Entrepreneurship – the act and art of being an entrepreneur (Source:Wikipedia).
When I was growing up my dad told me a lot of things. Most of it passed me by as I already ‘knew’ everything there was to know on the subject or because it was father telling me. There were however, two messages that stuck and have remained front of mind throughout my professional life.
The first was the story of how he came to run his own business. Basically it went like this….
“I used to come home at night and lie in the bath and think about the problems I was dealing with at work. One day I realised that it was my bath and if I was to worry about anyone’s problems while I was in my own bath, then they should be mine. While I am worrying about my company’s problems I am not worrying about my own”.
Based on this realisation he quit his job.
He went on to say
“Nothing gets you focused on your own problems like having two young kids and no income. Now when I lie in my bath at night I worry about my problems and how I am building a life for my family”
He tried real estate sales and a couple of other ventures. Then he met a chap who had some great software but no sales. Together they built a successful software services business and he retired with peace of mind that he had looked after his family.
Over the years, there were a few variations of the story and each time he would conclude with the assertion – when you lie in your bath at night, make sure you know whose problems you are thinking of.
The second message he left me with was that the word “creative” lacked a second “C”. That it really should be called creaCtive – a mix between the words ‘active’ and creative. There is no point in being creative if you do not act on your thoughts.
I consider these two bits of wisdom to be some of the best I have ever received.
The message is simple for would be self employed entrepreneurs – worry about your own problems and do something about them.
For the internal entrepreneur it gets a bit more complex. Bath time becomes the time when the manager steps back from the desk and actively considers how the function they are managing contributes to the overall business. Bath time is the time needed to reflect and look for the insights that other people are not seeing. Looking at problems from different angles.
It is very easy and somewhat lazy to let the routine of day to day business suck you in and to allow yourself to be controlled by your diary. When I ask managers to show me the documents they use to manage their business process, they frequently refer me to their dairy. A dairy manages time, not the business. How often do you say or hear – “I don’t have time to think”. Does this mean that you don’t have time to actively evaluate your contribution to the business?
Without making time to work on the business a manager can find themselves moving from meeting to meeting, having significant discussions but not necessarily achieving much. This is where creactivity must meet entrepreneurialism. You cannot be entrepreneurial without action. You cannot be entrepreneurial and stay in the crowd.
As an employee, acting on your ideas is difficult. It is likely that a manager does not have the mandate to implement big ideas (as opposed to incremental change) and ‘making it happen’ will require an enormous amount of creactivity. Change management becomes vital for success. In this instance I define change management as the internal socialisation and lobbying of the idea. As a self-employed manager, you are entitled to implement whatever decision you choose. As an employed manager, you need the support of the senior executives or directors.
To be successful as an internal entrepreneur requires that the manager is very clear on the answer to the question – ‘am I addressing a symptom or a primary issue’?
But how do you know. If you are not part of the senior leadership team you may not be privy to the more fundamental issues facing the company. In this case you need to be equally clear on the following change management questions:
- who will support the idea for implementation
- will take responsibility for the activity
- what does success look like
- who will gain from the experience
- who will own the risk?
Being clear on the answers to these questions will significantly improve the way you communicate and market the idea within the company. You may ask yourself – why should I bother; I have a good idea and if the company is not interested then that’s the company’s problem, not mine.
Being and entrepreneur is not easy. If you are happy being a good employee, then turn up every day and do a professional job. Write your ideas down on an email and move on. If you want more, if you want to make a big contribution to the growth of the company, then you need to look at the business as if it were your own and take time to think about the big picture. Bath time is a good time to do this. So is mowing lawn or any other time when you can be alone with your thoughts.
How do you start – draw a picture, write up a mock marketing brochure. Not a PowerPoint slide pack, but a proper A4 brochure that describes your idea. Keep it to one page. It is not a technical document. It’s a marketing document. If you can express your idea on one page and include a picture, then you are well on your way to making a great start to commercialising your idea.