“Intrapreneurs” Create New Corporate Business Solutions
By Chad Storlie
on Nov 4, 2020
There are no “normal” workdays anymore thanks to COVID-19, disrupted supply chains, newly emerged customers and vanished historical customers. Businesses, employees, customers and suppliers are in a daily struggle to adapt, to adjust and to continue to have their businesses exist. The one item that every business group needs more of are new, innovative ideas.
Presenting a new concept that you or a small team created to help the business improve is incredibly exciting, nerve-racking as well as potentially risky. The best way to have success pitching an internal business improvement concept is to have a solid idea, test the idea around the organization and have a pilot program to demonstrate success as you build internal support alongside a strong execution plan.
Entrepreneurs that operate inside companies, or intrapreneurs, are a key component of success especially, in times of disruption, chaos or both. Follow these ideas to ensure your intrapreneurial concept makes a successful difference for customers and your business.
Clearly define the problem from the customer’s perspective.
The first and usually most difficult step to an internal business improvement idea is to determine what the problem is. Rather than looking at problems inside the company, take a perspective of the company’s customers. Identify problems that customers see with your products, services or both. In other words, define the problem from the customer’s perspective. The customer-driven perspective can be supplemented with customer survey material, customer data and trade/industry journal assessments to present a powerful and external perspective to define the problem.
What are your competitors doing?
The next step after a clear problem identification emerges is to determine what competitors, both direct and indirect, are doing to help solve and/or mitigate this problem for your customers. Are new products emerging for your customers to help them solve the problems that your products cannot solve? Intrapreneurs must pay close attention to indirect competitors because they may be able to bring a concept or a solution from another industry that will quickly disrupt your current business, and they may steal your customers.
What are the financial effects if the problem continues?
Using information from customers and observations from competitors, what are the potential financial, customer and other impacts to the company? Will the company lose revenue, and at what rate, over time? Will a new product under design be obsolete when it is released? Will a smaller competitor enter and take your most profitable customers? Calculating a precise impact of financial effects can be difficult. Instead, present executives with a range of financial outcomes categorized as: best case, moderate case and worst-case financial modeling. Finally, include sources of data, experts consulted and the underlying assumptions so your work can be checked.
Create three ways the problem can be mitigated or solved.
Determine three ways that a business problem can be solved. This business planning step demonstrates great insight into how the company operates, what customers will need and what the competition will or will not do to compete. Again, as with the financial model, each potential solution must show the cost on an ongoing basis, any startup costs and then demonstrate how it will improve the product, the customer experience and have positive financial effects for the company. Developing three independent solutions demonstrates that multiple solutions exist for the business problem and it will achieve the effects required for the success of the company.
Run a small test on the potential solutions to determine the best option.
President Ronald Reagan’s famous quote of, “Trust, but verify” should lead the testing concept of the proposed solutions. Never assume a solution will work as intended without testing, refinement, internal feedback and customer feedback. Testing a potential solution also validates the financial cost of the improvement, confirms how much of the problem was resolved and gathers customer feedback on the improvement. Most important, there must be well-defined, recorded and independent measures that can evaluate how each pilot performed. No one should have to guess which pilot was the most successful. A project that has not validated costs, the problem resolution performance level and what customers think of the solution will have an exceedingly difficult time going forward without testing.
Get the final pilot into production to solve customer problems.
Once a successful test solution has been decided, then get the solution into production. Determine the full costs to the company, the startup plan and employee training to implement the solution. The implementation plan is vital because your worst case is that your problem definition, solution and financial resolution is accepted, and you have no implementation plan. Implementation plans must have ongoing performance measures to follow to ensure that the business improvement project is successful on a long and a short term. Finally, make sure short surveys are used to capture the customer “voice” in the resolution process.
Intrapreneurs are a key component of a company’s success to rising and extreme business challenges. The best way to have success pitching a business improvement concept is to have a solid idea, test the idea around the organization, have a pilot program success and a strong, simple plan to get the idea into production to solve customer problems.
[Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, an Iraq combat veteran, and has 15 years university teaching experience as an adjunct professor of marketing. He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, logistics, marketing, business, data, decision making, military and technology topics.]