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6

Developing a Corporate Entrepreneurship Mindset

Who said cube farmers are not entrepreneurs? They can be. They just choose not to be. Nor do companies train employees in corporate entrepreneurship.

When I was working in public accounting, it surprised me to constantly observe how many around me were very good at what they did (specific tasks), but very few truly understood how the firm worked as a business.  It is no wonder that in tough economic times when layoffs mount that many people who are affected find themselves helpless.

But is that the employees’ fault? I don’t necessarily see or hear about companies going out of their way to train their employees to become entrepreneurs either.  But should they?

I am not saying that employees can’t develop a corporate entrepreneurship mindset on their own and progress in their careers by managing it as if it were their own business.  In fact, I believe every employee should work for their company as if they owned it.  But how many think and do that in reality?

A Proposed Paradigm on Corporate Entrepreneurship

The few motivated individuals will find a way to develop the corporate entrepreneur mindset.  Most others won’t.  Should companies proactively assist in the initiative to help the rest?

I think companies should incorporate entrepreneurship training relatively early in an employee’s tenure with the company.  I don’t mean teach them how to go run their own Subway, but rather corporate entrepreneurship within the context of the organization and its operations.

Not only will this equip employees with a broader business mindset, but it will also enable them to better contribute back to the organization. Anytime you have knowledge sharing and transparency, you usually benefit from a higher quality output. It is inevitable, or so I think at least.

When employees start to realize what it takes to build, run and sustain a business, their appreciation for the work they do will increase. They will better be able to assess their place in the value chain and hopefully will foster an attitude of continuous improvement.

Companies Should Lead by Example

By embedding corporate entrepreneurship education early in employee training programs, companies also have an opportunity to demonstrate that they truly care about their employees’ well-being.

Such an education encourages broad strategic thinking, while providing employment reassurance and managing employee fear. When employees realize that they are provided entrepreneurship skills and are encouraged to practice them while maintaining a steady paycheck, they typically feel more empowered and as a result perform better.

They start trusting their capabilities more and therefore take more calculated risks, leading to better outcome for them and their organizations.  Everyone therefore enjoys more satisfaction in the process.

What Companies Are Doing Instead?

When I was laid off from a job in the past, my company paid for three full months of outplacement services with one of the biggest names in the industry.

If you are not familiar with these service firms, these are companies that help you transition into another position with another organization by providing coaching, resume workshops, support groups and similar initiatives.

Many other bells and whistles came with the service, such as private temporary office space, fax number, printers, my own secretary, this that and what not.  I later found out the value of this package was nearly $10,000.

I say why not invest in training upfront instead? It’s a win-win for all involved. Even if and when the employee decides to leave the company and start a business on their own, there is a good chance their business will benefit their ex employer because of their specific experience and involvement in the industry. They can potentially be a buyer, supplier, strategic partner, who knows?

Look, companies are going to spend the training dollars anyway, so why not invest some of those dollars in corporate entrepreneurial type training for their employees while the employees are actually still on their payroll?

They might actually realize a positive return on that investment while the employee is still on board, rather than spending money transitioning employees out of their organization.  I look at this as potentially years of lost opportunity? Just a thought!

What are your thoughts on corporate entrepreneurship?

Read Wiki’s definition of corporate entrepreneurship here.

Sunil
Corporate Entrepreneur

Do You Need to be Super Smart to be Rich and Wealthy?

I often hear people say they can’t get rich because they are not blessed with the brain Bill Gates is blessed with. But do you really need to be “super smart”?

Rich is a relative term, and one certainly doesn’t need to be the next Bill Gates to be rich, so let’s get past that for now.

Let’s also get past the semantics between rich and wealthy. I understand that many differentiate between being rich and wealthy, and sure there are differences, semantics and otherwise, but for the sake of this discussion I will use them interchangeably.

What triggered this post is a reconnection with an old friend who I had not seen in years prior to just recently when he was in town to visit. We caught up over dinner and drinks.  He was in town on a project. He works for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and rakes in a healthy $175,000 in his early thirties.

