When bad times strike, they strike hard and leave very few prisoners. To survive, companies of all sizes must act and look at different ways to see the bad times through. After years of downsizing and cost cutting, corporations have now realised that they can’t shrink their way to success. All they have achieved is survival and surviving does not allow quick growth. A company that is just surviving is a company that is not in business. There is only so much one can do to tweak existing products or services, taking over rivals, or moving into developing countries.

A new imperative is clear: Companies must create, develop, and sustain innovative new businesses. Elon Musk agrees, “Failure is an option. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

All businesses require innovation. Innovation is a compilation of fresh ideas, and fresh ideas stem from those that are passionate about their organisation. These are the Corporate Entrepreneurs, or now known as Intrapreneurs.

So why should companies create more Corporate Entrepreneurs?

We are so often reminded of stories about decision makers trapped by conventional thinking:

Blockbuster – the company that hired out movies. They had the option of buying out    Netflix, who sent videos through the internet directly to your home.        Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010.

Blackberry – almost everyone had a Blackberry phone in the mid 2000’s until the          iPhone was released in 2007. They never believed that the touch screen             technology would survive. From having 50% of the market share, they now         own 0.8%.

Publishing Industry – instead of embracing the digital generation, publishers have        been dragging their heels trying to slow it down.

There are many more organisations who have refused to be innovative and are now just ‘surviving companies’ or worse, no longer in business, like Xerox, MySpace, Polaroid, Yahoo, Kodak, Atari, AOL, and many more.

Do you ever want to see your company in this list?

This illustrates how important it is for organisations to create more Corporate Entrepreneurs.

Any corporate person will tell you that to be a good manager, he/she has to have and practice the 6 management traits to be successful. These are:

1. Leadership

2. Communication

3. Adaptability

4. Developing Other People

5. Building Relationships

6. Constant Development

So yes, these are important when one is employed to run a department or even a company. These are very necessary when their mandate is to ensure profitability of their department, to ensure employees are doing their work, and ensuring that all the paperwork is in line with the company’s processes.

However, when all these boxes are ticked, the manager gets rewarded with a bigger department consisting of more employees and a fancier title with a bigger office on the 6th floor. This process gets repeated until our manager becomes too old for the job and goes into retirement to the coast.

Sitting on the patio overlooking the sea, our manager looks back at what he has achieved in his life – his story: being a highly paid manager that was responsible for a big department.

The question I always ask is, “What value did he really make in the company?

How different will the picture really look if we turn the manager into a Corporate Entrepreneur?

What would happen if we placed                                                    

Richard Branson on the patio next to our manager?

How different would that story be?

So how would your organisation fare if your managers could think like a Corporate Entrepreneur?

Corporate Entrepreneurs do share a collection of these management characteristics; however, they require the ability to take risk, demonstrate initiative to ensure a successful venture as well as the following characteristics:

1. Tenacity

Corporate Entrepreneurs constantly thrive under the cloak of uncertainty. They have the tenacity which helps in dealing with the repeated challenges they experience day in and day out. They have perseverance, persistence, determination, commitment, resilience. They know they are the ones who create control.

2.  Passion

Money is not always the driving force behind their motivation, but that deep passion and strong belief in the offerings. Their belief that they can solve life’s’ problems and make life so much easier, better, cheaper. They believe they will change the world. Their passion in what they’re doing is what gets them through these challenges.

3.  Tolerance of ambiguity

This is where the risk-taking comes in. Corporate Entrepreneurs have the ability to master the Fear Factor; endure the fear of uncertainty and potential failure. It is really the art of successfully managing the daily fears; fear of humiliation, fear of missing deadlines, expectations, fear of failure, bankruptcy, and so on. Their ultimate entrepreneurial test takes place in their attitude and abilities of mental control and stamina. Managers do go with the fear – but then they quit, whilst the Corporate Entrepreneur will take it on and push through it. The Corporate Entrepreneur looks at the situation and knows they have some control over the outcome.

4.  Vision

Corporate Entrepreneurs are able to identify opportunities and delve in the space where others have yet to explore. They create niches that managers cannot identify, which opens up opportunities in innovation and evolving areas. These they visualise well and are able to effectively communicate them to those around them. They strive to operate where angels fear to tread.

5.  Self-belief

Their belief in what they do is so strong that it rides on the back of self-confidence. This strong belief helps to overcome the risk factor. The energy created is so contagious that others are sucked in willingly and enthusiastically.

6.  Flexibility

They are the masters of adaptation and are fully aware that their success depends on it. How things were originally planned, may never end up looking the same. This level of flexibility creates the response to the ever-changing market conditions and the environment and staying on top and in control.

7.  Rule-breaking

This is one factor that scares the Executive in many organisations. The Corporate Entrepreneur exists to defy conventional thinking. Doing what others are not doing is the natural way the Corporate Entrepreneur operates – yet they get results and are the ones responsible for taking organisations to the next level and seeing it through.

Several big companies today actively promote Corporate Entrepreneurship, allowing their employees to spend 10 to 20 percent of their time on innovative ideas that are unrelated to their normal jobs. Companies such as Google, 3M and Intel are well known for their efforts in this regard. Not surprisingly, these are some of the best performing big companies in the world of business today. 

Some of the best products that were born out of intrapreneurship:

  • Apple – Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iCloud
  • Google – Gmail, Google News, AdSense, driverless cars, Google Glass and other innovations
  • Virgin – The numerous divisions launched by Virgin: Air, hotel, casino, books, music, Megastore, mobile, wines, games, Galactic
  • Sony – PlayStation
  • 3M – Post-It Notes
  • Discovery – Medical, Life Cover and Investments
  • Kreepy Krauly – swimming pool cleaner
  • Pratley – Glue and Putty
  • Hippo Roller – Water roller

… and there are many more.

Can your company afford NOT having a Corporate Entrepreneur? Certain managers can be trained to become a Corporate Entrepreneur.

Trevor Ketler is the founder of the Corporate Entrepreneur Academy and has been training Corporate Entrepreneurs for the past 30 years. http://www.ketler.co.za/entrepreneur-academy/

Find out how Trevor can add value to your company, call him on 082 447 5150 8�

About Us

The Northern Business Review is a business community newspaper that provides a platform for businesses to market their products and services, as well as build their brand, but equally important the publication provides information, advice and topics of interest, including business, entrepreneurial, economic reviews and simple ideas to grow your business. The publication has a primary objective to “uniquely” represent businesses to a wide audience across the community as well as provide a media platform of business articles and information that affect, influence and uplift the business environment within our defined geographical and cultural community.


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