Ask the Expert : July'08

1.I work in the marketing division of an FMCG company dealing in ready-to-eat food segment. We have reached saturation as there are various other players with similar product lines. I have a new product idea but do not know how to go about communicating and implementing the idea.

It is indeed great to know that you are keen to contribute original ideas and introduce new products that would benefit your organization. Here are a few things you can initiate to communicate your idea and ensure implementation of the same:-

  • Exploit your company’s competitive advantages -You really need to thoroughly know your company’s unique competencies that are suitable for this endeavor to succeed. Once you have thought it through, you are ready to sell it.
  • Ensure support from key stakeholders - To ensure success you need more than an approval from those in charge. You need passionate supporters in management who believe in what you are doing. Once you have identified top-level supporters, establish contact with them. Make a constant effort to keep them updated on your project’s progress so they feel empowered with the latest information and can better advocate your cause to others. But be sure to keep them in the loop on problems, too. Do not sugar-coat setbacks or obstacles to your supporters. You need powerful allies, but it’s just as important to understand how to keep them. Send email updates on your project’s progress to top-level executives, circulate summary documents with answers to FAQs to keep everyone up to speed and interested in the project’s success.
  • Enlist support from other departments - In addition to sponsors in the top management, you will also benefit from alliances in mid and entry-level positions, where people develop valuable specialized knowledge. When you are refining product features look to people in other departments for ideas and feedback. When you successfully convince people about your idea, you will be surprised to find out that someone from a seemingly random department might hold the key to unlocking the potential of your business.
  • Look beyond quantifiable metrics - A big part of intrapreneuring is selling your idea up the management chain and then convincing them that you are meeting your goals. One of the most powerful moves you can make is deciding what your variables for success are and understanding how to gather data for the same. You might get information from market research and customer surveys. Another powerful way to communicate why your idea is an improvement is by using the words of a customer or employee who is clamoring for it. Do not lose sight of your quantifiable goals, as they will tell you how you are going to achieve what you set out to do. But if you keep the words of your customers in the front of your mind you would not lose sight of the whoand the why of what you are doing.
  • I work for a multinational firm drawing a good salary. Lot is being said these days about intrapreneurship or employees acting like an entrepreneur within an organization they work. Why should I act like an entrepreneur in my current organization when I am only an employee?

We evaluate the worth of work by the benefits that are linked to it and yes, you should get extra rewards for being entrepreneurial. What differentiates Entrepreneurs from other employees in an organization is their passion and conviction for an idea - Intrapreneurs are more driven, want to see their ideas implemented and tested with the ultimate success criteria – will someone pay for their product / solution.

You need to prove first that you are entrepreneurial – only then the rewards will come. Also, each individual has the entrepreneurial mind set in varying proportions – at the high end is the person who puts aside a good career to become an entrepreneur while there are others who would not like to risk running a company of their own but have ideas which they would like to nurture and implement in a Corporation. That is the difference between an Entreprenuer and Intraprenuer.

The benefits of being an Intrapreneur include the following-

  1. You will ave gain visibility within the Company and progress quickly to maybe having P&L responsibility for your Product / Solution. Since you explore unconventional routes to complete your tasks, are proactive and do not restrict yourself to a single stream of work, you will prove your uniqueness to your peers, subordinates as well as your manager and stand out of the crowd.
  2. Unlike when you are on your own, as an employee acting intrapreneurial you will get a safety net should an initiative of yours falter. If the intrapreneurial effort fails, you will still have a job tomorrow and get another chance to implement another idea as long as you learn from the mistakes made.
  3. It is not easy to gain access to resources required when you are on your own. As an intrapreneur you can utilize talent from within the company, tap into management skills, leverage existing technologies etc to work on your pet idea and make it a reality.
  4. It will make you proud to walk on a path that is less traveled ie., do something different and courageous.
  5. You will have the satisfaction of being an inspiration for other employees and other employees will look upon you as a source of strength. They will seek your advice and value your inputs.
  6. You will get a chance to unveil your creative self. You can implement out of the box ideas at your work, which would make work itself more interesting.
  7. You will look forward to each working day for the empowerment, freedom and satisfaction you derive from work making it an enjoyable experience

2. I have a team member who wants to be an Entreprenuer. How do I channelize her energies and ideas, so that she contributes positively to her role, today?

You are lucky to have her as your team member. People with an entrepreneurial bent of mind can contribute a lot to the organization. All you need to do is take care that you do not stifle her creativity or need for freedom and autonomy.

Encourage her to be proactive in identifying improvement areas in your department and work on them. Check out if she has a new product, service idea that aligns with the organization vision and goals. If you can get her to convince top management and get the company to provide her the resources to implement that idea then there is nothing like it. She will be able to become an entrepreneur without having to the leave the company and the company will gain in terms of being able to offer a new and better product/service to its customers. But this may not be possible always. So instead give her assignments that will help build her entrepreneurial skills. Let her be part of such assignments from the conception stage till the final execution. If financials need to be worked out and a team needs to be managed, the better it will be for her. An entrepreneur has to be comfortable with all areas of running a business ie., managing of people, money and the operations of the product/service delivery.

Such people like treading on a path which others have not taken. So put her on assignments where the rules are not clear, where there are no tried and tested ways to succeed and where one needs to innovate. She will enjoy the challenge and is more likely to succeed than others since she will not give up very easily and think creatively to identify ways to tackle setbacks. Entrepreneurs have high risk appetite. So encourage her to take calculated risks in her work.

Another way you can channelize her energy for the company is by assigning her some team members with low initiative, passion, and energy to work with her. Her passion may get rubbed off on them and she may be able to inspire them to become more resourceful and enthusiastic at work.