The Intrapreneur in action
You may have noticed a growing number of companies offering innovation and business transformation services. Some of them are deeply involved in these burgeoning disciplines, others are bolting on these offerings to their existing consulting services, and a few are frantically pivoting from spluttering business models.
There’s no doubting the need exists. The majority of behemoth businesses of the past are unprepared for the future, and with hardened legacy practices and a wide turning circle they naturally need help in being ready for tomorrow.
One of the concepts often floated as part of an innovation or transformation program is that of the ‘Intrapreneur’. Just like the entrepreneur, they seek to solve problems, take risks, instigate initiatives, unlock value and (eventually) bring in revenue. The only difference is they do this from within the business, not out on their own with only a co-work’s coffee machine for company.
I’ve trained a number of people who are either looking to inspire a new cohort of intapreneurs or are seeking to become one themselves, but I’ve never seen one out in the wild.
Until last weekend.
Upon moving to NYC, a mattress was straight to the top of the shopping list for our new apartment. After some consideration (although relative to the cost probably not enough – I’ve spent more time deciding on what to have for lunch), I ordered one from Leesa, one of the plucky startups aiming to entice urban dwelling millennials like me. (I passed on Casper as I like to back an underdog – it happens when your football team is Crystal Palace).
The Leesa did a good job for the first month, then towards Christmas it seemed to have a kind of mattress rigor mortis; early morning bad backs became a regular fixture. With my wife’s busy schedule at work, good sleep was particularly paramount – it was time to wave goodbye to Leesa and bring in a new contender. The mattress wars are real – sleep is a competitive business (see the image at the top of this post)>
The new contender ended up being the old incumbent – on a mild Saturday afternoon we went over to our local Mattress Firm a few blocks from our place. It was close to home, it had product in-house, and a slightly confusing front window display. But hey.
After taking personal pride that I kept myself from throwing my 6’6 frame spreadeagled onto the first bed in the store like an over-sugared 6 year old (I did this on a circular sofa at a designer handbag store the week before and was chastised accordingly), we were approached by a rather charming Haitian lady named D.D.
I’ll spare you the finer details of our mattress decision making matrix, but an hour later we were ready to pay up the dosh and take delivery of our new mattress & pillows (next day delivery too). As we waited for the payment to process I mentioned her very fetching company t-shirt. I liked it, but it seemed a little off-brand.
D.D. responded that she’d designed and paid for it herself as she thought it could be a good way to make the store more memorable and built some wider brand awareness, as well as being an opportunity to improve her design and marketing skills. She’d even set up fresh Twitter and Instagram accounts using the hashtag.
This store was until recently a branch of Sleepy’s until Mattress Firm recently acquired the company. They’d started the rebrand in February last year and 12 months on it still looked like a work in progress – next to me the Sleepy name poked out sheepishly underneath some Mattress Firm branded bed legs, and the store itself looked a little sleepy by nature as well as name.
D.D. didn’t think the rebrand had quite hit the spot, hence her taking matters into her own hands. She’d lobbied a couple of execs with her idea but hadn’t had any response.
I loved her zeal and passion – she was really knowledgeable about the products in the store, clearly loved to help customers, and had a wonderful demeanour and sense of humour. She even paid for her own custom work uniform! Who wouldn’t want her as part of their team?
D.D was the Intrapreneur personified. I felt disappointed the company execs hadn’t acknowledged her initiative, so I told her I’d write to them and publish an article about our experience at the store, along with a photo. She laughed. I guess she thought I was just that nice English guy being polite and a bit quirky.
But I wasn’t joking. Here it is – D.D with our new mattress and pillow.
Fingers crossed I’ll get a response from Sicily Dickenson, CMO at Mattress Firm, and maybe we’ll see ‘Got Sleep?’ on the billboards of Union Square some day soon…