A Corporate Perspective on Entrepreneurship

Have you ever wondered how those who work within a corporate atmosphere view entrepreneurship?

I sat down with Kim Lariccia who is apart of the senior management team at Progressive Insurance. Kim has practical advice for both budding and seasoned entrepreneurs. This interview was centered on four areas of opportunities for most organizations. These four areas are: leadership, systems, money and business growth. Understanding these four components of an effective enterprise will catapult your business to the next level.

The first section dealt with was leadership. My question to Kim was, “What are the components of a good leader?” Her reply was, “A leader has to be a dynamic thinker.” A competent leader must be able to think on many plateaus; organizational, interpersonal and personal. At the organizational level a leader must think about the creation and articulation of the business’ vision, the culture of the enterprise and the return on human capital. The interpersonal plateau as Kim puts it is “leadership is based on relationship”. The people within your company must trust you, believe in you and in your vision. On a personal level, a leader must build mental and emotional fortitude. Mental fortitude is necessary, because as a leader you must think on many different levels. Emotionally fortitude is required, because ultimately you are responsible for the end result. Therefore your EQ (emotional quotient) must be high for you to have your vision completed through the efforts of your personnel.

The next subject Kim and I talked about was systems. A system is a specific way of doing some thing that brings about a desired result. Entrepreneurs must realize the importance of system development and maintenance if they desire to build an effective organization. Kim indicated that entrepreneurs should use the concept of benchmarking.
Finding the “best practices” of running a business within your specific industry and then mastering those systems is benchmarking. Do you know what your competitors are doing with their processes, policies and procedures? Kim gave a great suggestion for entrepreneurs. Carry an “observation notebook”. You will use this notebook to document the systems you observe within your industry and among your competition. Write down systems, practices, and processes, both good and bad and how they made you feel.

Every experience a customer has at your place of business will affect them on an emotional level. Does this sound familiar, “When I walked into that store no asked me if I needed help. They acted as if they didn’t want my business, so I am going to spend my money where I am appreciated.” The customer’s experience is not logical, it’s emotional. As Kim said, “A great customer experience is what drives success”.

Then naturally, our conversation moved to the topic of money. My question to Kim, “What should entrepreneurs focus on, cash-flow or profitability”. Her reply, “Cash-flow is the reality to stay in business, that is why you need solid backing from the start. Once your cash-flow is consistent, you can position your company to become profitable”. Entrepreneurs must first get the resources they need so their companies can achieve a consistent cash-flow. A resource is not only currency. It’s having a network of trustworthy colleagues that you can bounce ideas off of. It’s also aligning yourself with employees that compliment you abilities. We ended this area with Kim saying, “Don’t panic about the money do your research” This statement transition the interview to our last topic, business growth.

The question that was asked, “How can an entrepreneur grow an organization?” Kim indicated, “It all starts with research, and this is the step most entrepreneurs try to skip”. First, you learn about the opportunity. Is it good, bad or indifferent to you? If it is a good venture, then investigate to find out the type of infrastructure that is needed to capitalize on the opportunity. Finally, do your planning and your forecasting for your new business.
“If possible after the research stage”, Kim said, “pilot your business”. Some call this practice, test marketing. During this process you will find out if your research was accurate. This is also where you will tweak and fine-tune your systems. The piloting stage will give you a glimpse of the capital needed and returns that are possible without a huge upfront investment. Also, while you are piloting your business, make sure you document the best practices for your organization so your future employees can perform their jobs.

At the conclusion for the interview I asked Kim, “What final advice do you have for entrepreneurs?” Her response, “Concern yourself with the ‘what if’s’. What if your company grows twice or four times as fast as you expected? What will you do? What if your business does not grow as fast as you have projected? What will you do?” When entrepreneurs concern themselves with the ‘what if’s’, they will focus on the necessary up front preparation; research, planning and documentation. As a result, they will build and effective organization.

Thank you to Kim Lariccia for your time and needed wisdom. This information will help entrepreneurs on their journey to building an effective organization.

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