Are you running with a largely reactive or proactive business strategy? Do you wait until you need to act or do you plan your response to events in advance?

Adopt proactive strategies for every part of your business if you want to deliver value to your customers/clients and desire to maximize your growth opportunities.

But some organizations and teams prefer the alternative. See some of their habits below. Do you recognize any you need to change regarding your team or organization?


Reactive vs. Proactive Business Strategies

1. You Stay in Cruise Mode Until a Threat Emerges

You can keep cruising as the leaders in your industry until a threat emerges. Or you can work at disrupting yourself before an external force compels you to do so.

The reactive approach is to enjoy your prosperity bubble until a competitor or startup blindsides you. The better, proactive way is to scan your environment (internal and external) continuously for opportunities to innovate. Follow the path of ambidextrous companies that continue to exploit their current cash cows while exploring new opportunities to succeed into the future.


2. You Think Everything is Fine if No One Complains

Many people consider passing a complaint as a hassle. They wonder why your services are so bad and either resolve to keep buying from you because it’s still convenient or they just stop. They don’t tell you anything.

At those times when complaints do come through managers go into firefighting mode. That’s just being reactive. There’s a better way.

Be proactive. Don’t wait until someone complains. Elicit feedback as early and as often as you can. Welcome all feedback, cherish the negative ones especially because it requires a great deal of courage for some people to communicate critical feedback. The other point is that negative feedback is an opportunity you can mine to improve your offerings and bottomline.


3. You Generally Wait Until Something Happens

Do you wait until you need a list of vendors and suppliers, customer testimonials, or a network of partners before you scramble to collate them? Do you wait for the equipment to break down or do you adopt a scheduled maintenance culture?

Be proactive, build for the future now. 


The Benefits of a Proactive Business Strategy

Businesses with reactive strategies play catchup all the time, compete in red ocean territories, and are constantly in panic mode. 

Organizations that adopt proactive strategies constantly innovate, invent new markets, and are positioned to seize opportunities to achieve their business objectives most of the time.

The better way, the proactive way is not the easy way. But it will cost you way less and bring you much more gains than waiting for events to unfold before you react. 

Here are some benefits you derive when your organization runs in proactive mode:

  1. A proactive strategy helps to define and differentiate your brand.
  2. It helps you to develop a culture of innovation.
  3. Your business becomes nimble. You can take on new opportunities when you are prepared for them.
  4. You are able to build strong customer relationships and by extension high customer loyalty.
  5. It provides opportunities to meet your business objectives, e.g., quality assurance, product innovation, customer retention, revenue growth, or business resilience.
  6. You rise above the competition.


Why Organizations Remain Largely Reactive

The benefits of adopting proactive strategies are obvious. So, why do organizations choose to stay in reactive mode?

Both reactive and proactive strategies come at a cost. The costs associated with adopting a proactive business strategy are paid upfront and are a given. It’s like paying an insurance premium. Of course, the investment is worth it when unplanned events occur. 

But some organizations tend to test their luck. There’s no need to change anything if

  • a customer does not complain,
  • the equipment continues to function (albeit in an obvious decline),
  • employees continue to show up.

It’s a gamble that comes with far-reaching consequences. 


A 4-Step Method to Developing a Proactive Strategy

1. Look Back

Review instances where you have been caught off guard in the past and had to react to a situation. Make a list of the most crucial events.

2. Look Forward

Consider worst-case scenarios (although that can be frowned upon in hopeful, optimistic environments). Ask questions regarding your most important assets and operations: what happens if abc stops working? What will we do if xyz happens? 

3. Identify

Now, identify what you need to put in place as proactive measures to prevent, mitigate or address those issues.

4. Execute

Go ahead, put the resources in place to actualize your proactive strategies.


The Long-Term View

As the leader of your company or team, a good way to develop a proactive strategy for your work and organization is to adopt a long-term, big picture mindset.

Step away from running operations from time to time so you can reflect on the measures you can put in place. You will never get to a place where everything is perfect, but you will know that you are prepared when foreseen and incidental events happen. 

We are rooting for you!

Are you looking to discover new opportunities in life and career? If you haven’t had the chance to do so, taking the time to do some structured reflection is a great way to start off the year.

While many tools can help you do this, creating your personal business model using the Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a great way to discover new opportunities in your life and career.

