Author Q&A: Jennifer Prosek, Author of "Army of Entrepreneurs"
Jennifer Prosek is the CEO of CJP Communications and the author of Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth .
In this book Jennifer shares the system she developed to make entrepreneurial behavior business as usual throughout the ranks of her public relations and financial communications firm. As a result, she grew her company from one office and about $2 million in 1995 to three offices, $10 million, and an award-winning international competitor today. In the Q&A below, Jennifer shares her insights on applying the entrepreneurial model in the workplace.
The following is an interview with author, Jennifer Prosek.
Deborah Bailey: What prompted you to write this book?
Jennifer Prosek: Ten years ago, I was working six or seven days a week and facing serious burnout. I was CJP’s chief rainmaker, problem-solver, idea generator and account leader. I knew I needed a new way to configure my business, one that tapped the tremendous talent of my employees. That was the genesis of the "Army of Entrepreneurs" model.
Now, having come through the most challenging period in our history, I can honestly say that the Army of Entrepreneurs model literally saved the business. I wrote the book to share my story because anyone can do what I did. What I discovered was not just a way to run my own business, but perhaps a way to run any business.
Army of Entrepreneurs is about how a business can survive difficult economic times and come out the other end as an engaged, motivated, growing company.
DB: In your book you say that "corporate culture is like the foundation of a house." What do you mean by that?
JP: This analogy is perfectly suited to the business world. Good companies—businesses that are thriving and filled with happy, productive workers—often cite their corporate cultures as their “foundation” since this is one of the key components from which the organization’s success is built upon. In boom times it is a key differentiator from your competitors and a reminder of who you are and how you want to be perceived; and in bad times it can be the glue that helps hold your organization together.
In my experience, there are four elements of a strong corporate culture: authenticity, commitment to people, commitment to the business, and continuous effort.
DB: Can big companies really use entrepreneurial thinking?
JP: Entrepreneurship can and does flourish in big companies. For many, it’s the very element that helps them compete and succeed against other giants. Entrepreneurial thinking helps big companies be innovative, stay in touch with their customers, be faster and more nimble. Any company, large or small, can create a culture where entrepreneurship flourishes. There are five requirements: hire the right people, create internal support systems, incorporate entrepreneurial skills into training programs, communicate clearly and often, and create a reward system that encourages innovation.
DB: Why is formal training for employees so important?
JP: When you ask your people to step up and deliver, you are responsible for ensuring that they have the tools they need. That’s where a formal training program comes in. It not only teaches specific job skills, it also educates people about the business and how it operates.
Without a formal training process in place, every person has a different learning experience and the results are uneven. Companies that emphasize a learning culture have the most engaged workforces.
DB: How can companies use technology effectively?
JP: Communications technology plays a critical role in the execution of a company’s day-to-day efforts. It enables companies to stay in touch internally and to communicate with their external customers and audiences. At CJP, I write a weekly internal blog, the J Low Down, and we have an external blog, Unboxed Thoughts.
Social media for an ongoing dialogue
Virtually every company needs to have a social media strategy and to update it frequently. This creates an ongoing dialogue. It engages customers and provides the business with important information. Social media is also key for attracting new customers and recruiting.
Make connections with a CRM
Many companies can benefit from a customer relationship management (CRM) system. With CRM they can create a database of information that can be leveraged, such as: Who are your customers? How are they connected to one another? What can you learn from those relationships? What other opportunities do the connections offer?
In our business, we counsel our clients on how to best use technology and social media as part of a PR campaign. It’s all about branding and image-building. We work with them to make sure their online identity, and particularly their website, Facebook pages and other prominent sites, are visually appealing, useful and interactive. Every company needs to have a professional online persona that reflects its strengths, capabilities and personality.
DB: What suggestions do you have for companies that want to retain their talent?
JP: There are three important parts of the retention puzzle; compensation, morale and communication. Companies have to pay competitively and they should have incentive programs that allow people to earn additional compensation. People also need psychic rewards. They want to believe in their employer’s mission and be personally invested in their work. By encouraging entrepreneurial behavior, employees have the ability to create their dream jobs. Finally, great communication builds engagement and openness by allowing everyone to understand the forces at work inside and outside the firm.
DB: Who do you think will benefit from reading your book?
JP: Army of Entrepreneurs is for company owners and managers at firms of all sizes who want to make their division or team more innovative, engaged and productive. It’s also for employees who want to learn to be more entrepreneurial and valuable at their companies.
There is a major shift afoot and the era of entrepreneurialism is upon us. Employers must gain a greater understanding of the benefits of harnessing this spirit. When employees are treated more like owners, taught how the business runs and how their contributions fit in, they are happier and more productive and the company’s overall growth can be exponential.
DB: What are your thoughts about why so many women are going into business for themselves?
JP: I think many of them feel like I do. They have a dream and they’re driven to pursue it. Women also have more role models and better resources than in the past. I think entrepreneurship overall has become a much more popular and women are a part of that wave. There’s a statistic I love from pollster and author Frank Luntz, which is that 80 percent of people would rather own their own businesses than be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I think women (and men, too) like the feeling of being in control of their own destiny, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from running your own successful business. Of course, the economy has also played a role.
DB: Where can people find your book?
JP: Stop by your local bookstore or find it at online retailers. http://www.armyofentrepreneurs.com.
People can also connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.
Posted by Deborah A Bailey