Intrepreneurship – The Secret Weapon to Unlocking Vast Reserves of Energy, Passion (and profit) From Your Staff.
Imagine a world where employees love coming to work, give more of themselves than ever before, stay longer, work harder and generate significant extra revenue for the firm, with no incentives, threats or encouragement to do so?
Sound too good to be true? It’s not.
It’s called ‘intrepreneurship’ and it’s the buzz word on the lips of every switched-on HR executive. Why? Because in a world of high employee turnover, low productivity and waning engagement, finding new strategies that help retain key staff, boost morale and facilitate the unleashing of creative energies is of pressing urgency.
But first, let’s establish what entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs are, and how they’re different.
What is an entrepreneur?
Broadly speaking, entrepreneurs are people who use their creative wits and energy (often at great personal and financial cost) to turn a concept into reality, bring it to market, and make a profit. Being an entrepreneur is actually more of a mindset than a job description.
Local entrepreneurs like Ruslan Kogan and Dick Smith embody the qualities most often associated with entrepreneurs – risk taking, innovative, independent, passionate, flexible, quick-thinking and fast-moving.
What is an intrepreneur?
An intrepreneur on the other hand is defined as a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable product through risk-taking and innovation. The company supports the intrepreneur with finance and access to corporate resources, and in return the intrepreneur creates a profit for the company, and often, themselves.
What’s the benefit of fostering an intrepreneurial workplace culture?
Fostering an intrepreneurial mindset within a large company enables staff to bring their personal passions to work, unleashes their creative energies and motivates them to work harder. In turn, the company supports them by taking on the risk and some of the costs of bringing the idea to life. If a profit is made, the spoils are shared at a mutually agreeable rate. For employees considering leaving to pursue their own business goals or seek greener pastures elsewhere, fostering an intrepreneurial culture can be the masterstroke that keeps them loyal.
A Case Study of Successful Intrepreneurship in Action.
The Intrepreneur: Dr. Abigail Clarkson*
Abigail* is a leading academic at a prestigious university. She is a respected lecturer, author and policy adviser in the field of social work. She teaches in the post-graduate programme, supervises PhD students, publishes papers and works extensively with those affected by domestic violence, sexual abuse and mental illness. It’s heavy duty work but she loves it.
Abigail has no ambitions to climb the academic management ladder and has therefore reached the top of her career tree. In her words, ‘she’s coasting.’ With over 15 years of working life left, her challenge (or rather, the university’s challenge) is finding ways to stay motivated, engaged and passionate about her work. Without active involvement from her employer, the risk of her leaving the organisation is high.
So what is she to do? Or more precisely, what is her employer to do? We don’t need to guess because this is what happened.
After much introspection, Abigail realised her real area of interest outside of work was her passion for animals, and in particular, dogs. Childless by choice, she pours enormous time, money and energy into her dogs and her menagerie of cats, birds and rabbits. “If I could find a way to combine my passion for dogs with my paid work, I would stay at the university for life,’ she said.
After extensive study, Abigail discovered a strong but embryonic body of research in the area of ‘animal companions’ and how animals, and in particular dogs, reduce the pain and loneliness of mental illness, grief, dementia and ageing.
Abigail’s plan was clear. In conjunction with the commercial arm of her university, she established a research-based consultancy, housed within, and auspiced by the university, to create for-profit courses, certification and coaching on how social work professionals can incorporate animal companion theories and practices into their work.
The university would provide financial, technical and staff support and in return, they would share in the research credits, academic goodwill and the profits generated by Abigail’s work in this area. They also got to keep Abigail as an employee, who is now, unsurprisingly, a rusted-on employee for the foreseeable future. A true win-win. Intrepreneurship in action.
Helping your staff unleash their personal passion, energy and talents for the mutual benefit of themselves and the company could be the secret weapon to resolving those thorny and seemingly unsolvable problems – employee retention, productivity and engagement.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.
Bernadette Schwerdt is the director of the Australian School of Copywriting, an online marketing strategist and the author of the new book, ‘Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs (How Australia’s Online Mavericks, Innovators and Disruptors Built Their Businesses…And How You Can Too.) To download a sample chapter and access free resources on how to build an online business, go to www.BernadetteSchwerdt.com.au.