For those familiar with it, the BMC is a simple yet powerful tool used by businesses to discover optimal ways to create and deliver value to the customers they identify. Originally created by Alexander Osterwalder, this tool evolved to help individuals create a personal business model to define their purpose and values, inventory their skills and competencies, and chart a path for growth. You might want to check out the book Business Model You by Tim Clark in collaboration with Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.

Here is a version of the Personal Business Model Canvas:

The Personal Business Model Canvas










Analyzing the Personal Business Model Canvas

The BMC is based on a canvas divided into nine blocks: Key Partners, Key Activities, Key Resources, Value Proposition, Customer Relationships, Customer Segment, Channels, Cost Structure, and Revenue Streams. Its power comes from the opportunity to create a concise model on one page thereby making it easier to make connections between the various elements. The following highlights each block of the personalized Business Model Canvas:

  1. Key Partners: Who are your key collaborators, suppliers, vendors within and outside your organization? Who will help you?
  2. Key Activities: What do you do? What are the most important, significant activities you do? Taking stock of these will also help you see which ones you should prioritize or at least begin to reflect on the ones to prioritize, reduce or abandon for the sake of focus.
  3. Key Resources: What are your key resources? Include tangible and intangible assets such as certifications, investments, knowledge, certifications, soft skills, and so on.
  4. Value Proposition: What do you have to offer? What’s your uniqueness? Why should anyone hire you or do business with you? Take stock of your skills, competencies, and abilities. Find the edge you have, create a short statement.
  5. Customer Relationships: How do you interact with your customers? Phone calls, email, chat? Virtual meetings, newsletters, blog posts, or articles? How will your customers reach you when they need you?
  6. Channels: Through what platforms do you work or serve your customers–people, groups, or organizations?
  7. Customer Segment: Who are the people you serve? You may be an employee but you need to know the people who benefit from your work directly and indirectly, for example, the people your work affects. If you are a business leader, founder, or freelancer, this becomes even clearer.
  8. Cost Structure: What are the most significant things you spend money on? Determining these will lead to reviewing how to manage or streamline your expenses efficiently. What do you give?
  9. Revenue Streams: How will you make money? Salary, commissions, wages, royalties, sales income? Determine the activities tied directly to generating income for you.


The Benefits of Creating Your Personal Business Model

  • Creating your personal business model helps to pause to review your life’s progress
  • It provides a concise status report and inventory of your life and career
  • Your business model helps you to identify gaps between your current and ideal models of life and career
  • It offers an opportunity to identify potential growth areas and the impetus to begin to live and work more intentionally based on your discoveries


How To Create Your Personal Business Model

You can create your personal business model today by taking this simple but powerful exercise using the BMC. Ultimately, the idea is to create two models, the first of your current status: your key partners, resources, activities, and so on. The second model will be your vision of the future, based on the identified gaps and growth areas, a model of your ideal life and career. Finally, you will enumerate the action steps you need to take to move from where you are to where you want to be.

These are the steps again:

  1. Create your current personal business model
  2. Create your future or ideal personal business model
  3. Identify the gaps or changes you want to make
  4. List the action steps you need to achieve your goal(s)
  5. Go for it!

Let’s see this personal BMC in action.


An Example of a Personal Business Model

Here is an example of a fictional character John’s personal business model:

A. John’s Current Personal Business Model:

John's Current Personal BMC

















B. John’s Ideal or Future Personal Business Model

John's Ideal or Future Personal BMC




Your Turn Now

What will you do next? Take the next steps to create your personal BMC. Start working on the elements you have identified. Be more intentional as you act regarding all various aspects.

For instance, our fictional professional will probably have some of these:

  • Take software development courses
  • Sign up for a business course
  • Learn more about blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • Start a social enterprise

Are you curious to have a go at creating your own personal business model? We promise it will be an amusing exercise at the very least, but it might just jumpstart a revolution in the way you think about yourself and your career.

You may download and print the template or create yours. You may also visit the Business Model You website to download a copy (requires joining the online community). Record your responses in each block as you discover new opportunities for your life and career.

If you are a leader tasked with delivering innovation, your job is to guide your team or organization to discover and develop new ideas in order to deliver value to clients and customers. This note serves to remind you of some key elements you can put in place as you and your team prepare to do amazing things in the days ahead.


Welcome All Ideas, from Everyone

First, appreciate ideas for their own sake. It’s a good sign. Why? It tells you people are thinking, it tells you that they are invested in accomplishing results. Now ideas may be great, good, bad, or even stupid but that’s of secondary importance. Ideas are dynamic.

