I sought Randy’s advice about integrating my entrepreneurial skills into a big company. Here’s what Randy had to say about my career pivot.
Eisaiah: Great to meet you, Randy. What has been your experience with entrepreneurship?
I started my career in strategic consulting. In that business, you have to be an entrepreneur. You are selling yourself as a solution to colleagues and clients.
Your intellectual capital is your product – your skills, your network, and your experience. You put that capital to work – and if successful – you continue to grow in your capabilities across projects and leverage your investments in yourself with new opportunities.
Entrepreneurs and consultants see different perspectives across industries. This leads to cross pollination of ideas and improved application of those ideas with clients. For clients and those in industry, it is easy to look to comparable peers for the next stage of your company’s development. As a consultant or entrepreneur, you are bringing other ideas from non-similar industries together to create a new model for business value creation. For example, I took concepts that worked within financial services and was able to apply them to dis-similar industries like education and retail.
Early in my career as a consultant, I learned to ask, “Where can I look to do something different in this situation?” That said, I’ve also found that cross pollinating ideas or concepts is important in developing marketing strategies and commercial growth approaches.
Entrepreneurs are cross pollinators. Is this what makes them a natural fit for the marketing department?
Yes. Marketing is a business in a nutshell. And many of the skills are the same. Entrepreneurs are willing to take a risk. They try something new while being grounded in the dynamics of a market or a customer set. Similarly, someone at the helm of marketing asks, “Where is the growth coming from next?”
Other questions that marketers and entrepreneurs share are, “How do we position our organization? And, how are we differentiated in the mind of our customer?”
What valuable skills can entrepreneurs bring to a marketing role?
Marketing is about taking ownership for the risk and outcome and having passion for the approach you’re about to take. You see an opportunity that could be different versus a path that can be followed. You hedge risk by developing a solution on a small scale, piloting it, and refining it. This is the basic skillset of an entrepreneur.
Here are three questions to help you focus on what’s important to a company:
- Who is the customer?
- Do we have something similar, complimentary, or totally different to the solutions currently available in the competitive landscape?
- How do the capabilities of our products apply in a variety of use cases?
At Celanese, we bring our customers, salespeople and engineers together to help address that third question. That way our team can better understand what the customer is trying to do, their specific needs, and the trends and challenges they’re facing in their industry.
With that understanding, we have the capability to translate customer insights into engineering execution – not just marketing messages. That is what our commercial and marketing organizations are all about. For my marketing team, the next frontier is how do we do this digitally and meet the customer where they are searching on their own for a solution to their needs.
You need to understand the mindset of the customer. If all you do is give the customer a company overview and some product brochures, you are not helping them to connect how you can provide a solution to their problem.
What’s the number one skill entrepreneurs need to learn to be successful in a large organization?
The number one skill in a company is being able to sell to and to influence your peers. To do that, start with the mindset that we’re both trying to be successful together. Explain the value you are adding to your peers. Understand the perspective they are coming from. This builds the foundation for mutual respect and support.
You don’t get to build your business as an entrepreneur unless you get buy in from investors and clients. You don’t get to build on your ideas in a company unless you get buy in from colleagues.
It’s no secret that entrepreneurs are passionate. What is the role of passion in a marketing career?
It may be crazy to say, but I do have a passion for how our materials can help address customer needs or solve their problems. I mean, it is exciting to come to work every day, to do this job, and to learn what we’ve accomplished while working with our customers.
Passion is having a desire for improving how we work, how we can grow, and the success of the organization. Entrepreneurs should look for a company where people are desirous of change and impact. Look for a place where people are asking, “How do we translate what we’re doing here today into a great success story? How do we get to be one of those ‘it’s so crazy, but it worked’ case studies in a business school that makes you rethink a company or an industry?”
Someone who doesn’t have an entrepreneurial desire might say, “What is the process that I’m working with today? I will refine it around the edges or find a way to leave my mark on it and improve it, I’m sure…” However, this only addresses the low hanging fruit; it’s limited given it was bound by the status quo. The improvement – way temporarily valuable – doesn’t have the longevity to truly impact the organization and may not address the true cost or weaknesses.
Entrepreneurs ask different questions and develop new perspectives. These new perspectives help them identify if the model is broken in its current capacity and find a valuable way to fix it. Entrepreneurship can happen in any role at a company.
At the end of the day, your career is a story to tell. Entrepreneurship is about writing that story not just living a story that someone one else has written for you.
Entrepreneurship is writing your own story. Thank you for that quote and for your ideas about how I can illustrate the value of my entrepreneurial skills to hiring managers.
Glad to help, Eisaiah! Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts; I look forward to catching up in the near future. All the best!