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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.

Corporate Entrepreneur

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6 Responses to “Developing a Corporate Entrepreneurship Mindset”

  1. It’s also a good idea for employees to treat the career as a business and know when it’s time to move on, especially when the company starts to go downhill. It’s very easy to get attached to the apparent security and comfort of a regular paycheck and stagnate.

    • Sunil says:

      This is true Kevin. Employees are in the business of selling their skills and services, not much different in theory from a legally established business. When I was working for my second company, those that recognized difficult times nearing left early and were able to secure relatively better positions elsewhere and quicker (we were in a relatively small market).

  2. You should always treat working for someone else as a business. Need to always be on the look out for the better mouse trap.

  3. I think that there are a lot of people having “employee” mindset and only a few having an “entrepreneurial” mindset. I actually have two businesses – one offline (translation agency) and one online (free game site). The biggest problem I am trying to deal with is to stop doing everything by myself. It is very tempting to say that I should translate this medical project myself because I have some experience but if you start doing business in this way you will never step out of your “small business” and will never earn any “real money”. One thing all entrepreneurs need to learn is being able to spot the difference between “important” and “unimportant” things. Translating a medical project is less important than searching for new customers. In my opinion this “spotting” skill is the most important for all entrepreneurs.

    • Sunil says:

      Welcome to the blog Peter. Outsourcing is critical if you want to leverage and become scaleable. Entrepreneurs have a common “problem”, which is that of delegation. We want to do everything. But the sooner we learn to think otherwise the better for us and our business.

      Looking forward to learning more about your businesses.

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