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Expanding Intrapreneurship: Interview with Lisa Tretler

“It’s not always that attractive to work for a large corporation.” – Lisa Tretler

Lisa Tretler, a business strategy consultant and owner of Business Boosters Consulting, has over 20 years of entrepreneurial marketing experience in corporate and small business settings. From the onset of her consulting-driven career, she has spanned the nonprofit sector, assisting local businesses in need with strategic and tactical advice. As a Penn graduate and a Wharton MBA program alum herself, she is scaling the coaching industry on balancing what it means to facilitate “intrapreneurship” and “entrepreneurship”. The Penn Innovators in Business Network asked her to share her valuable advice that she has gained through her career journey …

How did you end up where you are now?

“After business school, I went back into the field of consulting, but realized that I was helping these very big companies. It was interesting, but where I could really make an impact was helping smaller businesses who didn’t necessarily have the access to the same types of resources. I thought that their startup challenges were much more interesting–thinking about how to pivot products or, or change strategies. Increasingly as time went by, I wanted to leave my mark and feel like I’m really giving back. Seeing a company grow from something small to something big is so much more rewarding.”

How do you know if a startup is the right one for you?

“Before you accept a job or decide to work with people, there are three things that are so critical. The first is the team of people that you’re working with–making sure you’re on the same page in terms of work ethic and values, and that they have a clear idea of what their mission is and are extraordinarily passionate about it. Number two, it’s so important to know that whatever startup you decide to work with, the entire team is entirely committed. In order for a startup to be successful, you really need to be all in and your team needs to be all in. The last thing that is a great indication of what will be a successful startup is the advisors that the startup surrounds itself with. Ask yourself: who’s on the advisory or management team? Who are the board members? Who has looked over a business plan? Find investors because very often they really look to see who’s involved and what their experiences are like to make sure that it’s going to a credible venture.”

What determines success for you?

“At this stage, what constitutes success for me is that my thoughts and my relationships are valued and important. I’m very interested in developing ‘thought capital’, which is original ways of thinking around business or entrepreneurship. Knowing that I build trust and close relationships, whether it’s with friends or with colleagues or clients, makes me feel like I’m successful–if I was actually able to develop something deeper with the people I work with and help them in a deeper way that they feel like they can trust me.”

Difference between nonprofit marketing and for-profit marketing?

“The skill sets are actually pretty similar in that you are selling something. The way that a nonprofit sells is trying to get people to buy into the value proposition of a nonprofit; getting people involved and donating so that it can be successful. A lot of it is messaging and building relationships with people to get them to believe in your idea. It’s really the same thing as in a for-profit, which is the whole idea of selling a product or getting people to believe in investing or purchasing a product. It’s great to practice working in a nonprofit to get the same kinds of skills that you would need in a for-profit.”

Biggest mistake in your career journey?

“I had taken a position working for a company and took the position without a very clear definition of what my job responsibility was going to be. And I figured, ‘this organization was so well aligned with my skill set and no matter what I did, it was gonna be a great opportunity for me’. But what I find is if management can’t really create some kind of defined role for you, it’s very, very challenging to get traction once you get started. It’s very hard for you to know where to jump in and start solving projects. Very often when you’re working with coworkers, people can get very territorial when a new person comes in; will this person be a partner? Competitor? Will they be taking things away from my portfolio of work? If it’s not communicated what your role will be, you’re coming into a situation that’s challenging before you even start. Make sure you define the role in advance, and if things have to change during the process–during the time you are working–that’s great and to be expected, but always come in with a decent idea of what you are going to do.”

What advice would you give to undergraduates as they seek their future path?

“Find an opportunity to work for a smaller company or somewhere where you can make a greater impact and really learn the skills that you want to learn and be indispensable to the management team. That way, you have a lot more control over what you’re working for or working on and also the impact that you make. Give a good thought to where you can really make the greatest impact, and realize that it’s not always in the biggest, most well-known places and firms.”

Most important factor you believe that would have the greatest impact toward career choice?

“At the end of the day, mentors are the most wonderful resource for everything. Surround yourself with people who can give you good advice. Make a to-do list for yourself; find a great mentor who’s a professor, a Penn alumni, a current student who is older than you, and reach out to them as much as you can. It makes the past so much easier when someone else has been there before you.”

Any thoughts on the future for your own personal growth?

“With all the work that I’ve done with small businesses, I think that larger companies need a lot of help learning how to become more entrepreneurial, especially to attract young people. It’s not always that attractive to work for a large corporation. Sometimes that seems like on the bottom of the totem pole of where you would want to start working, but I think that the whole concept of “intrapreneurship”, which is helping these larger companies to work like small businesses and startups, give employees opportunities to be more creative. I think that that’s a really important concept that I’d love to kind of put more thought around and get some thinking out into the marketplace.”

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