The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

5 Steps Toward Reigniting Corporate Entrepreneurship

Turn potential for failure into potential for knowledge and success.

Why does it seem so difficult for existing companies to continue the entrepreneurial drive that got them started in the first place? I think the answer is very simple. We get afraid. Fear. What if we try something and it does not work? Maybe my success the first time was a fluke. I better not risk it.

We all have doubts at one time or another. We can treat it as a warning and move on or allow it to paralyze us.

Let’s turn the tables. The opportunities are many. Business is picking up. “Onshoring” is happening. Distributors are well-positioned to take advantage of the positives – so why not?

Here are a few simple thoughts to help you take the steps that are possible.

Step one: Use accelerated failure. It is well proven that taking small steps in a direction to test an idea or concept has many benefits. First and foremost, if it does not pan out, the cost in time and money is low. Second, it teaches you valuable lessons about your customers, the market and your capabilities. Each time you experiment and fail, you learn a new lesson which can be put to practice in getting to the big success.

Step two: Set aside time, money and resources (people, plant, equipment, etc.) to be able to test ideas. Give your people time to “check things out.” Not all ideas have to come from the top. Let the staff that is closest to the problem find the solutions. But make it clear that a non-success (I hate using the word failure) is not a career-ending event. It is the first step toward moving up to the top.

Step three: When you are ready to pull a trigger, ask yourself: “What is the worst that can happen?” If you can handle it, go for it. If you cannot, it is time to evaluate other options – or if this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, get a group of trusted advisors and employees to help you decide.

Step four: Do not ignore planning. In today’s world, the 30-page business plan is about dead. We now teach “Lean Business Canvas.” There are many websites that explain this. Basically, it is a one-page business plan. It forces you to collect your thoughts and simplify them. It creates a document that all your people can look at and understand what it is you want to accomplish.

Step five: Figure out the metrics. Know what success will look like and how to measure it. Do not stop at top-line sales. Look at customer penetration, reputation and other non-financial results. Then use the metrics to measure your progress. Make sure you are moving in the right direction.

Finally, do not be afraid to admit you made a mistake. If the metrics are not moving in the right direction, ask why. Maybe there were some incorrect assumptions. Maybe there was a competitor you did not recognize up front. Whatever it is, if the idea is not going to work, stop it quickly. Then move on to the next idea.

Entrepreneurship takes guts, good planning, management and execution. Do not focus on the potential of failure, but do not shy away from it either. Be willing to be wrong, but go for the wins. There are plenty of them out there.

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