5 Tips to Influence Stakeholders to Be More Entrepreneurial | The Garage Group

5 Tips to Influence Stakeholders to Be More Entrepreneurial

So, you’ve got most of your team in agreement that you need to be more entrepreneurial. You’re ready to try new strategies to move faster and push into the unknown with your brand, and you are willing to take risks in the hopes that a fresh approach toward problem-solving will help push your team to previously uncharted success.

However, it is more than likely that not all of your key stakeholders will share the same mindset. Perhaps they lack the perspective that you and the rest of your team have, or maybe they don’t fully understand why and how a more entrepreneurial approach could impact the company. Or, it could be that they perceive the risks as being too big for too little ROI.

This is far from uncommon, and getting everyone on board for a more entrepreneurial way of working simply takes time, patience and proof of concept, especially for those in more senior roles, with more on the line.

With that reality in mind, here are a few tips to move stakeholders along when it comes to fostering a more entrepreneurial approach for your brand.

Senior leaders have a lot on the line, and proven strategies, tactics and even mindsets are always more likely to be adopted than those that have yet to be tested. So, set yourself up for success: Instead of presenting vague hypothetical results to your stakeholders, do your best to calculate what the exact result will be gained from the risk taken or the specific learning results you’re hoping to achieve. For example, when asking for resources, know the up-front cost you will need, and quantify the anticipated result (e.g. “Investing X amount of money and time into this initiative will give us a profit of approximately $X within X amount of time”).

Another way to reduce perceived risk is to present case studies of in-category or adjacent category examples where a similar problem was successfully solved using entrepreneurial methods. For example, if you’re working on some type of tech-enabled solution, showcase how Toyota took a lean approach to exploring a new gas payment system. Proving a low level of risk (and high reward) early on will help put the overall risk into perspective for your stakeholders and can open up the possibility of taking future incremental jumps into entrepreneurship.

Although most challenges can be approached with a more entrepreneurial way of thinking, some are more conducive to it than others. Many things about the corporate way of working aren’t necessarily broken, and they are in place for good reason. And, sometimes stakeholders have a difficult time deciphering when to use a more entrepreneurial approach in favor of more tried-and-true methods of the corporate world.

Position yourself as a resource to help make decisions about how to handle certain challenges, and make a point to offer advice about challenges where a more entrepreneurial approach would be a good fit. A good rule of thumb? Any time you or your team has more assumptions or questions about a challenge than real knowledge, it’s probably wise to go the entrepreneurial route of quick testing and iteration loops.

Sometimes, getting key stakeholders involved in a part of the process that allows them to think and act entrepreneurially in targeted ways can be a great way to prove out this startup mindset before you ask for more resources or deeper involvement. However, it’s important not to ask too much of people when approaching work in fresh new ways.

For example, when we engage leaders in the ideation process, we serve up inspiration in the form of trends and analogs from well outside their traditional category and have them come up with ideas based on that stimulus. We don’t ask them to do all of the early trend exploration; having them connect dots and form ideas allows them to see immediate value of this new approach as well as the value of leveraging inspiration from well outside the category (a hallmark of successful entrepreneurs). Then, later on, once their interest is piqued and the believe in the approach, you can involve them in more in-depth aspects of the entrepreneurial process.

Stakeholders don’t always need to be involved in the start-to-finish execution of a project; sometimes, you just need them to give their permission and blessing to move forward with a more entrepreneurial approach to a problem. Instead of asking for help throughout every aspect of a process, ask stakeholders to be an advisor or mentor on your project–and give them a nontraditional title that steps outside the boundaries of their traditional role. Keeping them out of the executional part of the process will help mitigate risk for them, while giving inviting them in as an advisor can drive energy and empowerment.

Many leaders we’ve talked to just don’t have the capacity in their busy schedules to keep a truly detailed eye on market trends. According to Harvard Business Review:

Over the last four years, the entire U.S. Grocery Store’s Food and Beverage Category grew just 2.3% per year. The top 25 Food and Beverage companies contributed 0.1% of that annual growth rate. 2.2% ($17B) came from 20,000 small companies outside of the top 100.

Bring in examples and data that showcase how much disruption is happening in your category. By painting the picture of disruption and urgency in a meaningful way, you give stakeholders stronger reason to believe that disruption is real and having a significant impact on your brand or category.

Getting your stakeholders on board might seem daunting and downright impossible, but with enough perseverance and patience, it’s possible to get your foot in the door to a more entrepreneurial way of working together.

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