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Entrepreneurs Need Intrapreneurs

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We all know what an entrepreneur is. Many independent financial advisors would likely identify themselves as an entrepreneur. 

Many entrepreneurs worked 18-hour days to get their business off the ground and wore all the hats in the company–CEO, Marketing Director, H.R. Manager, IT Coordinator, Bookkeeper, and Visionary. They are their own boss. They create new things. They continuously solve problems. They have initiative. And, importantly, they can tolerate risk more than most people. 

A lesser-known term is "intrapreneur."

An intrapreneur works within an existing company. They are not wearing all the hats–they may have a few specialized hats–helping the business grow in the area of marketing, client services, technology, or portfolio management. Intrapreneurs are creative and driven and may think like an owner, however, their focus is on driving improvement within a company–not starting up a new one.

How does this relate to succession planning in the financial services industry?

Shifting Your Search

As a business founder, when you plan for your eventual exit or deceleration from the business, you tend to look for an entrepreneur like yourself to take over the reins. However, young entrepreneurs  have likely started their own firm and are working for themselves.  I have heard countless G1s lament this fact and then question whether their current team can do all that they did as the founder when they built the company. But that’s just the point; the next generation doesn’t have to look just like you. Instead, you need to find a successor team that can build upon the foundation you’ve already laid. They won’t be starting from scratch like you did. They can use their intrapreneurial skills to grow and manage the company as it evolves.

Another benefit to looking within the firm at the existing advisors and staff is that they already know the business, which can lead to a smoother transition when it is time for you to slow down or retire.  With an internal transition you can often wind down your involvement at your own pace which may not be true if you sold the firm to an outside buyer. And, as the founder, you are already sharing your knowledge by coaching and training your staff; you can also take the opportunity to identify and nurture intrapreneurialsm.

Intrapreneurs Don’t Have to be Producers

It is a misconception that all owners of a financial services firm must be producers. Non-producers bring a different value to the company. They can improve the bottom line for instance, by decreasing expenses, changing the pricing structure, or updating the marketing plan to bring in new clients. They can take over responsibilities to free up time for those who excel in revenue-focused areas like business development or financial planning. The larger a firm becomes, the more need they will have for non-producing roles such as Chief Financial Officer, Operations Manager, Director of Marketing, or VP of Technology.

Recognizing and retaining non-producing intrapreneurs is no different than retaining producing intrapreneurs. Equity ownership is an important piece of building your team of talented employees who demonstrate an ownership mentality and provide value to the business. Oftentimes, equity ownership will lead to a leadership position within the company. However, a smaller percentage of equity may be retained by a key employee as an investment and commitment to the firm without a move to the C-Suite.

Identifying the Intrapreneurs on Your Team

You’ll be able to pick out your intrapreneurs–and possible successors–because they take ownership of their role and do more than the status quo. They invest time in creating efficiencies and improving how they do their job. They jump in to help other team members and put in extra hours. They seek out new ideas and take an interest in different roles within the business. They can visualize the “big picture.” Whether producers or not, intrapreneurs demonstrate the all-important ownership mentality and are performing with a focus on the success of the business as a whole. They can help guide the business into the future to serve the next generation of clients.

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