Suppose you were hit by a bus tomorrow. Would your company survive?
If you’re the primary rainmaker, the answer is probably not.
Yet most entrepreneurial efforts are set up in exactly this precarious position. The founder and CEO acts as the company’s engine. This is the person who generates the energy, the innovation and the business that keeps the company growing. I know because that’s exactly how it used to be at my company. My staff worked hard, they did everything I told them to do. But I always felt like I was the one bringing in the business, giving the marching orders and envisioning the future. While I wasn’t planning on an untimely end, I could foresee the day when I might burn out. And this is often the end of many a promising start-up. For a while, the highly energized CEO blazes the trail forward. Then perhaps that person gets tired. Or distracted. Or hit by a bus. And the whole thing falls apart.
How can you prevent that? The answer is simple. You need an army.
I developed the concept of an Army of Entrepreneurs™ when I was getting ready to go out on maternity leave. It was a matter of corporate survival – something had to happen at my company to keep it all going. The Army of Entrepreneurs method is a system of management that empowers staffers to step up and work like they own the place. AOE workers don’t wait for orders. AOE companies don’t hinge on the good health of one energetic founder. AOE companies are infused with a zeal and ambition that radiates from the top and inspires throughout.
How can you do that? You need to create a core culture of entrepreneurialism in your firm.
Step One Is Authenticity
Work hard yourself. Adopt transparency and honesty in all aspects of the business. Over –communicate about your goals and your expectations. Do everything you can to demonstrate to your staff that you are for real when you say you want them to step up and think and act in an entrepreneurial fashion.
Step Two is a Commitment to People
Offer professional development – teach the skills you want to see them display. Encourage autonomy. Be supportive in your words and your deeds when staffers try something new. Assume your staffers are capable of more and encourage them to stretch. A rote job produces automatons.
Step Three is a Commitment to the Business
Stress everything you do that you – and everyone in the firm – is in service to the success of the company. Offer financial rewards to all – not just executive ranks. Set clear guidelines for ethics and business practices.
Step Four is Continuous Effort
An Army of Entrepreneurs is an ongoing effort. Commit yourself to constantly looking for ways to strengthen and improve its performance.
When you’ve set your culture framework in place, how do you motivate employees to participate? It may be easier than you think – many people would prefer to use their creative and ambitious sides at work rather than turn them off and follow orders from 9 to 5. But that said, employees do need incentives and that’s especially true when you’re asking them to change their behavior. I recommend the following motivational tools for crafting and motivating an Army of Entrepreneurs.
A compensation plan that rewards entrepreneurialism. At my firm, the compensation plan is called Commission for Life. If you bring in the business, you get a commission on that business for as long as you’re with the firm. It’s your commission for life, if you want it. With that incentive, everyone from the senior ranks to the summer interns beats the bushes for new business. I’ve seen it work.
Transparency in the business. Open the books and show your employees what’s necessary for the company to make money. Often, there is so much secrecy at a company, nobody really knows if their hard work is valuable or not. With transparency, staffers can see where they make a difference.
Celebration. When you see entrepreneurial behavior, celebrate it. Don’t wait for the big win – celebrate the small ones along the way and encourage everyone to continue on the entrepreneurial path.
With a combination of culture and motivation, you can amass our own army, and march them forward to entrepreneurial success.
Jennifer Prosek is the CEO of CJP Communications and the author of Army of Entrepreneurs™: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.