Let me guess: you’re really an entrepreneur at heart; you’re just temporarily stuck in this corporate job, right? One of these days you’re going to bust out of cubicle hell and make a break for the Gen Y holy of holies, owning your own business. And it’s going to be awesome. You’ll be your own boss and you’ll run your company so much cooler than the corporation you’re just biding your time at now. I know. Trust me, I know.
In the meantime, you’re cranking away in front of your PC from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., fearing layoffs and keeping an impatient eye on the recession economy.
Here’s the thing though: you shouldn’t just be biding your time in your stuffy corporate job. I found in high school and college that the level of my education was entirely up to how much I wanted to learn. I’ve always been one for making the most out of a less-than-ideal situation, and my corporate job is no exception.
I do my job like it’s my own business. I run it like a business, like a separate entity that provides a service to the corporation I work for. I’ve heard it called “innerpreneur” or “interpreneur.” When people ask who I answer to, my boss tells them that I’m like my own little company. Of course, I still answer to him, have to keep regular business hours, only get my allotted 10 vacation days, etc. But he considers me to fairly independent.
Just like in school, I have two options: I can do what’s needed to get by, or I can make the best of it and really learn something useful. Even if you have a lot of built-in structure in your role, you can still take your position and see how to run it like your own company. It’s great practice for when you finally do have your own company, and your superiors will start to be a lot like my parents were when I was in school – they’ll give you more and more freedom as they see you handling it on your own.
What services do you provide?
The most important question you will ask yourself as an entrepreneur is, what am I providing? As an innerpreneur, you need to ask the same question. As a marketing research analyst, I provide accurate, timely research to my clients that is easy-to-understand and useful in their roles.
Who are your “clients”?
As an entrepreneur you will need to determine who your target consumer or client is. In your corporate job, you also have “clients” – those people who consume your services. It might be a certain department or set of departments; it might be your boss. In my corporate role, my “clients” are the advertising departments of four regional branches of our company, as well as smaller clients in other departments.
Have a marketing plan.
By now you’ve certainly been given the advice to “sell yourself” or “toot your own horn.” I never really understood what people meant by that. Was I supposed to run around telling people how wonderful I was at my job? Not quite. I figured this out during the recession when I saw my industry making sweeping layoffs. I knew I needed to sell my position. I set to work selling my services to my clients. I made a list of the services I provided and the benefits to my clients. In other words, I started emailing the managers of the advertising departments and talking directly with the account executives about what I could do to help them do their jobs better.
I do seasonal marketing. I send emails during the holidays (a busy selling period) letting the advertising departments know how I can save them time, and I use the slower periods to extol the virtues of our planning software and my training opportunities. It works. That’s how you sell yourself, and avoid layoffs.
What are your profits and losses?
As the owner of a company, you’re going to get pretty familiar with P&Ls (profits and losses). This is basically a ledger of what’s coming in and what’s going out. I like to think of this process as doing a return on investment (ROI) on my position. Your salary is your “losses” – that’s how much your “business” is spending every year. It’s probably hard to quantify your “profits” – that’s how much you bring in for the company. You probably don’t have a revenue-producing role; it’s most likely more indirect. As a research analyst, I can tie my role to revenue through the research I provide to our advertising department to facilitate sales. Try to think of your position in terms of this. The closer you can tie yourself to revenue, the more secure your job will be.
Are your “clients” satisfied?
Just like I would in my own café (that’s the business I hope to one day own), I check up with my clients to see if they’re satisfied with the services I’m providing. I check in with managers, account executives, my boss, and our corporate offices regularly to see if they’re getting everything they need from me when they need it. I ride out on sales calls periodically to see my product used in the field, and I survey my clients to see what’s missing. I go back to my boss or corporate offices when necessary and/or make adjustments accordingly.
Is there a more efficient way to do this?
One thing we all say we’ll do when we own our companies is cut out all the red tape. If you’re in a publicly traded corporation, there’s only so much you can do (thank you, Sarbane-Oxley) to cut out certain kinds of bureaucracy. But you can eliminate inefficiencies in your role. The four branches I provide services for were running the same report four different ways. I found a way to streamline, and our corporate offices are considering adopting the changes across all 14 branches we own now.
Have a processes manual.
Good god, I do a lot of stuff. I run various weekly, quarterly, twice-yearly and yearly reports. Some need feedback from my “clients” and the rest are run from five different databases. There are processes for running those reports, training new executives, organizing research studies, cleaning up databases, updating research slides, ad nauseum. There’s no way I can keep all that straight in my head. And what happens if I get promoted, laid off, hit by a bus, or move to another company? I’ll have to spend my last two weeks trying to do a brain dump the size of a small country. So, I keep a processes manual. I record how I run this or that report, what it’s used for, who needs it, how often, etc. I also keep track of the flow of these processes. How do the requests for services come in, to whom do they travel when they are completed?
Have job descriptions.
If you’re thinking of running your own show one day, you’ll need to read “E-Myth Revisited.” In it Michael Gerber talks about how even if you’re a one-man show for a while, one day you don’t want to be. You will play a nominal role in your company (if you so choose), watching it run like a well-oiled machine from a distance. It will be a thing of beauty. He recommends that you create roles for your company – a VP of marketing, production, and sales; managers; produc
ers; etc. where applicable. The idea is that even though your name is penciled into all those roles now, later it won’t be. So, I did that with my job. I came up with job descriptions for the different hats I wear, the various services I provide. Sure, they won’t grow like a business would; one person will probably do all those jobs in this position, but I know how to describe every job I do. And my bosses and predecessors will know as well.
What are your hours of operation?
Yeah, I know. You probably don’t have a lot of control over this. However, you might have more than you think if you start thinking about it. It makes sense for my “business” to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. because that is when my “clients” need my services. That’s when they expect me to be open for business, so those are my hours. If I could legitimately tell my boss that different hours of operation would be better, say because I’m now dealing with outsourcing to India, he would probably give me a fair hearing because everything I’ve done until now has shown that I have buy-in with my “business.”
Photo by ballgame68 via Flickr.