Entrepreneurial experiences inside existing organizations are revealing. They put everything in a new light. It is a personal and professional experience that will change the way you look at work.
The experience forces you take a hard look at yourself and the organization. It changes you, but it may not change the organization. You find yourself living in a different world. You have transitioned to a new way of working. The old rules no longer apply. Going back to the old model is no longer inviting. You begin to wonder if you still fit. The experience changes your whole perspective on work.
Unless you have gone through an entrepreneurial experience inside an existing organization, it is difficult to fully understand the experience. You have gone through a change process that you created. You designed, shaped, and tested it along the way. You built a new operating model, culture, and way of working that is now foreign to the rest of the organization. You have left the old model behind and embraced a new model of working. You have enhanced your skills as a corporate entrepreneur. You now know what is possible.
Unfortunately, the rest of the organization has not had the same opportunity. They are still operating in the old model that keeps the core business going. They are comfortable in that role and prefer to stick with a proven business model. They aren’t interested in taking on new risks and challenges. They would prefer to work the traditional route to the top. That is fine with you. Somebody needs to keep the core business afloat. You, on the other hand, see a new way to grow the business. You have no desire to climb the corporate ladder the traditional way.
Because of this, you are now perceived as a threat. You have demonstrated that there are alternative ways to grow the business. You know how to change the paradigm and accelerate growth. This will rock the very foundation of the core business. Political factions are likely to step in and squash any efforts to promote this new way of operating, because it will threaten their world. They will perceive that it gives you an unfair advantage.
In turn, you will look around and wonder where you go from here. Chances are, you have just completed one of the more exciting jobs in your career and you are ready to take on even bigger challenges. There may be none where you are. You may be offered a line position as a promotion, but that doesn’t seem to excite you. You have reached a point on the road where you must decide if you are going back or moving forward.
A number of corporate entrepreneurs decide to leave their companies after they have completed an entrepreneurial project. Often they feel that they have no choice. During their experience they’ve grown and stretched themselves beyond what they thought was possible. They recognize that unless the core business can offer them another similar opportunity, they know they will grow bored. They will be taking a step backward if they stay. They realize that the experience itself has changed them and that they will want to continue to work on similar, challenging opportunities if they are to remain. Perhaps they will go off and start their own firm.
You may have heard the phrase “you can’t go home again.” It means that you will never be able to go back and see home for what it was when you first experienced it. This is the same type of experience for the corporate entrepreneur. Once you’ve had the experience of being on an entrepreneurial project, you will find it difficult to go back to the core business.
Although there is a lot of talk about the talent shortage and the need for organic growth, there are still very few companies that acknowledge corporate entrepreneurs as a critical corporate resource. Corporate entrepreneurs are the engines of the growth, the change agents. But until organizations begin to understand the value of corporate entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders, these people will probably continue to walk out the door.
Corporate entrepreneurs are the future, and the hope is that more organizations will wake up to this reality and actively recruit them.
Are you prepared to deal with the consequences of being a corporate entrepreneur?