You can influence the quality of ideas showing up within the team by taking certain measures. We will see some of those below. Again, bad ideas in one context can become great ones in another. Ask everyone to pitch in, not just as an assignment but as a habit. 


Plant Idea Seeds

You do this by cultivating a culture and work environment where learning is centerstage, where it is celebrated. This is how to shape the ideas coming from your team. Support professional learning opportunities as well as non-work-related learning experiences.

You can employ courses, workshops, books, events, mentoring sessions. Do what you can to expose your people to the best learning experiences. You are seeding their minds with data and information that will birth new ideas and idea connections that will bring forth innovation.


Create A Healthy Environment

Foster a culture of empathy, mutual respect, and collaboration. Lead by relating to people as individuals, not just employees. This requires more effort than treating them as contracted employees earning salaries or commissions, but it creates important connections, to varying degrees.

Two things happen when you do this: 1, the connection you create leads to better communication, and understanding of roles and expectations. 2, You set a model for communication and interaction among the team, the trust and mutual respect spread across the team creating a web of engagement and goodwill. Remember, an idea may come from one person, but the resulting innovation is usually due to teamwork.


Applaud Innovation — and Effort and Improvement

Recognize and reward innovation whether it be the huge, revenue-generating idea or a cost-saving one as simple as reducing power consumption or paper or toner usage. In the same vein, recognize and reward effort and risk-taking, too — within the borders of the organization’s objectives, ethical or regulatory requirements. As Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson said in The One Minute Manager, “Catch them doing something right.”

Conversely, avoid blaming and shaming, whether in private or in public. Where someone falls short, guide them to learn from such events, emphasize learning from such events. They are opportunities for both individual and organizational learning and growth.


Allow Change

Many leaders solicit ideas, even celebrate them, and yet prefer to maintain the status quo. The joy isn’t in the applause, people embrace the call to innovate because they want to see actual results and are frustrated when they don’t get the support they expect.

What do you do with the ideas people bring to you? How many ideas have you run with or investigated in the last year? Allow change. Take them as experiments, small bets with support and resources within the bounds of the organization’s budget. Who knows, they just might turn out to be the future of your organization.


Communication plays a huge role in innovation. 

It also involves listening. Communicate the team’s or organization’s vision and goals and be open to contributions from the un-usual suspects: seek out perspectives and opinions from the quietest people, from the rebels, from non-management staff.

Create a system for eliciting feedback on the organization’s most important goals and aspirations from the rank and file. A suggestion box might be useful, or an email address, or an app. Choose what works best for your organization.

So, remember to welcome all ideas, promote a learning culture and a healthy working environment, celebrate innovation and effort, and be willing to support the new ideas for innovation.

Employees must become entrepreneurial to remain employed and employable in 2022 and beyond! Behaving as an entrepreneurial employee or an intrapreneur will provide you with the closest thing to job security. Embracing intrapreneurship begins with a mental shift: that you as an employee are a unique, significant agent who can actively help the company thrive now and into the future by contributing to current goals and by exploring and championing new ideas and opportunities for innovation.


You Don’t Have to Be a Techie

Just to be clear, intrapreneurship is not necessarily about being technologically adept, although having that attribute will provide you with certain opportunities. Intrapreneurship is, however, the trait of curiosity, of learning and adaptability, of being able to identify gaps and potential. It is a combination of traits related to imagination, empathy, drive, and creative problem-solving.


Threats to Job Security

Some of the threats to job security may include: a company’s right-sizing or winding down due to economic downturns, the elimination of a job function or role due to a company restructuring, for instance, during a merger or acquisition, new talent or skill requirement for available roles, or a displacement of labour by technology, for instance, artificial intelligence (AI).

While you may have no control over some of these scenarios such as a firm’s liquidation, acting as an intrapreneur offers you a level of guarantee against other threats. Your curiosity and self-driven leadership will help you identify your own path to professional development and upskilling, your interest in creative problem-solving will help you understand the organization’s direction and self-identify as one of those who can champion change and innovation within it. You come to develop a trained instinct for deciphering market and industry trends and are able to contribute positively to the company’s navigation of these changes.


AI and The Future of Jobs

One question continues to show up: Will AI take away everyone’s jobs?

