The following is an interview with Jennifer Prosek, author of Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth. She is the founder and CEO of CJP Communications, an award-winning international public relations and financial communications consultancy.
What is an ARMY OF ENTREPRENEURS?
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. ”
“The Army model can be implemented by organizations of any size and in any industry, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. 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.”
How did the strategies that worked for your firm evolve into the management model you share in your new book, ARMY OF ENTREPRENEURS?
Prosek: “Once I successfully deployed the Army, employee confidence and satisfaction soared. Leaders and managers benefited too. Identifying, nurturing and watching the entrepreneurial spirit grow within my company has been a source of great pleasure to me both personally and professionally.”
“While I once felt single-handedly responsible for my business and my team, I am now standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my Army of Entrepreneurs and that gave me the desire to share this model with other business leaders so they can benefit from it as well.”
“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. ”
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?
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 a business leader needs to follow the below steps:
- 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.
- Create a Commission for Life™. 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.
- 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.
- 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. “
Can you provide an example of how an entrepreneurial spirit can help a company manage and recover from disasters?
Prosek: “Facing burnout and frustration from being my firm’s chief rainmaker, manager, and creative force, I came to the realization that while I was a natural entrepreneur, others in my firm were not. ”
“But with the right training, resources, and encouragement, everyone could become more entrepreneurial and work alongside me to collectively grow the business. ”
“I developed the Army model over several years but my first big test was going on maternity leave in 2007 but an even bigger (and unanticipated) test came later. During the prolonged recession, the Army model literally saved my business. At a time when 65 percent of public relations agencies nationwide reported revenue decline, CJP Communications had modest growth due to the ability of CJP’s Army to replace half the firm’s business.”
“The culture and foundation were already in place and so in this time of crisis when many organizations were scrambling to put a plan in place to keep their heads above water, the Army model allowed me to just ask my soldiers to turn it up a few notches in order to meet the challenge head on and make strides to keep the business’ growth engine humming.”
Our American Management Association New Media Team will be doing a webcast with Jennifer Prosek, next week. She will be sharing how entrepreneurs and managers can unlock the full potential of their staff.
Creating an Engaged Workforce
March 2, 2011 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST