With the auto industry essentially redefining its purpose and the rise of unemployment, some metro Detroiters have turned to entrepreneurship, and in certain cases, intrapreneurship.
Inc. magazine describes intrapreneurship as “the process of starting a new company from within an existing one.”
Dr. Robert McTyre Sr., an educator and business consultant in the metro Detroit area, defines it as, “in essence, the applying of entrepreneurial skills in the workplace setting.”
McTyre added that this is most prevalent in knowledge- and service-type operations where individuals often must function in ad hoc teams for a short-lived project. He cites universities, media companies and consulting firms as falling under this umbrella term.
“As the service economy continues to grow,” McTyre said, “there will undoubtedly be an increase in this activity playing itself out in the workplace.”
Small businesses account for more than one half of the jobs created in the U.S., and two-thirds of the millionaires in the country are small business owners, according to the authors of “Entrepreneurial Small Business,” a textbook recently published by McGraw-Hill. McTyre highly recommends the book, as it lays the groundwork for making the teaching of entrepreneurship a mainstream subject in today’s universities.
“So, what is really happening in Michigan and in many pockets of the country is that our society is gradually returning to being a purely entrepreneurial culture,” McTyre said. “When we were a purely agrarian society a century and a half ago, this was the rule, not the exception. Once the industrial age kicked into full gear, the 9-to-5 work mindset took reign. But all of that has been transformed due to the globalization of business and the emergence of computer and Internet communications.”
He also teaches seminars that instruct startup business owners how to write effective business plans.
“Being a business makes one more responsible in the managing of finances in general, I think,” McTyre said. “Because a business owner has to face ‘the big picture’ every day, there is a tendency to treat personal finance in a business way – that is, doing the appropriate due diligence to keep things running.”
Dennis Richardson began his own entrepreneurship journey while a student at Michigan State University. He managed a residential mortgage company and, upon graduation, worked for L. Mason Capitani Inc., one of Michigan’s most respected commercial real estate firms. In 2007, he entered the financial services industry as a founding principal of Kodiak Asset Management.
“I knew I didn’t play well with others, so I wanted to be more entrepreneurial,” Richardson said.
The transition from the working sector to entrepreneur is a concept people are still getting comfortable with, he noted, but there hasn’t been a better time – even in a bad economy – to start a business.
“I think there’s a huge shift, especially with the younger generation – a shift of being their own boss,” Richardson said. “Even younger people can’t find jobs. Their only other option is to try to go into business for themselves.”
For most, he added, it is a leap of faith and a completely different mindset.
“You have to change your lifestyle,” he said. “It’s almost like having a kid: You’re constantly thinking about it.”
Though the economy is shaky, Richardson believes that now is one of the best times to start a business in Michigan.
“You have a lot more chances here, because the economy isso bad,” Richardson said. “Plus, there’s still a lot of great things about the region. It’s the ideal time – the ideal place – to be an entrepreneur. In my eyes, it’s ground zero for opportunity.”
Tatiana Grant, president of Infused PR & Events, left her public relations job with the Detroit Pistons to start her business. In June she’ll celebrate her two-year anniversary.
“A lot of the companies that are in trouble now (wouldn’t be) if they had pushed that intrapreneur vision to their employees,” Grant said. “There (are) so many people who are not willing to go outside their box. With the dynamics of a changing economy, you need to have people with different perspectives that are innovative.”
Grant encourages her own interns to become creative thinkers.
“I don’t want all those creative processes coming from me,” Grant said. “I want that person to be able to look at trends in the market. I think that that falls right into that intrapreneur mindset.”
Another tool she has found helpful is networking – especially in her line of work. A good reputation breeds more opportunity.
“People like to find me on Facebook,” she said. “As far as some of the bigger clients, they were definitely part of the traditional forms of doing business.”
As for personal finances, owning a business has helped in some ways. And unlike most, she started her business out of her own pocket.
“Most important,” Grant said, “I’m still able to maintain my lifestyle, have my spa days (and) my nights out with my girlfriends. I definitely do have some aggressive goals that I’m working to obtain.”