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Will The Real Unicorns Please Stand Up?

March 24, 2016 by Alex Atzberger 52

Unicorns are magical creatures. Particularly the new unicorns – those upstart companies that are creating new models for business and disrupting entire industries.

The magic of these unicorns lies in their vision and growth aspirations on what they can someday achieve. With the right nurturing, these companies have the potential to drive economic growth on a global scale.

But why are these magical creatures limited to upstarts? With the right mentality, large companies can extend this magic to build businesses within their businesses that fuel innovation and growth just as fast – if not faster – than any independent start-up. The key to this new mentality lies in understanding a few basic things:

Success in the marketplace is not based on sheer size and scale. When it comes to building unicorns, the big don’t defeat the small, the fast beat the slow. Large companies and their inherent complexity prolongs decision making. To successfully grow a business within a business, you need to remove internal and go fast. Google’s former President of Enterprise Apps Dave Girouard said it well: “All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win.”

Professional managers can maintain a sound trajectory for the business, but it takes passion, relentless resolve and a vision for the business to excel a business forward. And this requires a founder’s mindset. Any company can feel like a start-up when it is led from the front with an energy and passion around innovation and customer success.

Structure is key to building a culture of innovation in which agility, speed and the founder’s mindset can take hold. Let the business operate as an integrated unit within the larger corporation in which all parts of the unit – development, sales, services, etc. report to one person who has final authority for all decisions. Free from the complexity and processes that can plague large organizations, the business can run like a true startup – only with more global resources and brand power to achieve its goals.

Act with purpose and urgency. Never put off to tomorrow what can be done today. Or within the next hour. To fuel real innovation requires an extreme sense of urgency. Look no further than your upstart competitors for proof.

Hire top players and compensate as such. It is no secret that upstarts have a different risk profile and thus a different payout scenario. This does not mean though large companies cannot provide incentives that are very attractive in mid- and long-term to retain the best people. Often the combination of incentives and the ability to see the impact of one’s work globally gives the large enterprise an advantage.

Plenty of large companies are beginning to see the potential of these actions. Google, Microsoft, GE and 3M to name a few. All are building unicorns within their four walls. Far from magical creatures, these unicorns are real and represent the future of their businesses. And the future of global business.

Alex Atzberger is president of SAP Ariba

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.
Top image via Shutterstock

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