I have been an entrepreneur for 8 years and in the corporate world for about 6. At some point, had the privilege of being an Executive Coach. I had great learning opportunities in engaging former entrepreneurs as well as being engaged as one. So, here are some lessons that would help you, as a business owner, or a board member, to get the best out of engaging an ex-entrepreneur, into a full time role.
- Give a role that requires ‘change’ or ‘top-down’ perspective. Roles that require managing, Business As Usual (BAU) or a department, may not get the best out of him. You could make him responsible for driving performance, change, innovation, employee engagement or a turnaround, transformation, scale-up, or a start-up. Even, if he is going to manage a key department, it could be with a mandate to bring about ‘change’ with agreed performance criteria. You may also transition him through various departments, before ultimately giving him a role that uses his top-down perspective.
- Bring out his natural sense of ownership on the job. Its very different when he is an actual owner in his business and when he is in employment. Its important to communicate mutual expectations. Link his contribution to the company’s goals and set performance measurement benchmarks. Figure out what authority/resources/tools may be required, to accomplish his goals. This will help, invoke a sense of ownership which, he is so used to working with.
- Find out why he wants to get into a full time employment. You may or may not want to broach this topic, but avoid making a presumption on whether or not he was successful in business. For all you know, he could have made a conscious choice to wind-up a money making business, that no longer served his vision or no longer gave him joy. Even if his business did not sustain, he has likely learnt important lessons that may help your company avoid costly mistakes.
- Are you worried about lack of domain knowledge in your sector ? If he has been a smart businessman, he will pick up the sector knowledge before you realise. Typically, an employee who has spent 10-15 years in a sector, may be considered fit for a strategic role. But you may not, look at an entrepreneur with the same lenses. If he is diligent, he would figure out the missing links and capture the domain knowledge while working towards the goals. So if he has the leadership skills, and has spent years in other sectors, you may still consider him for a senior role. He is likely to come in with a fresh perspective, and you may discover some old assumptions that may no longer be true.
- Position him in the hierarchy, closer to the ownership, board, or the CEO. However, if you must have him lower down the hierarchy, let the expected reporting manager take full ownership and accountability for the results. In any case, keep an open channel with him, with a dotted line reporting to the top.
- Once hired, place your trust, empower and make accountable for results. Position him through the organisational structure with a balance of authority and responsibility. Absence of empowerment, may affect his ability to bring out the best from the people. You can always make changes or discontinue the engagement, but its best to give a fair opportunity.
- Engage him with clarity about his future plans. Don’t presume that he is transition, waiting for another business opportunity. If you are going to hire him with this thought at the back of your mind, you may not empower him adequately which is necessary to get the desired results. Its best to talk this over in the beginning and get some meeting of minds and mutual assurances.
Engaging former entrepreneurs comes with its own risks. However, if you are able to strike a win-win, it may propel your business towards excellence and instil the much needed ‘intrapreneurial’ work culture that you have been striving to bring into your organization.
I am in business because people want me to be in it.
I communicate my product & services because I want to reach out to those who are waiting to use them.
When they come knocking at my doorsteps, my sales team helps them buy our products / services.
I am confident that people ‘need’ my services, and hence I am attentive to listen to them.
I qualify prospects before I take them on as they need to have the right pre-requisites to benefit from my product / services. I am conscious of preserving resources whether mine or others. I also don’t want to risk my portfolio / clientele.
I may not offer what is asked for, if I feel that will not lead to success.
I charge the rates for my products / services that help me sustain the business and also to grow it to help more clients / customers to benefit.
I absolutely understand that people are entitled to decide in engaging me or not. So I give them space to decide. If they say no, I accept it with humility.
I keep in touch.
#1. Thinking of Plan B – Sometimes it may be good to have a Plan B. But most of the times it means that you are not confident about Plan A. So if you are thinking about Plan B, may be you don’t have a strong Plan A.
Once I was coaching a client. They had to purchase some raw material as part of their plan to manufacture & sell a new product. When I entered the scenario, they were thinking about buying & selling the raw material itself as a possible business vertical. After some questioning it became clear that they had the pressure to liquidate a lot of raw material due to lack of sales. After further inquiry the CEO realized that it was originally thought as Plan B to sell raw material in case sales don’t happen.
#2. Spending too much time on strategy – There is no perfect strategy. Also any product / service has a life cycle of evolution. If you have a very perfect kind of vision for your product, it may be a good idea to version the features & give it milestones. The strategy then should be limited to the version being launched. It should be followed with Action & Outcomes (Profit). Sitting on today, you can’t think of a perfect model and strategy for future versions. If you do, it is most likely because low confidence about facing the test of the market.
#3. Needing too many benefits of using your product / service – During any pitch, its an unspoken rule that every prospect is a 100% client to begin with. From that point onwards YOU can either lose him or close the deal. During the pitch, when the seller feels it’s time to ‘sell’, a few differentiators / benefits / USP is enough. Offer the first USP & if the buyer is convinced close the deal. You don’t have to sell all USPs or benefits as per a fixed plan. So when marketing teams think about lots of benefits, it shows lack of confidence to face the client with the product in hand.
#4. Thinking of multiple target markets / business verticals during launch – First get through one. Then think about the others. If you are looking to have multiple target markets or business verticals to begin with, you are lacking in confidence. Have the guts to choose one & focus on one. Otherwise it only shows that once time comes to act, you get de-focused and start looking for other business verticals. There is no option in life or in business but to face the music.
#5. Struggling with the culture of the country or state – You need to pick your fights carefully in business. Don’t fight with everything you don’t like about the country or people or governance. If you want to fight against corruption you should be in politics. If you want to fight against “lack of ownership in employees”, you should be in leadership & development. If you want to fight against lack of civic sense, you should be a corporator. If your business is to sell telephony, then just fight for quality service. Don’t let other things weigh you down. When faced with other situations that bring out the warrior in you, take a deep breath and let go the people indulging. People are the way they are due to years of conditioning over generations. So if you see yourself blaming others, you should know that you are again not confident about the business you are in. These diversions will only help you in finding reasons for possible future failure.