It may be some years into the future before the true state of things unfolds. But what we know for certain is that the first jobs to go will be routine, paper-pushing jobs which require little to no creativity on the part of the employee, for example, clerks, phone operators, and so on. AI has been deployed to replace lawyers reviewing commercial loan agreements, journalists at media services, and disc jockeys at radio stations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has served us a prelude to that future where people were unavailable to do their jobs for obvious reasons. Toll collectors, janitors, cashiers, customer service representatives, drivers, waiters, receptionists, salespersons, and security guards were replaced by robots. In one dire scenario painted by Elon Musk, he predicts that all jobs will disappear until the only ones left will be writing AI software… until AI is then able to write its own software and then all human jobs become non-existent.


Intrapreneurs Wanted—No, Required

As we march towards existence-bending technological innovations such as the metaverse, forward-looking organizations will increasingly position themselves for that future when they assess potential and current employees. We foresee that the people with the most significant contributions to the organization’s future, and not just its current bottom line will increasingly be prized above everyone else. They will be the ones not just with technical skills, but those exhibiting many of those skills we have enumerated above.

Of course, the situation will be different across various organizations and industries, but our hunch is that more organizations will bank on innovation from within their ranks. The intrapreneurs who help fulfill this ambition will enjoy the closest thing to job security.


Becoming an Entrepreneurial Employee

While some employees are more entrepreneurial by nature, the good news is that you can learn to become a more entrepreneurial employee. You may start here by reading this widely acclaimed book: The Intrapreneur: Ignite Your Work Life.

We are also putting together a number of resources and training opportunities you will find empowering. Do stay tuned.

Dear Business Leader, there are people right now in your organization with the ideas and drive you seek to take your business to the next level–or at least start the company on the way to new innovation. They are intrapreneurs. You will do well to invest in them, and in their ideas.

According to Gifford Pinchot III, the revered proponent of intrapreneurship, these intrapreneurs are:

  • Employees who do for corporate innovation what an entrepreneur does for his or her start-up.
  • Dreamers who do.
  • Self-appointed general managers of a new idea.
  • Drivers of change to make business a force for good.

They are the ones who challenge the status quo, bring forward new ideas, and find fulfillment in translating new ideas to change and innovation. Sometimes, they are the odd employees who think differently, who appear way more critical of the new product, the ones constantly wondering, often aloud, “maybe there is a better way” to carry out a certain process or to design a certain product.

The Demand and Opportunity for Innovation

The global startup culture is both a boon and a threat to established organizations. In a world where there are no guaranteed markets or revenue sources, in one where the competition is not just other players in your industry but those in unrelated industries, companies must ramp up their innovativeness in order to survive and thrive in the market.

This innovativeness is how readily you adopt new ways in your operations or introduce positive change in how the customer experiences your offering. There are generally three ways to achieve this:

  1. Acquire another business to leverage its innovation.
  2. Partner with external parties such as other startups to pursue innovation.
  3. Develop internal capacity to mine ideas, explore and nurture them to deliver value to the customer.

Of those three means, the ability for organizations to develop innovation internally is highly significant. Such innovation helps the organization to grow organically and offers obvious cost-savings over going outside to shop for innovation, at least in the short term. How do you achieve this internal-driven innovation? You can achieve this through intrapreneurs.

Examples of Intrapreneurs’ Impact

For instance, Sony’s largest business segment as of 2020 was its game and network services (Source). Did you know that the top executives at Sony rejected the idea of developing a gaming division when an employee Ken Kutaragi first proposed it? They thought it was a waste of time, a fad not worth the company’s time and resources. There are more examples of intrapreneurs literally at work:

  • Gmail came into existence because a Google employee Paul Bucheit invented it outside his routine job.
  • Freddy Anzures first came up with Apple’s iconic ‘swipe to unlock’ feature.
  • Shoppers on Amazon can be assured of two-day delivery because employees developed Amazon Prime.
  • Starbucks ramped up its personalized customer experience because one intrapreneurial barista had a habit of writing customer names on coffee cups instead of the coffee type.

Typically you would expect to find intrapreneurs in product development, marketing, and sales departments or teams but increasingly the organization must look beyond such roles in identifying and enabling entrepreneurial employees to share and implement their ideas. The organization thrives as intrapreneurs drive innovation within it.