“I’ve been working like a dog in consulting, and the more I make the more I pay in taxes” he said. But isn’t that what your goal always was I asked? I knew him college. We both attended a top 10 business school. Few years after his initial job he went back to another top 10 business school to get an MBA before joining BCG.

“Yes, and I am getting richer, but it’s taking too long” he replied.  “I have a couple ideas going on the side but just can’t seem to get any momentum because of work demands” he added.  Well what’s the guarantee that your ideas will make you rich I asked? We both smiled and continued popping in those fried, oily corn chips dipped in guacamole. Eeeks.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Moral of the conversation? There are many ways to get to the end goal of becoming rich and building wealth.  My friend can continue on the path that he is on and live a comfortable life with his paycheck and retire well with his savings. Or, he can go the entrepreneurial route and strike gold there.  He can also fail miserably.  Or, he can switch to a less demanding and less paying career but free up time to work on his pet projects.

Although there are many ways to get to the end goal, the mediums we choose tend to vary.  Each one of us has a different style or way of doing things, and we all have unique preferences.  For me, it has always been about choosing what gives me the most satisfaction which also gets me to my goal by the time I want to get there. I suspect it is the same for many who are in the same general boat as my friend and I.

A High Paying Career is One Way to Become Rich

When I worked in mergers and acquisitions, I used to observe the lifestyle of one of the partners of the firm and how he was always striving for that next promotion to an office partner, and then to a national partner and so forth.

When I moved to private industry, I used to observe my CFO in meetings and get togethers and how he always spoke about the chairman of the board having it made at 60+ raking in millions each year on a part time schedule (yes it was a big bank).  The CFO was in his 40s.

I used to listen to him thinking to myself that I too will get there, except in a different way, perhaps much faster because I won’t be restricted by an income ceiling, and I will be much happier, healthier and have much less stress in the process.

I may or may not make the same amount of money as he did and will in the future, but how much is enough to classify one as rich / wealthy? Like I said, these terms are relative.  Sure I may not make $6 Million a year like he did, but I am sure I will have plenty enough to consider myself rich.

I think for most individuals, after reaching a certain point in the income scale, incremental growth doesn’t matter as much anymore as it once did.  Apparently for my CFO, $6M wasn’t enough. He wanted the $14M the chairman made.

I would have totally stayed on the partner track, or pursued my career to become a CFO or even a CEO someday, but the common traits amongst the individuals in these titles / positions seemed to turn me off. What are some of these characteristics?

They seem overworked 99% of the time. They seem moody / bipolar, perhaps because of the initial fact. Many are divorced multiple times over. One of my CFOs in one company had only seen his daughter 3 times in a 4 year span! They are all round shaped, only one had hair, perhaps because of the stress and pressure? Their diets are horrible (from what I can tell), and I don’t want to know what is going on inside their biological systems.

But all these individuals had / have one thing in common. They have money, and a lot of it. Their salaries were in the millions, and if I were to guess they had / have multi-millions stashed aside to feed the next 14 generations of their lineage.

In case you are wondering, I am speaking about a sample size of approximately 70 top level positions here.  I am not saying all are like that, but most all of the 70 in my sample universe are. You might be one of these as you are reading this and may very well not fit the bill. If so, hats off to you.  There are always exceptions to a general rule, or outliers to a trend.

However, in my experience, most in such positions share a lot of these traits.  When I ask my wife (she has a full time job), she tends to agree. When I ask my friends in corporate America, they too agree (many of them are exactly on that path – some are now realizing it while others are still oblivious to the fact).

A High Paying Job is Not the Only Way to Riches

Switching gears over to the mid level society, I am acquainted with several individuals who are self made millionaires through their self started businesses. Many others are not millionaires, but I’d considered them rich because they make solid income, have a solid set of investments and savings, and have more than enough to worry about it even when business is not doing all that well.

These folks work in careers with above average salaries (the average household salary in the USA is sub $50,000 the last I checked), some have side businesses while others are simply frugal and invest their money well.  Education wise, most of those running their businesses are not formally educated, while most of those working for a paycheck are.

