CXO

Wanted: Managers with entrepreneurial instincts and corporate experience

It's a killer combo. Here's why this marriage of qualities could land you your next job.

Image: Martinan

She was a wild-eyed innovator who broke all of the rules of good science and traditional business protocol, but her zany ideas morphed into products that were highly successful commercially, and that delivered great value to customers. He was a staid application developer who carefully tested all of his code before placing it into production, ensuring that the software met all security standards, was compliant with industry regulations, and had been vetted through every internal corporate checkpoint, including legal.


One day, both resumes arrived on the desk of company X's human resource manager—and were promptly tossed in the round file.

Why?

The job opening that company X's HR was looking to fill required an entrepreneurial thinker who could probe new realms and come up with breakthrough ideas, but the same individual also had to have enough grounding in corporate culture to be sensitive to compliance, security, governance, and the buy-in of other business units.

Here's a breakdown of those two key qualities:

The ability to tolerate risk

I once agreed to assume the management of a high-stakes project that had been failing for more than a year. It was early in my middle management career, but I reasoned that if I failed, the worst thing that would happen to me was that I would be fired. We were able to get the project on track and this was ultimately instrumental in moving me into a C-level position—but I was also prepared to get my pink slip if the project had failed. There are many other managers like this—and they are the ones who are ripe for new and risky positions like the manager of corporate IoT.

Sensitivity to corporate protocols

The jobs of C-level officials and even of many middle managers include keeping an eye on potential corporate liabilities that can result when new products are not thoroughly vetted, do not conform to compliance, governance or security standards, and/or expose the company, its executives and its board to legal liabilities. If you are sensitive to these requirements and can still take on the risks of entrepreneurship and wayward projects, you might be well qualified to be this hybrid entrepreneurial-corporate manager that companies are looking for.

This hybrid individual can be a difficult person to find—but if you fit the bill and are looking to turbo-boost your management career, the ability to offer both entrepreneurship and sensitivity to the demands of a corporate culture can be an attractive calling card.

"Companies today are looking to hire for innovation," said Zach Supallo, CEO of Particle, which provides a prototype-to-production platform for Internet of Things product development.

Supallo said that if a company hires an individual who is only an entrepreneur from a startup, a company could quickly find itself in a situation where it has a real rock star who can carry forward a new initiative in an area like IoT (Internet of Things)—but that he or she might have trouble being successful because the legal or the marketing department or some other department just says "no" to a new idea. Ultimately, the new hire gets frustrated and leaves.

Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, senior researcher, entrepreneurship at Gallup, said it is hard work to uncover entrepreneurs (let alone, entrepreneurial managers) in corporations, because most corporations are averse to risk taking. Badal recalls in a blog post failed corporate entrepreneurial efforts like New Coke and the Edsel—but goes on to say that these haven't stopped Coke or Ford from continuing to look for innovators.

The most important thing to remember in any self-assessment of your managerial skills is that you need be comfortable in your own skin—whether that skin is entrepreneurial, strictly corporate, or the new hybrid enterpreneurial-corporate blend that many companies now seek. If you feel that you are in the hybrid category, it is a great time to test the the job market—or even the opportunities within the walls of your own company.

Also see

About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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