Entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship–keys to business success
A story is told about an American, Englishman, Scotsman, and a Chinese. While drinking whiskey in a bar, all noticed a fly swimming in each of their glasses. The American threw his whiskey and made another order. The Englishman picked up the fly and threw it away and drank his whiskey. The Scotsman, picked up the fly, squeezed it into his glass and drank his whiskey. The Chinese, picked up the fly from his glass, looked at it closely and asked the Scotsman, “How much you buy this fly?”
This is an ethnic joke but it depicts the business acumen of the Chinese. I think business runs in the blood of the Chinese. Look at our economy. The airline, banking, shipping, alcoholic and beverage drinks, retail and other major industries are owned or controlled by Filipino Chinese. And this is true in the other parts of Asia like Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Salim, for example, though bearing an Indonesian name, the big boss of our quintessential business tycoon Manny Pangilinan, is a Chinese.
What makes Chinese tick in business? It is discipline, perseverance, determination, focus, and acumen. They thrive even in the most hostile environment because of their true grit and friendly disposition that eventually win the hearts of the people.
My hometown in Leyte is a microcosm of how the Chinese start up their business enterprise. They put up a general merchandise store. They buy and sell everything and anything that a household needs. The second and third generation who are completely assimilated with the ‘natives,’ have intermarriages with them and speak fluently their language, continue the business of their elders and expand them this time with air-conditioned groceries and mini marts.
We know there is money out there in business. But we are not as intrepid and risk takers as the Chinese. I, for one, in my younger years in the corporate world, seriously considered getting out and putting up my own business. But I was happy enough with my status as a senior executive, with a chauffeur-driven company car, membership in sports clubs with all expenses paid for by the company, foreign travel for conferences or management studies, cash incentives and other perks with an assured retirement benefit. I was lulled by a sense of complacency and security.
Wikipedia defines an entrepreneur as one who “undertakes an enterprise.” The term puts emphasis on the risk and effort taken by individuals who both own and manage a business, and on the innovations resulting from their pursuit of economic success. It was first defined by the Irish-French economist, Richard Cantillon, as a person who pays a certain price for a product, only to resell it at an uncertain price, thereby: “making decisions about obtaining and using the resources while consequently admitting the risk of enterprise.”
While the risk and uncertainty can shy away ordinary Filipinos from entering into a business enterprise, a lot of companies are now looking at their applicants with entrepreneurial soft skills for, after all, managing an enterprise, involves risk taking decisions. While touring an HP plant in Singapore many years ago, the tour guide told us that management changed the mindset of its employees to act and think like entrepreneurs. When asked what he/she is doing, the answer is not “I’m making a microchip, or putting up a keyboard.” The proper answer should be “I’m making a computer for sale.”
This brings me to the next keyword, intrapreneurship. The word intrapreneur was first coined by a Pacific Northwesterner, Gifford Pinchot lll, grandson of the first Chief of the United States Forest Service, who popularized the term in his best-selling book, “Why You Don’t have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur.” According to Pinchot, intrapreneurs are people within a corporation who turn an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.
Pinchot’s idea of intrapreneurship saw its first start up in Seattle to foster innovation and bring products to the market efficiently. Text messaging (MMS), for instance, was developed by intrapreneurs at AT&T and NTT DoCoMo as a new wireless service.
At Lockheed Martin, intrapreneurs developed a number of famous aircraft designs and at 3M, they came up with Post-It Notes which is now used all over the world. In fact, it is my favorite bookmarker. At Google, they came up with Google News, AdSense and Gmail.
Summing up, it looks like you need not have some Chinese blood to be an entrepreneur. You don’t even have to leave your company and put up your own business. Just let your company adopt intrapreneurship as part of its system and culture, and reinforce it in its vision and mission statements.
(Author’s email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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