The common trait between folks in these categories is that each one has picked a system and has stayed with it for a long period of time. Some of these guys have made their money in real estate, others running big name franchises, others through investing in the stock market and small businesses, and a handful who are doing well making money online.

None of these folks are founders of a ground breaking idea. Sure, some have franchised out their business concepts and have struck gold doing so, but the concept of franchising is nothing new either.  They sell soups and salads for Heavens’ sake.

This just further reinforces the fact that one doesn’t need to be super smart or highly educated to do well financially. In fact, the smart ones of the bunch don’t even have to be super hard working if they choose not to.

There are business models perfectly conducive to this type of personality. I know some folks making mid six figures running lead generation / referral businesses online from home. I guess what I am trying to convey is that there are alternatives to a high paying job to become rich, and you don’t have to be a genius to get in the game.

Concluding Thoughts

Although a good education and a high paying profession certainly helps getting to the end goal of becoming rich, and can significantly expedite one’s progress to reach that goal, it is not a prerequisite by any means.

I am acquainted with several self made multimillionaire entrepreneurs who are not formally educated in a classroom, some who worked for just a few years in average paying professions and others who have never worked for a paycheck. Everyone is doing just fine.  The smart ones of this bunch are doing extra fine, reaping high dollars without putting in high number of hours and stress.

There are many average folks who are living above average lifestyles all around us today.  We may not see them because we don’t hang out in their circles, but they do exist and they are everywhere, trust me.

There is no secret formula either to live the life they are living. Each one got to where they are today by following a system that has worked for someone else in the past. There are business models that are proven, that have been studied, replicated and refined over the years.

Not every successful business has to be a new idea or invention. In fact, the best chance for success is to take a proven model and replicate it. It is absurd to recreate the wheel from scratch each time around.  There are always opportunities to enhance, improvise and implement changes in existing models to fit the current consumer taste and environment.

So No, you don’t have to be a born genius to become rich. You simply need to pick a proven system, believe in it and persevere working it, in it and on it over a long period of time.

Sure there are chances that it may not work. But you run similar risks working in a career don’t you? Your company can fold. Your job can be eliminated. You just have to bounce back up and start marching on once again.

What route or routes are you pursuing? Why? How is it going for you? Do you agree or disagree with having to be super smart?

Sunil
Systematizing Growth

7

Taking a Sabbatical or Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business

When I wrote about taking time off from work to work on your side business, I talked about ways to create time for your side business while still employed at the same time.

I didn’t realize at the time that some readers interpreted this as literally taking Real TIME off from work to work on the side business, an absence or sabbatical almost.

Thanks to reader insights, I was made aware of this and I thought this would make a good topic for a quick post on work-life balance and entrepreneurship.  My two cents are as follows:

Why Take Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business

Though not everyone’s cup of tea, many entrepreneurs choose to take some time off work to focus on their side business or businesses.  There are several reasons why many entrepreneurs choose to go this route.

Often times the toughest part of starting anything new is simply to get started. The answer is the same whether we are talking about doing dishes, working out or starting a new business.

Those who already have businesses understand that momentum is a key component of growth. With a full time work load and other priorities outside work, it is difficult to gather momentum and push through with no interruptions.  The answer is often taking time off to grow the business.

Different Stages of a Business Venture

While the ideal situation is to run a side business parallel to your full time career (for me at least), some businesses require more time and focus at certain stages of their life cycles.

It is possible that this requirement precludes some from starting it up, thus leaving no other option than to take some time off.  But for others, for example bloggers and internet marketers, each stage can be juggled along with a full time job.

The Business Idea – the initial stage of idea generation or brainstorming is a relatively light activity and one that can be done during nights and weekends.  One can certainly manage to draw up potential business ideas in parallel to their full time jobs.

The Launch – I am involved in several business ventures, many online and several offline as well.  Although some are more taxing at the launch stage than others, the launch phase as a whole is the one that takes the most amount of time and concentration.