How to Empower Employees to Become Intrapreneurs

Here are some steps you can begin to take to awaken an intrapreneurial spirit in your employees:

  • Become a Learning Organization. Encourage everyone to learn and grow. Provide learning opportunities and amenities. Nurture a community of curious people, learners and thinkers. Evaluate your learning and development programs to include everyone.
  • Bring your people closer to your customers. Find opportunities to expose your people to customers so they understand your business better. People across the organization will feel empowered to pitch in when they experience the processes of serving your customers firsthand.
  • Encourage everyone to share ideas. If you have a think-tank, a committee or team responsible for generating ideas, repurpose the team to serve as an engine for collecting and refining ideas.
  • Demonstrate that you value good ideas. Sponsor the ideas or have other leaders adopt the ideas employees propose. Recognize and reward ideas. Let your people develop confidence in the process.
  • Ask for problems, ask for solutions. Share problems, ask for solutions. If you are defensive when employees come up with problems, they will clam up when they should be initiating or furthering conversations that lead to change. Rather than justifying the company’s position, ask for solutions instead. In fact, go one step further by being the one to share problems first and invite employees to provide ideas and solutions.
  • Give new ideas room to grow without the pressures of the regular performance metrics. Large companies do this when they expend much resources on new innovations and experiments without expecting returns for extended periods. One way to achieve this as a small business is to take small bets. Encourage new ideas with minimal resources in test markets, look for ways to piggyback new ideas on your current cash cows.
  • Allow idea champions to lead or take active roles in developing the ideas. As appropriate, support them with a cross-functional team to see the idea through to delivery.
  • Recognize and reward good ideas. Work with the mix that works best for your organization–company recognitions, cash awards, promotions, and others.

Intrapreneurs Drive Innovation from Within

More than ever before, innovation driven from within will help businesses stay relevant in the ever-demanding marketplace. Without this, your business cannot be nimble enough to adapt to changing market conditions. No matter how well-established your business is, it must adapt to the environment, and in many cases learn to pivot like a startup. Raising a company of intrapreneurs will create a force of innovation that will help your business thrive in the seasons ahead.

The story of Airbnb’s early days lends credence to this maxim. When Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia pitched their idea of a service that would offer people accommodation in random homes instead of hotels, investors decided it was a bad idea and refused to fund their startup. Paul Graham of Y Combinator also thought it was a bad idea but he put down the money to help the founders run the business.

Why? He was convinced the guys would at least be smart enough to pivot to a reasonable venture when reality had rid them of their delusion. He believed in the founders enough to invest even if their idea was doubtful. Today, that bad idea has a valuation of $80 billion! The startup’s success is perhaps a combination of many factors, but the attributes of the founders contributed to raising the necessary funding in the first place.

Entrepreneurs Focus on Ideas, Smart Investors Want to Know More

Many entrepreneurs swear by their ideas. They think their ideas will change the world. And they guard these ideas with all they have, protecting them, nursing them, waiting for the smart investor. They are certain the smart investor will jump at financing their super ideas as soon as he or she hears them.

Smart Investors Invest in People, Not in Ideas


While these investors truly want to hear those great ideas, they are more particular about the person (and increasingly the people) pushing the idea. They are more interested in the entrepreneur’s history, their exposure and experience, their education and networks. They want to know about the person’s capacity, character, and competence. Investors want to know what they have been able to achieve in the past because past success could be a predictor of future success. Beyond ideas, investors are keen on the entrepreneur’s ability to execute.

You can begin to take certain steps to become that prime candidate smart investors are looking for no matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey.

Pay Attention to Your Growth

So, what do you need to do? Focus on building your three Cs — Your Competence, Character, and Capacity.

1. Competence: Keep learning, keep developing the right skills to do the job. This includes not just technical skills relatable to your specialty but entrepreneurial and business skills as well. Take courses in marketing, finance, leadership, or even public speaking. Take an inventory of your skills and begin to bridge your competence gap.

2. Character: Pay attention to your attitudes, values, and priorities. Be your authentic self, but above all strive to inculcate the disciplines and habits for success. Do you value delivering on your promises? Are you a person of integrity striving to do as you say? What do the values of integrity, respect, collaboration, and perseverance mean to you?

3. Capacity: Your competence and character naturally lead to building your capacity. How much of what you can do are you able to do? It refers to your stamina–physical, mental, psychological, essentially how far you can keep going under the demands of work and responsibility.

The good thing about all these traits is that you can learn, grow, and improve in all three dimensions as you address them. This is the way to develop qualities as a person who brings value to the table. Certain ideas will only occur to you as you grow in those three areas.

