Engaging Your Entrepreneurial Community To Thrive Amid Change

entrepreneurialThe only thing that’s constant is change. We all know this to be true, but how many of us actually take this idea to heart? I’d venture to say very few. After all, as humans we’re creatures of habit. Going about business as usual feels more comfortable, but it’s also a one-way ticket to stagnation.

As a CEO, you know you can’t afford to run on autopilot. You need to be agile — constantly adapting to evolving technologies, customer needs, and markets — before you’re swept away with the changing tides. In other words, you need to think like an entrepreneur.

On-the-Ground Engagement

To think like an entrepreneur, you need to get on an entrepreneur’s level. That doesn’t mean sitting in your ivory tower, hoping to simply absorb innovation from afar. Instead, roll up your sleeves, climb down from your perch, and engage directly with entrepreneurs in your community. Use the following steps to create positive change within your organization.

  1. Invest in an accelerator program. Through a corporate startup accelerator program, established companies and budding startups can leverage their respective strengths to spur innovation, remain competitive in their spaces, and meet evolving customer needs. The benefits run both ways.

For instance, the University of Missouri System, UMSL Accelerate, and Capital Innovators partnered with Ameren to form the Ameren Accelerator, a 12-week accelerator program. Ameren gained access to the talent and speed of entrepreneurs, helping it meet its customers’ future energy needs and expectations.

“When the world is changing, you have to change with it.”

Our startup participants, on the other hand, were able to build out their energy-tech ideas in a fail-safe environment using a Fortune 500 company’s domain expertise, mentorship, and networks as key resources.

  1. Make yourself available. As ideal as accelerator programs are, your organization may not be in a position to invest in one. In this case, you can still act as a mentor and provide startups with some elementary resources.

Providing access to distribution channels, for instance, is an effective way to build relationships with promising startups, which could ultimately lead to other opportunities. Work with local entrepreneurs on an interpersonal level, the same way you would engage with your own employees. As a result, you’ll build a valuable give-and-take relationship — one where you and your mentee can bounce ideas off one another.

Considering that we’re more likely to find creative solutions when we’re removed from a problem, giving your company a shot of entrepreneurial brainpower could jump-start your journey out of your innovation rut.

  1. Lead by example. As a CEO, you’re more than just a face for the company. In times of technological change, it’s your responsibility, as a leader, to facilitate your company’s digital transformation. When this prospect is met with resistance from your staff and associates, consider acting as a moderator by explaining the goals of the transition to your employees.

Fortunately, the startups in your area could provide the versatility to ease that transition. With the help of a generation adept at utilizing new technologies, your organization can swiftly acclimate to the evolving demands of your industry and serve your customers in more innovative ways.

According to Accenture, 93 percent of executives believe innovation is critical to long-term success, yet less than 20 percent of them feel their company’s current innovation efforts are giving them a competitive edge. It’s time to close that discrepancy. When the world is changing, you have to change with it. And to best serve your company and your customers, that sometimes means engaging with your entrepreneurial community.

Dan Lauer
Dan Lauer is the founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate, an initiative that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in and outside the classroom and helps bring concepts from mind to market. He serves as a catalyst for developing a vibrant ecosystem of students, faculty, and community to inspire innovation and advocate for entrepreneurship.

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