The Entrepreneur Stretch.
by Mark Yacano
Introducing a new service offering in an established company presents its own unique challenges. Much like you would in traditional start-up, you’ll be selling services and, in many instances, delivering, too — at least at the beginning. At the same time, you’ll be teaching others in your company to either sell the new services or make introductions on your behalf.
I call the convergence of sales, delivery, organization awareness, and training the “Intrapreneur’s Stretch.” This is the most intense part of your journey. Winning business and then performing work that’s referenceable is critical to a successful launch. Success creates excitement within an organization, and champions for your business begin to emerge throughout the organization. But, to grow and scale the business, you’ll need to do more than deliver great work. You’ll have to ignore every management book and guide that tells you to do one thing at a time or to stop work at the same time every day and get eight hours of sleep. All of that is sound, healthy advice when your business matures. That’s when you’ll have a broader mix of people, process, and technology in place to support your business.
Here are some of the reasons why you need to “scrub-in” and get enmeshed with all aspects of the service offerings:
- Marketing Materials – In the beginning, your job is to educate your marketing professionals about your business, and you’ll need to do a lot of your own drafting. You can’t outsource content creation until you have an educated team around you.
- Sales Training – This is another area where you can’t completely delegate the work. You and your core team know the offering, its value proposition, and differentiators. As the intrapreneurs, you’re the best people to train others how to sell the new services.
Pitches – Client pitches are complex in any business. They’re even harder in a new business because you must explain the service and answer hard questions about your ability to deliver services at an early stage.
- Enabling Clients – In the beginning, consider taking on a willing client for a price that’s far lower that your target ranges. Getting experience and references are imperatives to growing the business. Enabling clients, however, take as much work as major clients will during the later stages of the business growth cycle.
Everything listed above has the potential for overlap, and many of them could happen at the same time. The Intrapreneur’s Stretch is a function of the fact that businesses do not evolve in a linear fashion. It’s also the time when you learn who you are, and find your way through the tumult to hone your style and build a successful new business. When you come through this challenging period, you’ll be positioned to add the right new people to the team and layer in good business processes, because you will have learned so much from “scrubbing-in” to all aspects of the launch.
Building a team that can deliver high-quality service within an established business requires a nuanced understanding of both what you’re offering and how well equipped your company is to sell it. Think of the art of creating handcrafted cocktails. Every restaurant has an intended vibe. The master bartender wants to create unique cocktails that pair with that vibe and enhance the customer’s experience. A true mixologist doesn’t just know the names of the liquor, but knows how they were distilled and aged. She understands the hints of fruits, herbs, or other botanicals that give each product a unique taste. Armed with that knowledge, she works tirelessly on combinations of ingredients that will capture the restaurant’s essence and the customer’s palate.
Besides admitting that I like a good cocktail, my point is that when new businesses add team members, it’s so important that they enhance the culture and level of service that you’re trying to deliver. At an early stage, a hiring misfire can set you back. You’ll spend valuable time trying to get realigned and you could alienate your champions and emotional investors in the larger organization. For that reason, I believe that it’s better to stay in the stretch period for a longer period than to make a rushed hire.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part series on intrapreneurship and found some practical advice that you can apply if you’re asked to take on a new challenge within your existing company. Intrapreneurs help keep great companies fresh and often help guide those companies to new levels of success. Good luck in your journey.