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De Noble Internal Entrepreneurship at Dow Chemical June 24, 2010 Background: In 2000, Dow Chemical, a multinational corporation comprised of eight business groups, was experiencing a decrease in sales turnover compared to figures from the mid-90s. As the company explored various avenues to increase sales in turnover, they focused on a variety of initiatives within stagnant divisions. The subject of this case is an entrepreneurial venture which focused on increasing sales turnover within the corporation's Epoxy Products and Intermediates ("EP&I´) business group. The EP&I line of business is a highly capital intensive, high profit margin, B2B segment. The top 20% of customers generate 80% of the division's revenues. EP&I is structured to deliver the product through two key avenues. First, the aforementioned top accounts are supplied directly and serviced by experienced sales representatives (Customer Account Executives ("CAEs")). Second, the product is distributed to smaller customers using local distributors who service wide geographic areas (usually entire countries). In 1998 EP&I launched a new centralized customer service center (Epicenter) that services accounts by providing access to technical assistance and account management. The Proposal, e-epoxy.com: Ian Telford, an 18-year Dow veteran with significant experience in chemical sales, proposed using the rapidly growing Internet as an opportunity to reduce overhead and drive sales volume. According to Telford, the sales model EP&I used at that time ignored a significant segment of the market. Telford noticed that while key customers were serviced by CAEs and midrange clients had access to the Epicenter, there was room to grow sales by focusing on lower volume, lower margin customers. The core concept focused on using the Internet to reduce the significant overhead associated with servicing larger, high-volume accounts. The venture aimed to use a rigid rule-based
Brendan R. A revamp in pricing and delivery structure could highlight the extent to which employees' short-term self-interest might conflict with long-term organizational success. De Noble Internal Entrepreneurship at Dow Chemical June 24. however. the costs of trailing the market grew exponentially. The prospects for the proposed line of business were good. Shannon EMBA XX . As key competitors launched online ventures. Stated another way. Specifically. A key element that increased the potential of this venture is the growth of the Internet as a B2B and B2C business tool. using the Internet for sales requires publicizing pricing. 2010 system to ensure that the new business generated by e-epoxy. with the top 20% of customers driving 80% of current profits. loosely aware of their competitors¶ pricing based on intercompany staffing movement.com would meet the low overhead projections of the business model. the compensation of existing executives and sales representatives was commission and profit based.Dr. care must be taken not to alienate existing high-margin customers when implementing this new venture aimed at smaller clients. funds transfer and transaction processing. The greatest potential for the venture to fail came from internal stationary inertia. Page |2 .Executive Entrepreneurship . Most importantly. Specifically set pricing. of course. the compensation structure existing at that time might have caused employees to be overly risk adverse. While larger customers are. they are associated with some key risks. It was highly evident by 2000 that the Internet could no longer be ignored or dismissed as a fad. quantity minimums and terms would be fixed to facilitate a higher volume of simpler transactions. Simply put. published pricing provides a contemporaneous benchmark with which to measure their contracts. One aspect that could be improved in Telford¶s plan is to analyze the extent to which Dow may benefit from expanding the model to include midrange clients who were previously serviced only at the Epicenter. Many industries were being completely revamped due to Internet supply chain management.
it is important to examine whether Dow's structure at that time and its corporate umbrella would facilitate future success in the EP&I group.com venture was a wise investment for Dow. the proposed venture allowed Dow to develop an internet sales platform with a relatively small investment. scale fast" strategy offered the benefit of experimenting within a new market segment with low risk. if it failed. His tactics included internal guerilla marketing via fabricated emails and a spoof FT. The delivery process change for lower end customers had obvious long term potential to change relationships with mid and top range customers as well. In this case. Telford's stir-things-up strategy went too far because he used so Page |3 . The newly created venture did not fit neatly into any particular place on the corporation's organizational chart and Telfer proposed to introduce a radically different way for customers to interact with the company. 2010 Structural issues and selling the idea: As is the case with many businesses adapting their structure to the new potential of ecommerce. It is clear that Telford utilized some unique strategies in selling the e-epoxy. "think big.Dr. However.com article which were designed to create hype surrounding an upcoming Biz TV announcement. but one very important person. the proposed e-epoxy. Shannon EMBA XX . Especially considering a longer-term perspective. if the innovative succeeded. Verrnaak. The proposed.com idea within Dow. which was also a spoof. Focusing too heavily on the status quo can cause the market to leave even the greatest companies behind. De Noble Internal Entrepreneurship at Dow Chemical June 24. was "annoyed" by the video stunt. it would expand/change the Company's corporate umbrella.com venture did not fit under Dow's corporate umbrella. EP&I's business VP. start smart. While the concept is radically different from what was the existing sales/delivery model. the short-term anomaly would have a manageable impact on the company's future. the e-epoxy. How do you know when you have crossed the line? There are a million potential answers to that question.Brendan R.Executive Entrepreneurship .
