this currently.
Intrapreneurs still have the desire to create something and do something different, they just do it within the boundaries of their employer. Organisations need these people. Large companies are too big to be flexible in the way that’s required in today’s fast moving market. Small pockets of innovation, rapidly responding to consumer demand is the best way that big companies can stay relevant.
To determine whether my Plan B is right for you, take a look at the five key qualities you need to work towards as you build your intrapreneurial muscle:
Blending in, towing the line and being compliant is not going to cut it in our fast-moving job market.
Companies are increasingly seeking those who can shake things up, look at problems in a dynamic way and act like an entrepreneur by taking risks to get their organization working better, smarter and seizing opportunities in rapidly changing markets.
Being an action-taker
Innovation within an organization doesn’t come without some hard graft, some mindset shifting through senior ranks and without action. An intrapreneur has got to be a beautiful mix of doing the research, testing, planning and strategizing but then quickly getting out of this phase and launching quickly.
Testing, using data, retesting and pivoting, if what you’re doing isn’t working, are all techniques sophisticated organisations are using to move in an agile way and responding to consumer need.
Make buddies with your Information Systems and Business Intelligence team now.
Being an expert in your customer
Being well-researched and understanding the tiny nuances of your customer base will stand you in good stead as an intrapreneur. From market research to analysis of what your customers are saying online can help propel you to innovate and start to looking for the solutions your customers are looking for on a day to day basis.
Working collaboratively with teams across your organisation and being well networked will also mean that when it is time to pull in HR, product design or development teams you know who to go to and an idea of how long new products, services or adjustments are going to take.
Your boss and your bosses’ boss know full well that everything is moving quickly. Stand still for long enough and your organisation could be the next Kodak, Blockbuster Video or Borders. Disruption is happening, innovation needs to infiltrate every part of your organisation and you can be in charge of insuring that internal stakeholders and staff know how to innovate and come up with new ideas.
Entrepreneurs running start ups work quickly to get their Minimum Viable Product to market, testing, improving, testing and improving.
Spend too long on research, and not testing, and your procrastination may leave you behind the eight-ball.
Done is better than perfect.
Being an awesome communicator
Every day you will be coming up against people who don’t like change, who are happy with the status quo and who honestly see what you’re trying to do as making their lives difficult!
Intrapreneurship is not for the faint hearted. You will probably spend a lot of time talking, explaining, emailing, cajoling and pitching to internal stakeholders around innovation and your team’s ideas.
Having direct lines to senior management is also going to help your case and will position you well to be able to act in an agile way.
You have to be passionate, persuasive and an awesome communicator to get people on board, create change and show your vision from senior management to shop floor.
So, entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship? A very different job but needing similar qualities. Have you got what it takes?