Author Jennifer Prosek thinks that’s what you need to build long term success. She’s the founder and CEO of CJP Communications, an award-winning international public relations and financial communications firm. In her new book, Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth (AMACOM 2011) , Prosek teaches businesses how to inspire and motivate their employees to think like entrepreneurs to ensure the optimal success in the business. The two things that stood out in this book to me was how Jennifer proved with her own business how to emerge from a financial rut by engaging her company’s employees to solve problems. I was also intrigued by her Commission for Lifeâ„¢ incentive program. Too often entrepreneurs think they have to do all the rainmaking, but Prosek contends this is not so. Here’s a recent interview I had with Jennifer Prosek to get more insight into her new book, Army of Entrepreneurs:
Smallbizlady: What is an ARMY OF ENTREPRENEURS?
Jennifer Prosek: An Army of Entrepreneurs is an internal force of committed, creative employees. It is also a proven management and leadership model that can help business owners and managers grow their businesses by tapping and harnessing their existing workforce. There’s a replicable process for introducing and implementing the Army model in any organization and the best part is that the assets needed to initiate this new model are already in place — since they are your current employees.
Smallbizlady: How did the strategies that worked for your firm evolve into the management model you share in your new book?
Jennifer Prosek: Once I successfully deployed this on my own company, employee confidence and satisfaction soared. Identifying, nurturing, and watching the entrepreneurial spirit grow within my company has been a source of great pleasure to me both personally and professionally.
At CJP Communications, the Army model has helped to forge stronger teams, increase sales and client satisfaction, and develop employees who truly embrace the company’s brand. I know that it can do the same for other companies if they follow the roadmap outlined in the book.
Smallbizlady: How does this management model inspire and empower employees to develop an “owner’s mindset?”
Jennifer Prosek: With innovation and creativity driving the new economy, human capital has never been more important. But old management models don’t truly encourage the kind of entrepreneurial thinking needed for success. That’s where the Army model comes in. Every employee is empowered to develop an “owner’s mindset” and use his or her own resources and initiative to help the business succeed. That may mean coming up with a new product, a breakthrough idea for a client or a streamlined process. The unifying idea is that each person becomes a powerful force for growth within the organization.
Smallbizlady: What are the four key steps entrepreneurs need to take to lay the groundwork for creating a business environment and culture conducive to entrepreneurial behavior in order to increase growth and drive success?
Jennifer Prosek: The Army of Entrepreneurs model is comprised of four key components including an entrepreneurial culture; a powerful incentive program; a workforce that has a big-picture understanding of how a company works and makes money; and an ongoing program to maintain momentum. Specifically, to create an Army of Entrepreneurs business leader needs to follow the below steps:
a. Establish and nurture an entrepreneurial culture. Culture isn’t optional. To truly build an Army of Entrepreneurs, companies must have the right practices and outlook. The four elements of a core culture are authenticity, commitment to people, commitment to the business, and continuous effort.
b. Create a Commission for Lifeâ„¢. At CJP, any person who sets up a meeting that leads to new business — that’s it, just sets up the meeting — receives a 5 percent commission for the life of that account. While this is a cash reward, any ongoing incentive works. The idea is to create a reward that enables employees to align their own financial/professional goals with the growth/success of the company.
c. Teach them the business. While many businesses are focused on teaching employees the skills they need to do their jobs, an Army approach is focused on “teaching the business” — how it makes money, where clients come from, why they stay or go and other big-picture issues.
d. Maintain momentum. Building and sustaining an Army of Entrepreneurs and the culture that sustains it takes ongoing effort, initiative and originality. It’s critical to maintain momentum; inertia is the enemy.
Smallbizlady: You stress the importance of giving everyone in a company a financial incentive to embrace entrepreneurial behavior. Please explain how your “Commission for Lifeâ„¢” program does this, and why it works?
Jennifer Prosek: The crux of the Army strategy is to create an incentive that rewards the employee and helps align his or her personal and professional goals with that of the company’s. To kick-start the Army, I introduced the “Commission for Lifeâ„¢” program, in which the employee who sets up the first introductory new-business meeting–which turns into a full-fledged client account–receives a percentage of the revenue for the life of the business relationship. This “nudge” is essential to lighting a fire under your staff.
The reason this program works so well is that it levels the playing field and gives everyone at the firm from an executive assistant all the way up to the CFO the same opportunity to leverage their network of contacts to help drive the company’s growth. It also increases their individual financial situation and status at the agency.
Smallbizlady: Outside of financial incentives, what else can companies do to give employees at all levels a “nudge” towards embracing their entrepreneurial potential?
Jennifer Prosek: For some, the best incentive may be strictly financial. For others, it may involve more autonomy, creative control, or public acknowledgment of their good entrepreneurial ideas and behavior. The idea is to create an ongoing reward system that enables employees to align their own professional goals with the growth/success of the company.
While this book does focus a lot on what larger firms can do to become entrepreneurial, I do think there’s a lot of value for entrepreneurs. Grab your copy of Army of Entrepreneurs today.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)