There is enough and more said about how start ups are (more) agile and (more) focused and (more) disruptive than large (traditional) multinationals. It is also a fact that a growing percentage of high performing and disillusioned talent from such large organisations are branching out to start their own businesses or freelance. But... But... is there something that can be learnt from large multinationals that could further galvanise an entrepreneur's journey? Not just in what not to do but also in what one should do...?
Here are some ideas worth adopting/ tweaking and incorporating into an entrepreneur's personal brand, priorities and legacy.
# 1: Prime Talent development
One of the core function of all HR teams and business leaders is talent spotting and accelerated development. In an effort to develop future leaders/ CEOs, organisations take considerable care to identify key talent in teams from frontline, middle and senior management and then offer them a blended learning curriculum over a few years to fine tune their capabilities and capacities.
This is a worthwhile activity entrepreneurs would benefit from following rigorously - identifying people within their team and also their wider network who are talented and investing in them through a mix of high impact training and coaching. Why? It is not only a responsibility of leaders but a great way to build up their own brand and if they themselves play a role as mentors then they keep their game sharp too.
#2: The power of Common Processes
Process can equal to bureaucracy, stagnation and an inbuilt blockage to free flowing creativity and adaptability, yes. On the other hand processes offer large organisations an opportunity to have a common shared language on the what/ how/when, a chance to ensure quality standards are adhered, an assurance that the outcome will be consistent and the appropriate engagement and contribution of the right people at the right time.
So how would an entrepreneur adapt and glean from the benefits? One way is to have a process (you can sugar coat and call it norms/ ways etc but a process is a process) to disrupt existing processes. Second to be able to identify critical processes that you don't want people to disrupt at will. Third to ensure processes have checks and balances to encourage individuals flexing to changing circumstances without losing out the benefits of process alignment and orientation.
#3: Unleashing Diversity and Inclusivity
With the global mobility of talent and an increasing war for talent at critical positions, large organisations have had to pay attention to diversity and inclusion. Arguably some continue to do a patchwork, tick box exercise and face the wrath through harassment claims, gender pay metrics and exit of talent; but that's not the point. When companies get it right the power they unleash and the impact it can have can sweep any entrepreneur out of the way. I mean lets face it most MNCs have access to 100s and 1000s of people from different backgrounds, culture and professions. If even a tiny fraction was to start operating as an entrepreneur because they felt comfortable to do so, the spending power that large organisations have can unleash a disruptive revolution.
So what has this got to do with an entrepreneur? Well most entrepreneur's thing they are different and they probably are. Most of the ones that transition out of Corporate lives certainly think they are 'out of the norm' and they are. However how many of them go out of their way to consciously create an environment in their own set up which nurtures diversity of thought and disruption of their own strategy and business model? How many of them allow other strong leaders to disrupt and challenge their idea and way of thinking? How many of them are helping their team members to raise awareness, appreciate and play to the diverse strengths of their teams? Diversity is a culture set up by a disciplined approach and application. Its benefits can be game changing as it sparks new ideas, new possibilities and a strong collaborative spirit.
#4: Dirty politics red alert
Almost all entrepreneurs who have transitioned out from a senior Corporate Executive role to be a stand along operator or entrepreneur (me included) did so as we had enough of dirty politics, enough of being caught in power hungry brawls, enough of having leaders egging us to get involved directly or indirectly, enough of knowing that we ourselves were not adept at it and it was time to step away. It is the un-stated norm to make it big in the Corporate world - to know the art of playing politics. There is no denying it and don't even get me started of what happens in the public sector!
Having interacted with many start up entrepreneurs it is refreshing to see many of them are truly humble, open and straightforward and are determined to connect and interact with people in a way which is respectful and transparent. However I am beginning to see some entrepreneurs falling into a similar pattern of playing politics with suppliers, peers and even within their partnerships. All I have to say to them is nip it in the bud. In small organisations you have the luxury of truly infecting the culture with ingredients which makes it non-political.
#5: Vision, Mission, Values
In 3 out of 4 companies I worked with I engaged leaders and employees to define the Vision, Mission and Values of the organisation. Questions like where do we want to be in 5 years time, what outcomes for customers do we wish to achieve, what core values do we all sign up to to operate as a team, how do we live our Vision and Values. Sadly most entrepreneurs don't have the time to do this and it could well be the downfall of many start ups. Many argue that the trick is to get a bunch of like minded people who want to work on an idea and just roll up the sleeves to get started. Some luckily see the folly of this and do spend time determining what is the collective vision and mission of the company. Some even go ahead (thankfully) to agree on norms or values they will imbibe when interacting with each other and with external stakeholders.
To those who pay attention to all three, I say full marks. Because large organisations in the process of having these dialogue did a few things which created an unshakable foundation - they engaged employees hearts and mind to the mission, they caught their imagination and passion with the inspiring vision, they captured their emotions by discussing values and giving them space to air their own, they created a strong collective. One that could withstand any challenge and come out winners. Its not so much the outcome. Your vision might be a two year vision, a mission that changes every year...you see its not the stability of outcome but the long lasting engagement that comes with the process of discussing the collective journey we are on.
Reena is strategic sounding board, performance coach, leaders consultant, high potential trainer and business mentor offering C- Suite Executives and Entrepreneurs solutions to define their unique way of becoming super-performers and powerful visionaries. She is a Master Practitioner of the powerful Energy Leadership Index and a certified Gallup Strength based coach. You can access more insights through her book on effortless leadership The Brilliance Quotient.