Teams Offer Confidence

Just a note on teams: Investors feel more comfortable with teams of founders than with single stars. They want to know that critical roles such as product development, marketing, and finance are manned by competent members of a founding team. The team’s competence is a reflection of each member’s competence. A mediocre team can take a good idea and create nothing significant of it. But a good team can take a plain, obvious-to-the-eye, plain-as-vanilla idea and make an empire of it.

Members of a team are able to complement one another thereby presenting a strong case to investors. That is another reason to pay attention to your personal growth. It becomes easier to attract smart people to yourself as you grow.

In conclusion, great ideas only translate to value with the right execution. It takes the right mix of competence, character, and capacity to take an idea from concept to value delivery. Smart investors know this, which is why they invest in people, and not in ideas.

When Satya Nadella became Microsoft CEO in 2014, he embraced a mission to transform the organization’s culture from one of infighting to a culture of collaboration. Where the organization was previously depicted as a group of warring factions, employees are now rewarded for helping their colleagues to succeed. That culture shift has helped Microsoft to chart a path of success. Microsoft has now overtaken Apple as the world’s most valuable company with a valuation of over $2.5 trillion.


Culture is Critical

In a survey of executives by researchers at Duke University, 92% admitted that improving a firm’s culture would improve its value, but only 16% felt that they had an ideal corporate culture. (Link) An overwhelming majority of leaders agreed that their culture was preventing them from achieving their business goals. 

If that is the case, what then stops companies from changing their culture to help them achieve their goals? The reason might be similar to the reason most of us struggle with habits. Trying to change an organization’s culture could be complicated and resource-consuming. But like personal habits, an organization’s culture can also change with conscious and consistent effort.


Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast (and Lunch?)

An organization will make progress or decline in line with its culture. A company’s culture refers to the prevailing values in an organization, the type of behavior that gets rewarded, or as any employee might say, “this is how we do things.”

An organization’s culture may help or hinder it from reaching its target. It is possible for an organization to adopt some seemingly rock-solid organizational strategy and yet fail when it comes to execution. Among other variables, a key reason may be because acting towards realizing the goal of the strategy is in conflict with the way work is done. 

On the other hand, a company’s culture may help it to prosper. Harvard professors Philip Kotter and James Heskett studied 200 companies to find out how each company’s culture affected its long-term economic performance. They discovered that “those companies with strong corporate cultures that facilitate adaptation to a changing world are associated with strong financial results.” 

What does it mean for a company to have a “strong culture”? A strong culture is one that highly values people, that is, employees, customers, and owners. It is also a culture that encourages leadership from everyone in the organization. The authors called these performance-enhancing cultures. The values embedded in the culture made it easy for employees to fulfill the organization’s strategy. 


Examples of Strong Cultures

1. Cisco

Ranked as #1 on the 2021 list of Great Place to Work, this is a quote from an employee:

“The attention that the executive team pays to the health and welfare of the surrounding community is extraordinary. Company leadership works to ensure that the company is an active member of the communities in which we operate and are quick to provide resources to support the most vulnerable. I also am heartened by our CEO’s focus on social justice issues, specificly [sic] those in support of the Black community. Before it became en vogue to do so, he was vested in listening and taking authentic strategic, meaningful actions.” (Link)

2. Zenefits (Human Resource Software as a Service Company)

Amidst a crisis, Zenefits’ interim CEO David Sacks announced a change in the culture based on three core values:

    • #1 Operate with integrity.
    • #2 Put the customer first.
    • #3 Make this a great place to work for employees.

3. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines decided to place their employees first, and not customers. The leadership believes that happy employees will lead to happy, satisfied customers and improved revenue. At a point in 2020, Southwest Airlines became the world’s biggest airline by the number of travelers.


How Long Does It Take to Change a Corporate Culture?

On the question of how long it takes to improve an organization’s culture, the answer is: it depends. The desired change depends on factors such as the existing system of recognition and rewards within the firm (who gets the applause? what gets rewarded?), the buy-in of people in management positions, and the behavior of top management (i.e., founder or CEO).

Leadership is the Key

Of these dependent factors and more, the most important element is the behavior of the leader. Employees will mimic or reflect the leader’s interest and focus. But the level of influence a leader has on the company depends on the level of employee engagement, or to put it very simply, trust. 

