I’m entrepreneurial by nature and by birth. From a legacy in my family of “starters” — from grocers to gas station owners, seamstresses, ministers to musicians and marketers, bootleggers, accountants to attorneys and retailers — there’s a lot of startup in my blood.
The best part: my grandmother owned a molino de nixtamal, a corn mill for grinding maize to resell to markets that sold tortillas. I just learned that having the kind of manufacturing equipment required to run this operation was pretty cutting-edge for the early 20th century – anywhere in the world.*
Ha. My grandma was high-tech! Sigh. One more story to run down. But back to business.
Working for the man
While I’ve mostly worked for “the man” (The Man, actually) much of my career, I’ve had to find ways to feed my need to build new things, wherever I was. I’ve been fortunate to be in rapid-growth environments and fill in critical gaps due to the growth.
But here’s what I learned: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and work in a larger company or business that’s not yours (yet), learn what you can where you are. Make the way you’re wired work for you and your employer. And then take it up a notch.
Here are a few ideas on how to “be startin’ something” right where you are:
- Find an important problem that needs solving and perhaps that no one has “discovered” yet. If you’re one who spots trends or opportunities early, this is where you use it. Get some traction by taking on a project you know has a start and a finish – something that’s measurable, with tangible output.
One project I worked on a number of years ago capitalized on what was then “new” RSS technology – the ability to syndicate content. We needed to distribute globally gathered story content from a team of field reporters — a good solution for our customers, who were also globally distributed. RSS was a seemingly small solution, but it had a big impact on productivity and opened up great opportunities for me to contribute more.
- If you are ready for a bigger challenge, identify an initiative that meets an ongoing business need. How about that new CRM idea that’s been kicked about for so long? Got a knack for tech? Maybe this is your thing to drive for the business side of the house.
- Heck, it could be something that has been broken for so long, everyone has just accepted it and learned to “work around” the “broken” state and call it good. Fix that. Think big.
- Next step: Mention the idea to your supervisor and measure the warmth of her reception. If it feels good, come back with a more thought-out solution and a high-level plan. You never know – you just might be onto something.
It is possible to carve a niche for yourself by spotting opportunities and showing you’re self-starter who can help advance the business and your team’s credibility while growing your personal toolkit. My grandmother did it. She spotted an emerging opportunity and seized it – by making tortillas highly reproducible.
You can do the same in your space.
The fact is, you know your work and understand the types of problems that need solving or are trending. Chances are also good you’re pretty familiar with what good solutions look like, now and in the future. So find them. Offer them.
If you don’t do it, who knows when anyone else will get around to it?
* Source: Goods, Power, History: Latin America’s Material Culture, Arnold J. Bauer, p. 190.