Business Growth – depending on the heights you want to take your business in, this phase can be executed either way, whether in parallel to your job or by taking time off from work and fully focusing on growth.  The nature of your business also dictates how you manage this phase of your business.

For example, a real estate investor can take weekends to scope out properties and execute deals during the week on lunch break.  On the other hand, the new absentee owner of a Dunkin Donuts shop may have to dedicate weeks and months training new managers to run the business so he or she can open another location or move on to something else.

Maintenance – once a business is up and running, maintenance is arguably the least time consuming activity, and one that you can definitely run in parallel to your career. Think about a well established website or blog. After you have worked to grow it to a level where traffic is consistent, all you have to do is maintain it with periodic updates, correspond with your readership and put off small fires here and there which are far and few between.

You control and dictate how you want it to evolve and how much you want it to grow. A ton of options will open themselves up to you once you have an established business that is in maintenance mode.  The best part of it all is that you have the flexibility to call your shots.

You can continue to plug away at your business part time, or leave the “man” to work on your business full time. The important thing to realize is that you have options, but these options don’t appear magically. You have to earn them by starting it up first, and then putting in the time and resources that it takes to grow it.

Why Not to Take Time Off from Work to Work on Your Side Business

Sure it all sounds fine and dandy, but not everything is as practical as it sounds in theory.  Not everyone is in a position to jet off work, but there are steps one can take to get there.

For example, if you are worried about paying the bills, you can perhaps take a more prudent and planned approach to taking time off by starting to save early for the time you plan to take off.  There is obviously some sacrifice involved here, but that goes without saying. There is no free lunch in this world, but if you are reading this you are a go-getter and you already know what it takes.

Another example is getting your spouse’s buy-in if you are married.  You can take steps to prepare your spouse for what is to come. Convey your reasons for doing what you want to do genuinely and hopefully you will get their support.  This can either be effortless or painful depending on who you are married to, but it’s a necessary step in the process if you want to maintain your saneness and family well-being.

The point is that although some may be able to pull these off, many others can’t and have to resort to options B, C and so forth.  Personally, I think the little bit of sacrifice upfront is well worth it.

Getting started early gives you a chance to plant seeds beforehand and watch the plants and trees grow over time.  It’s like getting a job, or anything else for that matter.  You need to spread your brand through networking and handing out resumes before you get hired.  You have to build and market your blog content today to get traffic and revenues tomorrow.

The most challenging part of the process is getting started.  Once your business is set up and running, maintaining it and working on its growth can be an incremental process that you can dictate given your capacity.  It’s much easier to grow an existing stash of cash than to create one from nothing to begin with.

Best Times to Shift Focus on Your Business

Opportunities often come dressed in overalls, therefore hard to recognize.  That saying is very true.  Some of the most successful businesses have resulted from a perceived inopportune time in the entrepreneur’s life, such as a job layoff.  More people start it up when they are unemployed.  Others take advantage of their time in between jobs to experiment with their ideas.

Other options to take time off from work include vacations, taking an unpaid leave of absence and going to a part time schedule in the short term.  Many companies also offer formal sabbatical programs that you may take advantage off.

I understand that not all of these situations apply to everyone.  We all have varying commitments and priorities.  For example, you may get away taking vacation time to work on your business when you are single or have a girl or boyfriend, but I dare you to try doing so when you are married and have kids, at least without everyone’s buy in.

When I was single, I took 4 weeks of accrued vacation to work on a couple business ideas. Those 4 weeks proved to be worth more than many subsequent months that I put in afterwards. Not everyone can do that.  For example, some people can say goodbye to health insurance from work for a little bit, while others can only hope to downgrade to a part time schedule at best providing they can keep the health benefits.

Concluding Thoughts

Taking time off from work to work on a side business is not for everyone.  Many are simply not in the position to do so. For those fortunate ones that are, it might make sense to consider a short term sacrifice now to build a better tomorrow.

Have you ever taken time off from your job or career to establish or grow a business? How did it go? Are you in a position to do so now? Will you? Why or why not?

What do you think of others who have taken some time off to work on their businesses? Any stories you can share with our readers?

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