If you are an entrepreneur who’s been working solo and you think you need to hire employees, you’re wrong. What you need to do instead is hire and build up intrapreneurs.
An intrapreneur is completely different from an employee. They have a different mindset and they bring you dramatically better results than employees do. And, when you’re building your team for the first time, you need everyone on it to be an intrapreneur.
An “employee” is someone who wants to be managed. They want simple, repetitive work that’s hard to screw up. Whenever there’s a decision that involves risk, they want you to tell them what to do.
That’s fine if you own a hamburger joint and you just need someone to take orders and hand out burgers. Of course, if you’re starting your own business based on your own vision and your own passion, you’re not at that point yet. In fact, you might never have a business that needs employees (thanks to automation, fewer businesses do every day).
Why employees cost money and intrapreneurs make money
The second you bring an employee onto your team, you become a manager. Managing is a full-time job, and it’s completely different from being an entrepreneur. A managercarefully lays out processes and expectations for each employee and then tracks how well they comply. As an entrepreneur, you need the freedom to step back and see the bigger picture.
In other words, time you spend managing employees is time you do not spend expanding the business, coming up with innovative ideas, or doing anything else that will make you more money. Time spent managing is money lost.
By contrast, when you have an intrapreneur on your team, you can tell her, “I want you to create this outcome.” Then, she’ll say, “You got it,” and find a way to make it happen. Intrapreneurs are people who act like a leader in the realm of their project or department. They think backwards from the outcome and create a path of action to make it possible. If something has never been done before, they invent a way of doing it.
For example, I sat down once with the head of our marketing department and explained to her that I could either outsource our Facebook ads, or I could let her and her teammate run them as a department. I explained to her that her department needed to bring in enough money with those ads in order to offset their payroll and justify the cost. Now, she sends me a P&L report for her department every month and has consistently proven that she’s adding to our bottom line.
Of course, you still have total responsibility to your business as an entrepreneur. Even when you do have a team full of intrapreneur super stars, you still need to provide them clarity on your vision, mission, path and deadline. If you don’t do that, they’ll get frustrated and quit, or they’ll waste their time and energy chasing the wrong target.
The other great thing about intrapreneurs is that they keep your overhead low. You put employees in a management position, or give them a project outside their comfort zone, and they’ll freak out and ask you to hire 10 more people to get the job done. Intrapreneurs will find a way to do it themselves or leverage the resources you have already.
How to find potential intrapreneurs
Don’t worry about hiring people who are already intrapreneurs. There are a tiny handful of people out there who are natural born leaders, and they’re already on their way to becoming generals and presidents and founders. Then there are people who have already developed into intrapreneurs while working for someone else, but they’re going to be too expensive to try to poach.
Here’s what you should do instead: Hire people with leadership potential, and then give them the resources and coaching to become intrapreneurs under your roof. There’s a very simple test you can use to spot these people in job interviews. Just ask them this question:
“You run into a problem in your work and you don’t know how to solve it. Your manager is out sick, and nobody else on the team has the experience to fix that problem. What do you do?”
The vast majority of people will get stumped by that. They’ll just sit there sputtering, or they’ll say they would wait for the manager (even when you remind them that the manager is out). My favorite answer to this question is “I would Google it.” If they say that, then you know they are resourceful and independent enough to find their own solutions to problems. That’s a great start.
In other words, hire for personality. You want control freaks. You want people who are type A. You want people with a fire in their belly and an urgency to get things done. In my experience, I’ve found that I work best with people who are naturally introvertedlike I am. Introverts make fewer mistakes and are better communicators because they actually listen when you speak.
How to coach up intrapreneurs
Once you have the right people on your team, you need to coach them by giving them the same resources you have used to improve your mindset, make yourself more efficient or master your area of expertise. Books are the cheapest way to do this, and if you have true intrapreneurs on your team, they’ll happily read a book and show you notes on what they’ve learned. I’ve done this several times with my own leadership team, and it’s created huge shifts in their growth.
As you get more cash flow, you should look into courses, seminars and tools you can buy for your intrapreneurs to make them even more effective. Buying those things for employees would be like throwing money into a fire, but when you invest in intrapreneurs it’s worth every penny and the ROI is massive.
The most important thing to remember is that you have to let all your intrapreneurs make mistakes. Think about it: As an entrepreneur, you’ve made plenty of mistakesalready that cost you time, money and stress. For example, I once had eight different online shopping carts sucking away $3,000 a month even though I was only using three of them. Those are learning experiences. They help you develop into a better leader and decision maker.
The same principle applies to your team. If they don’t make their own mistakes, and suffer the pain and embarrassment and anxiety that comes with them, they will never grow like you did. That’s why you need to give them room to fail, and when they do fail, make sure they understand why and have an idea for how to improve next time. Following this process and creating other leaders is the only way you can truly build your business into an empire.