I’m always surprised when I hear people discount admins. Maybe it’s because I was an admin myself for the first 10 years of my career – and those admin jobs are the foundation of my success as an entrepreneur. Why? Because the best admins are also intrapreneurs.
Intrapreneurs are entrepreneurs at heart who are working for a company instead of themselves. They still have the major characteristics of entrepreneurs: the drive to find a better way; the vision to identify problems and opportunities others don’t see; innovative ideas about how to solve the problems and take advantage of the opportunities; the hard and soft skills necessary to the task; and the confidence to take risks.
During my admin career I published a magazine, put on conventions, set up events, conducted interviews, and wrote articles. These responsibilities gave me the opportunity to use my talents and skills and expand them in ways I never even imagined. And, in the course of taking on the responsibilities for each of these tasks, I created new ways to approach them. I radically changed the organization of the conventions, streamlined the magazine, and generally offered meaningful input about improving our work whenever I could. If I saw something that could be improved, I gave it a shot.
Intrapreneurs look at the big picture
I could do this because one of the biggest advantages admins have is exposure to different parts of the business. While most managers and employees work within their own departments, admins frequently collaborate with people across different departments, making them the backbone of the office. That gives them access to a much fuller picture of what’s going on in the business, including how other admins are making things work and, most importantly, what’s not working.
So, when the best admins combine their keen observation skills with their top-notch people and organizational skills, they can both identify problems and create unique solutions to them. When you’re an intrapreneur, and you’re able to move around outside of your own department, you naturally find opportunities to make a difference. And, since you are an intrapreneur, you’re willing to go out on a limb and give new things a try; you’re willing to take risks that would scare ordinary employees – even if that means failing sometimes.
Intrapreneurs observe carefully
Let’s talk some more about observation skills. The best managers, business owners, idea people, and intrapreneurs all have something in common: they look carefully and deeply at opportunities to help their companies move to the next level. Intrapreneurial admins have a frame of reference that allows them to see opportunities where others see problems. In addition, their ability to communicate clearly, create compelling arguments for tackling hidden opportunities, and their inherent organizational skills give them the tools they need to identify, create, and deliver on strategic projects – projects that no-one else knows how to identify.
For example, when confronted with an unnecessarily long intake process for new customers, an intrapreneurial admin will identify the problems with the process; figure out new, more effective ways to collect the information gathered in that process; create a presentation on the new process to share with the affected parties; have a plan for implementing the process; and know how to run the meeting where they present the plan. And when you’re an intrapreneur, you understand that there might be push back, that people might feel you’ve stepped on their toes, but you don’t mind. You don’t mind because you know there’s a benefit to the whole company. You know you’re helping your company move forward to reach its goals.
Admins have a “special sauce”
I’ve kind of alluded to the “special sauce” that admins bring to intrapreneurship, so let’s talk about it now. So many entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs have great ideas. But here’s the problem: many of them don’t have the organizational skills to deliver on their ideas. Intrapreneurial admins have those skills.
When you’re an admin you know how to get buy-in for new efforts, manage projects, schedule (and corral) resources, create budgets, and follow up on the million-and-one details that go with any big project. You are able to deliver on your vision, and that makes you so much more valuable than people who can only talk about what it might look like or could look like. Because intrapreneurial admins know how to deliver – and they know how to do it on a deadline.
Then there’s the ability of intrapreneurs to drive organizations forward. This is another place where intrapreneurial admins shine because admins are everywhere. And, in a workplace that supports and honors intrapreneurs, change takes place at every level. Change can even happen from the bottom up. For example, in organizations where the emphasis is on customer satisfaction, an innovation in the customer service process can spread through the whole organization. The improved feedback from customers leads to everyone in the company feeling like they’re doing a good job.
When you’re an intrapreneurial admin, you get to navigate the levels of a company in different ways from other people. Again, that gives you unique insights in how to create forward progress. And, when there are multiple intrapreneurial admins who cooperate with each other, the opportunities for company-wide improvement are endless.
Intrapreneurial admins make everyone look good
Finally, let’s face it: admins know how to make everyone look good – even the most disorganized supervisor. When intrapreneurial admins are enthusiastic enough to step up, claim important work, and then deliver on it, everyone around them looks good. Any time an admin figures out an innovative way to handle an old problem (the supervisor that’s always late, that delivery company that gives everyone fits, the last-minute meeting with a really important client), it makes everyone’s job better. Creating a vision of what’s possible, having control of the details, then delivering on that task or project that no-one else but you thought could be done makes everyone in your company look good – especially you! – and could put you on the path to becoming an office manager.