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Wanted: Corporate entrepreneurs! (and of course entrepreneurial organizations)

If this were the title of a job ad, would you be interested?

I can almost hear you think, “if I have the capability to be an entrepreneur, why do it in an organization, I can do it myself!” “Plus, it is supposed to be both corporate AND entrepreneurial! In fact, aren’t these two exact opposites at first glance?”

You are right...
Success in the "corporate" setting usually boils down to continuous improvement, making synchronous progress as a team within the limits of certain processes and rules, optimizing our current business (sales, markets, profitability, etc.), and managing risk. However, the essence of “entrepreneurship” is the passion of doing the extraordinary, taking the risk and act.

Nevertheless, if we want to sustain our profitable growth (which we definitely do:)) despite all the uncertainties of today’s business world, and the increasing competition, we have to align these two concepts that look opposing at first glance, just like in the yin-yang philosophy… Ensuring that this difference complements each other, and thereby strengthens the whole… That is, while realizing projects that add new competencies to our organization through the power of entrepreneurship, optimizing our current business…

What, then, do we need to do to put corporate entrepreneurship into practice? I think there are three prerequisites, and I will use an example from my own professional experience to explain them:

You are the leader of an organization that sells high-value medical imaging devices (such as MRI, CT, and ultrasound, each USD 500k+ on average), and has a billion-dollar turnover… You want to extend and grow your business model by going into the business of selling the medical accessories (consumables worth about one dollar each, and complementary devices of USD 1000) used with the main devices you sell. How will you put this entrepreneurial idea into practice?

1) Managing corporate entrepreneurship separately from the main organization
An organization that is used to make sales of USD 1 million per device will not and cannot dedicate time for a sale of around USD 1000. Therefore, you want to build the team and business processes of this new business model at a separate location, preferably in a separate building.

2) The capability and determination of the top management to literally “lead a double life”(!)
In the same day, you will both manage the “daily priorities” of a billion-dollar business, and provide the setting for and allocate the necessary resources to realize the strategies of the entrepreneur team of a business that might take three years to reach USD 50 million. You have to lead and make others lead a double life without losing your personal integrity.

3) Supporting and developing those that have the entrepreneur gene
You have to find and support those people, no matter where they are in the organization (sales, supply chain, marketing, finance…), that have the energy to chase a new idea, and the courage to take a career risk. You have to devise training plans accordingly, and even make time for one-on-one coaching.

Now I have a suggestion for all potential entrepreneurs: If the conditions are not rife for you to realize your own idea, go join an organization that is ambitious in that area. Take advantage of the vast financial and human resources, as well as customers of the company. Practice your innovative ideas and entrepreneurial energy easily!

There is nothing as attractive and good as entrepreneurship in the comfort of a company… However, before you accept the job, make sure the prerequisites exist; and then seize the entrepreneurial corporate culture and increase your chance of success.

Kind regards,

Mehmet N. Pekarun