As an employee, how can I help convince company leadership to launch an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) program?
The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
1. Explain the Benefits (and Draw Up a Budget)
The best way to launch an EIR program at your company is to explain to your supervisor all the benefits it provides. An EIR can act as a mentor to employees of your company, especially if he or she has relevant experience in your industry. From there, you simply create the position, make room in the budget, and go find yourself an entrepreneur.
2. Start Informally
Great ideas often get caught up in implementation, particularly when a budget is required. So while you should pursue buy-in from the VIPs in your company, start thinking about how you can bring at least elements of such a program in without a formal budget or approval. Something as simple as arranging a lunch with a few of your colleagues and an entrepreneur can start you on your way.
3. Get Outside Support
There are fantastic new firms that are starting up to help with this exact issue: how to bring innovation into established companies. For example, Prehype is one of the best in the business, having worked with firms like Coca-Cola, Intel, Verizon and more. It’s an innovation consultancy that helps develop internal startup programs effectively at companies.
4. Employee Empowerment
An EIR program is really an extension of employee-empowerment policies like “20 percent time” (made famous by Google) or company hackathons. These policies and events give employees time to pursue side interests at work, but keep the innovation under the umbrella of the parent company. Pitch an EIR position as an extension of these principles and it may be an easier sell.
5. Ask Those Who’ve Done It Successfully
Talk to someone who has successfully led an EIR program before doing anything. Ingrid Vanderveldt is a great person to look to. She really has done a great job with Dell’s EIR program.
6. No Program? Offer Support Instead
I’ve dabbled in offering support, but not a whole EIR program. My creative and print department offered to help with branding and printing marketing materials for team members at no charge to help boost their initial efforts. I want my company to be a launch pad for their success in the future and encourage/celebrate those aspirations.
7. Pitch Your Plan (Not Your Idea)
Bring a plan to company leadership that makes use of current unused company resources to generate new sources of revenue. Notice I say “plan” and not just “idea.” A plan with budget and ROI is necessary to show leadership that you are the right person to head your proposed “intra-preneurship” initiative.