could have generated the same buzz without generating the corresponding negative feedback. and (2) involve key decision makers early. It is difficult to generate change in large corporations with long-established methods of doing business. where senior management tends to be promoted from traditionally nonentrepreneurial fields such as chemical engineering. The second time around.com was definitely an effective use of Telford as a resource. Shannon EMBA XX . e-epoxy. perhaps a toned down version of the video.Executive Entrepreneurship . 2010 many unconventional tactics together. e-epoxy. Page |4 . Cook facilitated a meeting during which Telford used the ³fire in his belly" to convince the Group's president to fund the venture. Without the passion of entrepreneurs and risk-takers such as Telford.Brendan R. This can be especially true in corporations such as Dow. the IS group and Cook (Vermaak's replacement). Use of entrepreneurial talent: Despite the scarcity of entrepreneurial talents such as Telford's. Telford used his drive and enthusiasm to champion a project that allowed the EP&I division to keep pace with the changes caused by the Internet marketplace. business as usual can become a cancer.Dr. De Noble Internal Entrepreneurship at Dow Chemical June 24. After receiving approval and a budget of $1 million. One of the aforementioned stunts. and proceed quickly after gaining approval to avoid encountering future hang-ups. one being a passionate presentation to win over fellow managers. The push for final approval highlighted two key takeaways for Telford: (1) use conventional presentation tactics and enthusiasm as key tools for selling internal entrepreneurial ventures. Telford used more conventional strategies. The project's budget was suspended until further notice.com experienced a setback when two key EP&I executives who had originally approved the project were replaced.
Henry Vermaak. Vermaak initially described himself as a "concerned supporter". he was willing to take the risk of providing a $100. In May of 2000. De Noble Internal Entrepreneurship at Dow Chemical June 24. the project gained approval based largely on his efforts.Executive Entrepreneurship . In summary. he gave the initial authorization for Telford to develop the business plan that eventually became e-epoxy. Wood was most concerned with determining whether Telford had. As would be expected. He was responsible for founding EP&I's Commercial Interface Initiative (CCI) which used technology to streamline the way the division interacted with and serviced its customers. Philippe de Fitte served as commercial director for EP&I¶s Europe division before leaving in 2000. Shannon EMBA XX ." Fortunately Telford's enthusiasm and drive to see the project succeed were self-evident.com. Cook organized a key meeting among managers that reinitiated the enthusiasm surrounding the project and was also instrumental in Telford gaining access to Bob Wood. Most notably. After assuming his new role. De Fitte was enthusiastic about e-epoxy. When making his decision whether to support Telford¶s concept.Dr.Vermaak retired and was replaced by Phil Cook. As Telford's direct supervisor at the project¶s inception. 2010 Key executive roles: A change in senior leadership during Telford's e-epoxy. "fire in his belly. however. Business Group President for EP&I had a large role in the early success of the project.000 budget for the project's early development. who had final authority to approve the project. Thermoset Business Group President. Page |5 . The common thread among all four leaders was their belief in Telford over the project itself based on his enthusiasm.com and had a history of championing internal technology-based solutions at Dow.Brendan R. His recognition of Telford's drive and enthusiasm were key in his support of the project. the chief effect of the leadership change was a setback in the project¶s progress while Telford fostered confidence among new decision makers.com venture had a significant impact on the project¶s course.
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