In laying the foundation for cultural change, the leader must begin by asking such questions as: 

  • What are our values as an organization?
  • What behaviors will we reward? 
  • How shall we continue to do business?

Leaders must start with themselves when addressing these questions. Employees may also be encouraged to speak up about what they consider an ideal corporate culture. More importantly, leaders must be deliberate about communicating their priorities to the organization. 


Changing Your Corporate Culture

To sum it up, the quality of leadership is the critical factor to changing an organization’s culture. Employees will imitate the desired behaviors when they see leaders consistently demonstrating those attitudes and values.

The corporate culture would evolve in the anticipated direction in due course. The process of transformation cannot be engineered but with the right models and incentives, a company’s leader can alter the corporate culture to become a performance-enhancing one that helps to generate growth, revenue, and goodwill.

Entrepreneurship is about identifying and solving problems using new ideas. The greater the scale or impact to which this is achieved, the more successful people and organizations can be. Let’s talk about three important elements you need to achieve success as an entrepreneur. You need to have

  • an intuition for identifying problems,
  • the character for seeking solutions to the problems, and
  • the acumen for monetizing the solutions.

Of course, many other variables come into play such as the team involved or marketing, but these are the core components. Let’s take a quick look at these core activities.


1. Identify the Problem

You need to identify a real problem faced by people at a location you can reach. You cannot assume, the issue must be real. Now, saying this does not mean it must be a functional problem, some problems are psychological or luxury-seeking.

For instance, the lack of potable water in an African community is a functional, life-threatening problem. Searching for bottled water in the UK is also a problem, not one of thirst or survival, but of preference or choice. But a problem is a problem, it just depends on whom you are addressing and where you are, that is, the context.


2. Develop a Problem-Solving Idea

Secondly, you should seek to develop a problem-solving idea. Consider the context, that is, the people, economy, or timing, what type of solution would eliminate or at least begin to address the problem in question?

With Project Loon, Google tried to address the problem of internet blackout or poor coverage in the remotest parts of developing countries. The idea was to deploy wi-fi using balloons floating over the areas with poor or service blackouts. On the other hand, Elon Musk’s Starlink is on a mission to solve the same problem using satellite technology.


3. Convert the Idea into a Source of Income

Finally, you have to find a way to convert that idea to a form in which people can pay you money for it. Again, the factor of context must be considered.

For instance, someone may identify the problem of poor infant nutrition in her community. Her idea may be to offer nutritious food to families to solve this problem. Now, should families be able to buy the food on-demand or have it delivered monthly? Should it be a large food basket able to sustain the child for the month or should it be chunked up into more affordable units (in the short term)?

The answers to these and more questions would depend on knowing the attributes of the target customers and tailoring the solution to fit their capacity as it meets their needs.


Successful Entrepreneurship

Lifebank founder Temie Giwa-Tubosun identified the problem of access to safe blood for women in cases related to pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria and Africa. She came to this reality after her own “complicated and harrowing” experience during childbirth despite the fact that she had her child in the US.

The question was: how did women in less fortunate situations in Africa fare during such experiences? With the rate of maternal deaths in Nigeria at nearly 20% of the global count, she knew she had identified a real problem she could help solve by providing briding the logistics gap.

Having identified the problem, she founded Lifebank to provide the required logistics to source for and deliver the much-needed blood to hospitals on-demand 24/7. The organization partners with blood banks across Nigeria and Kenya with other countries on the horizon.

Patients and doctors place orders for whole blood, other blood products, and oxygen via their website, mobile app, or telephone, Lifebank contacts the nearest blood bank closest to the patient, and delivery is made. This could be by car, motorcycle, boat, or a drop-in delivery by drone if that is what the occasion demands.

Lifebank continues to innovate by launching new solutions such as the

  • SmartBag, explained as “a blockchain-powered product that helps patients and health providers discover the safety records of blood and blood products”,
  • Blood and Oxygen Access Trust (BOAT) for creating universal access to healthcare for low-income patients,
  • Home Kit for COVID-19 tests, and
  • DonorX, an online portal that allows blood donors to book donation appointments at the closest blood banks.

In 2019, Lifebank won the $250,000 first prize of the Africa Netpreneur Award Initiative by the Jack Ma Foundation.


It’s Your Turn

Look around and you will find that these three key building blocks are the pillars of successful businesses around you, regardless of the industry. Do these thoughts stir up any ideas? Do feel free to comment, like, and share this post.

