Does Entrepreneurship Within a Corporation Really Exist?

Does Entrepreneurship Within a Corporation Really Exist?

Not too long ago, a business professor friend invited me to address a luncheon of university students enrolled in his class on entrepreneurship. I was honored to have been asked, but not sure I was the right person for the task.

“Your students would be better served by a high-tech entrepreneur half my age,” I told him.

“They’ve already heard from entrepreneurs,” he said. “I want you for balance. My class needs a perspective on entrepreneurship within the corporation — if that really exists.

I went in assuming his students believed corporate management and entrepreneurship were principles of contradiction — the only contrarians would be members of the flat earth society. I figured it might be best to tackle the assumption head on by addressing the culture of corporate giants, particularly the “old economy” companies responsible for creating the preconception.

At one time it looked like “clout” and “scale” would prevail as the most powerful forces in business. Corporate giants dominated markets and gobbled up competitors; along the way they failed to cope with rapid change. Their competitive edge eroded because the people at the top, who considered themselves the corporate brain, failed to adapt or innovate. The brain viewed the masses below it as the muscle. The muscle never got to see the big picture. Bureaucracy and stagnation set in. The brain “cut the fat” to shore up profits. But strategic health continued its free-fall.

Eventually, the giants embarked on reinventing themselves by simplifying decision-making and acting with haste. Innovation and entrepreneurship made a comeback, albeit in measured bites. In the meantime, perennial innovators the likes of Apple, FedEx and Amazon extended their leadership over old-guard competitors. Large or small, we have bureaucratic companies, entrepreneurial ones and plenty in between. Innovators drive the marketplace, followers are the passengers and those who refuse to abolish redundancy are roadkill.

My friend’s students saw themselves as entrepreneurial thinkers, yet at graduation, most of them will begin their careers in a corporation. I told them not to worry; corporate life isn’t a death sentence.

“Your job,” I said, “is to choose an organization with a buoyant culture and a leadership team that’s not afraid of change. The change-makers are small- to medium-size enterprises that either lead niche categories or are hell-bent on knocking the big guy from the top rung of a mass market. In those companies you’ll find entrepreneurial thinking.”

When it comes to job hunting, several avenues are open to grads with an entrepreneurial drive. To assist in the selection process, I suggest seven basic search guidelines:

  1. Search for small players or divisions of large players in industries you like.
  2. Lean towards industries on strong growth curves.
  3. Check out the target company’s mission/vision statement. Does it inspire? If it doesn’t, move on.
  4. Research the reputation and the modus operandi of the CEO.
  5. Beware the entrepreneur. Several, such as Trump, still operate by the brain and muscle ethic.
  6. Explore corporations that value diversity.
  7. Don’t resist starting in the sales department. No one is closer to the customer than the front-line sales representative.
John Bell
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John Bell is the author of Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World. A retired consumer packaged goods CEO and global strategy consultant to so ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week (March 20 - 24)

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week (March 20 - 24)

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on IRIS.xyz, March 20 - 24, 2017 


Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!



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In the world of ETFs, advisors face a similar challenge. Simply put, the menu of ETFs is massive. And while advisors used to debate only about the merits of active versus passive investing ... — Jillian DelSignore

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Here are five reasons why we believe simply shifting your strategy, but not running from REITs, may provide desired yield—even in the face of yet another rate hike ... — Salvatore Bruno

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There are different types of narcissists but handling them is always the same: be humble, don’t engage. — Tanya Beaudry

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Use these simple tips to establish and grow valuable relationships with Centers of Influence to have them recommend you to their best clients. — Paul Kingsman

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​Are you getting enough qualified referrals from people within your network? Or are you relationship rich but referral poor? — James Pollard

6. Understanding ETF Liquidity and Trading


ETFs offer attractive features—access to a broad range of asset classes, sectors and styles in a liquid, transparent and cost-effective vehicle. But before using that vehicle, it’s helpful to understand how it works ... — ProShares

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While I personally won’t forsake my Starbucks ritual for McDonalds’ curbside delivery, I have to concede the prospect of having my breakfast provided to me as I pull up to a restaurant does sound appealing. — Joseph Michelli

8. Top Ten Strategies for Increasing Marketing ROI


So many leads, so little time. Your marketing strategy is generating so many qualified prospects and you can’t keep pace. It is an enviable position. — Elizabeth Harr​​​​​​​

9. Is the Trump Bump an Example of Irrational Exuberance?


The stock market continues to soar. The natural question is: How long can this go on? — Mark Germain​​​​​​​

10. Can Trump Follow Reagan's Playbook?


New presidents typically arrive in office with an economic agenda. In the case of Trump, the nature of his proposals has invited comparison with a variety of changes made under the first term of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. — Matthew F. Beaudry

11. Hope Is Fading for Robust Economic Growth


The hope for economic growth much beyond 2.0% looks to be deferred, as legislation appears to be bogging down and the Fed is reducing monetary support, clearly taking the path to interest rate normalization. — SNW Asset Management​​​​​​​

Douglas Heikkinen
Perspective
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IRIS Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues to ... Click for full bio