Intrepreneurship – The trial run
Many of us young and aspiring entrepreneurs think big, we are also restless and sometimes put the speed of decisions over rationality. It is crucial to have the ability to be able to see above the fog of best-practices, customs and the sometimes narrow minded world in order to play your own game. It is this wonderful naivety that really drives innovation and causes society to constantly push the boundaries in all areas. However with this blissful naivety and clear head, comes a hefty element of risk; risk of not really knowing what you are jumping into. People aren’t always true to their word, people don’t always play fair and most of all, real business in many cases is miles away from the text books; but how would we know? We have no evidence that this is the case at all? In this article I will talk about how you can springboard an idea off of a company through being an intrepreneur (someone that undergoes entrepreneurial activities under the wing of an organisation). If this is done before moving into the world of running your own businesses under your own name, you can equip yourself with a few key skills that will give you a far better shot at your business venture; Knowledge, Confidence, Capital and some top References under your belt.
Speaking for myself aged 20, and also on behalf many of my colleagues looking to set up businesses, we all have a fairly limited understanding of how all the parts of the ‘business jigsaw’ fit together, however educated we are – you just cant beat real experience. We may have a fantastic idea that truly is revolutionary, however if you can’t successfully take it to market, then all you have is a used note pad and no ink in your pen. It would seem sensible therefore to have a trial run, before you truly put your neck on the line. This is where intrepreneurship comes in and offers a helping hand.
I am currently looking to start an online service that revolutionises marketing through social media. The concept is great (in my opinion of course), but the barriers that stand in between my idea and a profitable company are vast. I think the largest barriers faced by young entrepreneurs are capital, getting people to take you seriously and your limited knowledge of the market you are entering. Becoming an intrepreneur, allows you to overcome these barriers and find your feet before putting your neck on the line and starting for real. I have been very fortunate in securing a free-lance consultancy role for a kitchenware wholesaler called Dexam. I started a year ago analysing financial statements, I then moved on to giving my opinions on their internet strategy, and finally, my current role of developing these internet strategies to expand sales and market share. Over time I have built up trust and relationships with the managers, allowing me to suggest and experiment on various social media strategies. So in effect, though they will not be too happy about saying this, I have a guinea pig company on which to experiment on ideas before I attempt to commercialise them. I will also receive a ‘success story’ and hard evidence that the concept works. This will greatly enhance pitches to both clients and investors, especially as people love evidence and proof when being sold to. Pitching concepts without proof is fine, but a huge amount harder!
I can imagine people thinking that this is a one off arrangement, unique to my role at Dexam, but I believe that anyone’s job is what they make of it. If you have an idea that can benefit the organisation then it is the responsibility of a manager to listen to that and act on it if necessary. If you have an idea that solves a problem that a) will benefit your employer, and b) will benefit other people outside your company, then what have you got to lose with asking? You’re right.. well done.. NOTHING! I can assure you it is a hell of a lot easier pitching to an employer about how and why your solution is important, than to a panel of venture capitalists or potential clients. Having pitched to both of those groups, I can honestly say that pitching to an employer for funding and support is a perfect warm up for scrutinising stares of venture capitalists.
If your manager does not at least hear your opinions, then it really should put a question in your mind about the competency of your management, and if nothing else, teach you a lesson on leadership! In a modern society, almost all organisations welcome entrepreneurial employees to drive the company forward through innovative ideas and opinions. Both company and entrepreneur will grow together and when the time comes to scale up the project, the company will have benefited and the new business will have a success story to go forward and use in the future.
I would urge those of you with business ventures brewing up top to try them out at work! Your office is a goldmine of important professional opinions, and you should harvest as many as you possibly can! If done successfully or indeed half successfully, then those points I mentioned earlier; knowledge, confidence, capital and references, will all be added to your armoury and will certainly put you in a far better position when it comes to commercialising the idea.