How “Intrapreneurs” Create and Launch New Corporate Business Solutions

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.

man-standing-at-computer-Presenting a new concept that you or a small team created to help the business improve is incredibly exciting, nerve wracking, 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 a company’s success especially in times of disruption, chaos, or both. Follow these concepts to ensure your intrapreneurial concept makes sense and makes a successful difference for customers and your business.

Clearly Define the Problem from the Customer’s Perspective. The very first and usually most difficult step to an internal business improvement idea is to determine what the problem is or is not. 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 Solution (s) to Determine the Best Option. President a’s famous quote of, “Trust, but verify” should lead the testing concept of the proposed solutions. Never assume that 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 importantly, there must be well defined, recorded, and independent performance measures that can evaluate the performance of 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.

Entrepreneurs inside companies, or 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

Chad Storlie

Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Chad’s brand message is that organizations and individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. Chad is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including Union Pacific, General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published over 320 different articles in over 170 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.

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