Do you feel you deserve a promotion or better pay at work? Your success at work depends on more than your performance. Harvey Coleman in his book, Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed, explains why one’s progress at work depends essentially on three things: performance, image, and exposure, or PIE. Understanding this concept and applying it could make a huge difference in your career, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.

Here is a simple graphic to help put things in perspective:

Success at work depends on your PIE

The PIE for Success at Work

First, the performance factor comes across as a given to most people. But the surprising insight Coleman puts forward is that your performance only amounts to 10% of what you need to succeed at work. Only 10%!

Your image, that is, how you are perceived at work or what people think about you, ranks higher at 30%.

The last piece of the PIE, exposure, refers to the visibility of your achievements to people that matter at work. This takes up a whopping 60% of the total. Effectively, your exposure is the biggest piece of the PIE and the most crucial factor. Let’s take a closer look at each piece.


1. Performance

What do you do at work? Do you do your job well? This is essentially what this factor points at, and it is where most of us have our focus, at least, those people who pride themselves on their diligence at work.

We work hard. But working hard does not guarantee progress or promotion at work. In fact, meeting and exceeding your set goals, key performance indicators or objectives is no guarantee either. According to Coleman, your performance only takes 10% of the equation.

While your performance may get you into an organization and keep you employed, making progress within it requires your attending to the other elements of Image and Exposure. Work hard, it is the foundation for the other pieces of the PIE. But do remember to pay attention to these other factors because they carry considerable weight.


2. Image

The second piece of the PIE is your image or personal brand. It encompasses the totality of your outlook, how you are perceived within the organization. Your actual performance is one thing, but do colleagues, senior colleagues, perceive you as reticent, negative, or uncooperative?

Are you great at your job, but don’t pay enough attention to how you appear at work? Your image is an important piece of the equation, and by Coleman’s calculation, this is a whopping 30% of the deal. What is your score here? What are you going to do about it?

Dr. Tayo Oyedeji, the CEO of Overwood, once told a story about a situation where the board of a company he led sought to promote a suitable candidate to a senior management position. Two names showed up on the list, but interestingly the majority of the board decided to shun the individual with the better qualifications and achievements on the job.

Their reason? He didn’t look the part. The candidate dressed oddly, coming to work in, for instance, flowery or bright-colored shirts. He didn’t fit the image of the person they wanted to have in that role and that became an obstacle to his success at work. Fortunately, the story does not end there. We will see where it leads as we consider the final piece of the PIE.


3. Exposure

This is the most important piece of the PIE. How well are your contributions and achievements visible or traceable to you? Even where you work on a team, you will have to make that extra effort to ensure that your unique contributions are seen and acknowledged by colleagues at all levels.

While this may be seen as self-promotion or arrogance in certain environments, your work here is to study the nature of your particular organization and find ways to have your achievements documented, visible, and traceable.

One way you can achieve this is to be open to new or lateral responsibilities. Is there a call for volunteers for a new project? How about signing up? Is there a difficult customer call or visit your organization or team needs to make? Consider joining the team or making the call.

And when you do take these steps, ensure you give a report in writing, beyond any verbal communication. You can even get creative with the process: arrange to have lunch or coffee with the relevant person where you can share progress about your work, but remember to connect it with an interest or goal he or she will find beneficial to their own progress at work. 

The rest of the story

Back to the earlier story, the candidate was saved when the managing director intervened on his behalf. He convinced the board to offer him a three-month probationary promotion while he worked with him to sort out his image. Why did the director do this? He was aware of the candidate’s capabilities and history of performance.

So you see, while the individual scored poorly as regards his image, he scored very high marks with his performance and exposure and hence could have the leader speak up on his behalf. What if his contributions at work, for some reason, could not be traced to him?


Through the Glass Ceiling

Are we talking about becoming better at office politics? No. The pieces of the PIE are in harmony: if you do your work well, you stand a chance of projecting an image of a dependable, professional person while paying attention to other factors (such as your dressing and interpersonal skills), and ultimately if you keep at building your brand, you consistently attain new levels of exposure as you take on more responsibility in contributing to the organization’s success.

Where there are no guarantees in business or in life for that matter, you stand a far better chance of succeeding progressively in your career when you pay attention to your performance, image, and exposure at work. This, perhaps, is your elevator through the glass ceiling–if it cannot be broken–at your workplace.

What do you think? Which part of the PIE do you think you should pay attention to at work?

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