Corporate Entrepreneurship

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Staff need to think like a boss

Konosuke Matsushita, one of the business titans of the 20th century, said: “Think like an entrepreneur, not a hired hand.” It was the climate he created among staff at Matsushita Electric Industrial in Japan, which led to the creation of the Panasonic brand we know today.

I believe this change in mindset is what every business needs in order to flourish: its employees need to be persuaded to think like the owner.

I recently asked 48 former corporate executives that had set up their own business a question: What significant difference have you discovered between being a corporate employee and being a business owner? The unanimous answer: I wish I’d applied the same level of ownership thinking during my corporate years that I have had to apply in building my own business.

Instilling a self-employed mentality is the elusive element that established organisations need today. The bizarre reality is that although every successful organization has its origins in entrepreneurship, those same agile attributes instrumental in building a company are ignored.

Good management attributes are of course required to sustain profitability. Yes, an agile innovative entrepreneur may found a company; but it requires corporate leadership skills to sustain future growth. These attributes rarely exist at the same time… yet when successfully blended, companies achieve the strategic edge of Corporate Entrepreneurial Leadership. The essential edge that challenging markets demand today. Indeed what is it that transforms an ordinary business into an extra-ordinary one?

Very simply, it is a repositioning of where the business stands. For example: repositioning itself from being for nerds to being cool made Apple the best company ever; focusing on service-delivery instead of selling-pizza propelled Dominos to most successful in its industry; adopting the property time-sharing model jetted Netjets into the stratosphere; moving from drink production for exhausted lorry-drivers to life-style marketing for go-getters gave Red Bull it wings to global success.

The differentiator between an ordinary business and an extraordinary one is that the former sells goods or services whereas the latter is about something. The catalyst for all the above is that they have instilled Corporate Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Entrepreneurial Leadership is not about encouraging loose-canon entrepreneurs – as this can prove a strategic disaster for established organizational structures. I define it as instilling the confidence to think, behave and act with entrepreneurship in the interest of fulfilling the intended purpose of the organization to the benefit of the stakeholders involved. Entrepreneurship involves more than an individual. It involves whole teams engaged in a process of willingly working together, to create, implement, drive and follow through an innovative idea that delivers measurable value.

The most competitive ingredient that any business has is its people. It follows that the greatest benefit is to have people who readily take ownership for what they do. Business growth demands high expectations. As the nature of the entrepreneurship is to set high expectations, transforming management employees into entrepreneurial leaders must be accomplished.

But can this really be accomplished?

Good examples of corporate entrepreneurial leaders are, in technology, Steve Jobs of Apple; in finance, Michael Spencer of ICAP; in marketing Sir Martin Sorrel of WWP. Perhaps the greatest of the 20th Century was Konusuke Matsushita who encouraged his executives ‘to think like an entrepreneur, not a hired hand.’ At the Matsushita Electric Company in Japan, he created an entrepreneurial climate that was conducive to seeking opportunity, advancing innovation, developing leadership and giving service. It was this culture that led to the creation of numerous brands including Panasonic.

Transforming employee-mentality into self-employed mentality involves overcoming previous conditioning: of following a brief instead of initializing one, or asking for permission over asking for forgiveness. Changing a frame of reference changes an outlook. Encouraging employee participation develops involvement and commitment. Siemens, for example, introduced a programme resulting in employees being referred to as entrepreneurs after they had completed it.

The company was recently honoured by the Global Equity Organisation with its highest distinction for setting the standard for employee participation in company success, The jury singled out the fact that the programme encouraged every employee – regardless of location or role to become a co-owner in the company.

Challenging times and low resources demand that we utilize the resourcefulness of every available asset by harnessing the principles of entrepreneurship with the practices of leadership.

For the future is not what it used to be; it belongs to those organisations that are friendly yet fearless, experienced yet innovative and established yet entrepreneurial.

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