A speaker once said that “it’s hard to manage entrepreneurs”. Why? you would ask. He explains that “entrepreneurs are always full of ideas” and it can be hard to manage there constant changing of ideas. If you’ve ever found yourself constantly making a list of ideas and adding to your ever ending to do list then, my friend, he is talking about you. Even more, people with entrepreneurial traits don’t just like to have a vision or an idea, they also like to execute, create and implement those ideas.
The notion that entrepreneurs have to go out there and conquer the world has evolved to entrepreneurs conquering the world through their employers. These are called intrapreneurs.
A simple definition I found here defines an intrapreneur as an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, etc., and does not have to follow the corporation’s usual routines or protocols.
So how do you get about proposing an idea to your boss and getting their buy-in and support?
Have an Idea
First things first, dear intrapreneur – you must have an idea! How do you approach a senior leader within your firm and tell him/her about yourself without having an idea to bring to the table? Why should he/she listen to you? Carve time within his/her busy schedule to speak to you? Have an idea – not a complicated one. You should be able to explain your idea to a 10 year old – even more in one sentence. If you’re able to define your idea in one phrase then your boss / sponsor would be able to repeat the same sentence to others.
Build a Business Case
This may sound very corporate but you need to build a business case i.e. the why is very important. Have you read the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek? It clearly illustrates why your reason for doing or building anything is important and brings that into life with examples of companies that have done it well, such as Apple Inc. You can have a very detailed or simple but accurate business case. It should be reasonable, easy to read and understand. We can be tempted to be very analytical and go into deep level of details. It all depends on who will be holding your business case. What would they like to see? What’s in it for them? What’s their interest? By putting yourself in reader’s shoe you can identify areas you will need to prioritise when writing your business case.
Identify a Sponsor
Once you have a business case, look into your network and research key sponsors for your initiative. It’s easier if your sponsor knows you and you have mutual areas of interest. If you already have an established relationship, this allows you to tailor your business case appropriately. Overtime, I’ll try to write in detail on how you identify a sponsor and scenarios that can occur.
Once identified, contact your sponsor and schedule a meeting. Briefly mention about your idea and the motive for setting up the meeting. In preparation for the meeting, I suggest print a copy of your business case or artefacts that you have prepared if it’s a face to face meeting. If it’s a phone call, then email your business case to your potential sponsor. Make the necessarily last minute set up to ensure a successful meeting.
Start with a story. It could be your story, or the story of someone whose life you changed. Whatever you do, tell a story. This will get your proposal to stand out and make an emotional connection. Describe what you do. This is your mission statement. It explains why you do what you do. You have to really outline the benefits for the sponsor you’re approaching. Don’t forget the financials! How much are you asking for? How much should your sponsor invest in your project and what’s the ROI (Return on Investment)? You have to prepare for questions around the company’s benefits. Describe your demographics to your sponsor and expect that it ends positively. If it doesn’t, seek another sponsor and take into account things you would have done better and make improvements as you continue on your search for sponsor.
Build a Team, Execute and Manage
Have you got your sponsor who is ready to commit financially? The next step for the intrapreneur is to begin to build a team. Working on a project while doing your full time job can be hard but it’s also very rewarding if done well. Building a team makes it easier, fun and educative. You get to learn from each other, share ideas, build and ultimately manage a team. And of course see your team thrive. Based on the plan you have put together, share your idea and get the support from your team as well. The whole point is to make sure your stakeholders are happy.
Ensure that people feel the liberty to be part of something great and bigger than them. Allow your team to also select key areas to “own” in the process and project. From my experience, people are most invested when they have ownership.
Lastly, reach out to your sponsor and provide bi-monthly or monthly updates to your sponsor to keep them in the loop. Agree with your sponsor on when and how they would like to receive these updates. Did I mention that you can have multiple sponsors as well? Yes you can.
Did you find this post insightful? I’ll be sharing some of her tips and lesson learned building and championing some of her projects including The GlowingColours.com.
What tips have you used in building your business or entrepreneurial project?