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: April 17-21

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: April 17-21

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on IRIS.xyz, April 17-21, 2017 


Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!


1. Market Keeping You up at Night? Look for the Right Hedge


Like so many others in the industry, I was wrong. For years, I was certain that the bull market was nearing its end. I thought the market was over-extended, and that, surely, the wild equities run was coming to an end. But everyone else was bullish, and perhaps rightfully so. And while I’ve watched equities continue on their spectacular rise, I do think now is the time (really!) to put a hedge in place. Here’s why. Here’s how. — Adam Patti

2. How to Manage Bond Market Pain and Seek the Gain When Rates Are Rising


The realities for fixed income investors have changed. How is this being reflected in markets? Bond investing has become increasingly difficult over the past decade. Markets have been heavily distorted by ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing, as well as by extreme risk aversion in response to the global economic crisis and the eurozone debt crisis. — Nick Gartside

3. Seven Reasons You'll Fail as a Financial Advisor


Is being a financial advisor worth it? I am an optimistic person and I encourage other people to keep a positive mental attitude (shout-out to Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone). However, by taking a good, hard look at the negatives in life, we can successfully pivot towards the positive aspects that will help us achieve our goals. — James Pollard

4. The Secret to Turning Every Prospect into a Client


How do you treat one of your most valued, existing clients? Here’s a list of some things that come to mind. — Andrew Sobel

5. Why Do Clients Change Advisors?


According to many advisors I speak with, the only clients that leave are those who have died. And while attrition may not be a big problem in this industry, I have to assume that at least a few clients change advisors without doing so via the funeral home. — Julie Littlechild

6. Why You Should Focus on Getting Referral Sources


I was talking with an advisor last week about how to get into conversations about what he does. He was relaying the story of going jogging with a friend who could be a good client but is, more importantly, connected to a large network of people who fit this advisors ideal client description. — Stephen Wershing

7. How Big Picture Thinkers Seize More Opportunities in 7 Steps


Big picture thinkers are not unicorns - rare and mystical. And they were not born with the innate ability to think big. They do, however, pay attention to the broader landscape and take the time to think, analyze and evaluate. — Jill Houtman and Danny Domenighini

8. 5 Actions to Build Your Reputation


Your reputation is who you are and how you show up, Monday to Monday®.  Many of us take our image and reputation for granted.  Give careful thought to the kind of reputation that you would be proud of Monday to Monday® and that would resonate with your purpose and priorities. — Stacey Hanke

9. How Are You Poised to Begin Welcoming GenZ to Your Workplace?


The generational changing of the guard is a fact of life as old as time. Young replaces old in responsibility, importance, control and culture. Outside of the family, the workplace is perhaps where this is seen most regularly by most people. — Shirley Engelmeier

10. Are Price Objections REALLY Price Objections?


Next time you hear your prospects give you price objections, it’s not because of the price. The give price objections because they don’t know the full value proposition that they’d be paying for. And it’s not based on their need, or your features and functions. It’s based on the buying criteria they want to meet internally. — Sofia Carter

11. Understanding the Economic Value of Transition Deals


Last week we wrote about the economic rationale behind going independent vs. moving to another major firm as an employee. As a follow-up topic, we thought it prudent to analyze transition packages attached to big firm moves and peel back the layers of the onion to show the components of these deals. — Louis Diamond

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