June 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Managers Leave To Start Own Firms

Paul Willax The Spokesman-Revie
 

A growing number of corporate managers at all levels are “changing horses” in midcareer, opting for the role of “entrepreneur.”

Q. I run a well-established, profitable, manufacturing company. In the past two years, however, I’ve lost four employees, including two managers with MBA’s, who decided they wanted to start businesses of their own. I’d like to believe that this is a result of the “grass is always greener” fantasy but, according to the business press, more and more workers seem to be dreaming about starting a venture of their own. What can CEO’s do to stop this brain drain?

A. Ride the wave and let your key employees share in the rewarding rush that comes with entrepreneurship. Research by the Entrepreneurial Research Consortium has revealed that 6.8 million U.S. households - 7.2% of the total - harbor someone who is currently trying to start a business. As a consequence, about 800,000 new firms will be launched this year, many of them by disenchanted managers who are determined to find a better life on “the other side of the fence.”

Fact is, even an old, established company can provide the entrepreneurial satisfaction these ambitious managers seek. Indeed, it is in a company’s best interest to retain this unique talent, since it is only with ambitious, innovative, risktaking entrepreneurial leadership that a firm of any size or type will be able to retain its edge in tomorrow’s even more competitive marketplaces.

Companies of all sizes are coming to the realization that success in the future will depend on their ability to emulate the modus operandi of an entrepreneurial venture. As a consequence, they are trying to purge their organizations of any vestiges of “Dilbertism,” imbue their managers with an entrepreneurial spirit, and create an environment that will encourage the kind of intra-corporate “venturing” that produces new and better products, services and operating methodologies.

This change of heart is coming none too soon. A recent series of articles in the Wall Street Journal suggests that legions of managers are becoming disaffected and either leaving to start their own firms or, worse yet, staying on but “dropping out” of the mainstream of corporate activity.

A survey by the Center for Business Ownership has revealed the things managers like least about their presentday roles, which include:

A lack of say about the direction of the enterprise.

Very little independence or freedom to use their real talent.

Inability to avail themselves of the best technology available and the training to use it.

Unreasonable risk constraints.

A limited upside in terms of personal gain; an unlimited downside in terms of personal loss.

Too little control in an environment where there is constant pressure from the top and resistance from below.

Deferred or compromised decisions.

Useless meetings, memos and computer “data dumps.”

No satisfaction of “a job well done.”

Conversely, they have a few simple desires. Managers worth their salt say they want: A meaningful mission that makes sense and that challenges their abilities; an ability to participate in the strategic planning that defines that mission.

The resources - especially technology - that are necessary to create the goods and services that have value in contemporary marketplaces.

Access to the knowledge to use these tools productively.

A true leadership role with the flexibility necessary to creatively respond to dynamic market factors.

The freedom to be innovative, assume risk and take the initiative; to be a proactive perpetrator rather than a reactive victim.

An organizational structure that is fluid and can be custom-mobilized to meet both threats and opportunities.

An opportunity to get recognition and rewards that are commensurate with that which is accomplished.

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