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How To Be A Social Intrapreneur: Persistence, Resilience, and Patience

In working to turn her Brazilian bank into a financial resource for micro-entrepreneurs, Aparecida Teixeira de Morais has learned valuable lessons about changing a company from the inside.

How To Be A Social Intrapreneur: Persistence, Resilience, and Patience
Abstract via Shutterstock

Most Brazilians, including emerging entrepreneurs, find their path to opportunities blocked because they cannot gain access to financial services. Without educational and business training, they have difficulty getting banks to provide capital for new products, and to scale-up their businesses.

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Aparecida Teixeira de Morais, the director of human resources at Tribanco, the financial arm of Martins Group (Brazil’s largest distributor), saw that financial resources and literacy were essential to Tribanco’s customers–often the owners of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. “My heart has always led me to care about others, the common good, and the environment I’m in,” she says. “It’s in my DNA.”

Teixeira de Morais–one of four winners of The League of Intrapreneurs competition–decided to combine her professional skills with her willingness to provoke social change. “We flipped the wholesale business on its head,” she said.

Through her work, Tribanco began training retailers in finance to help them better operate and grow their businesses. Teixeira de Morais helped Tribanco establish a competitive advantage by differentiating its value proposition for retailers, and by developing long-term relationships. Today, these “retailers are better able to serve their customers, the majority of which are lower-income individuals who live at the base of the economic pyramid,” Teixeira de Morais said. “This helps them increase their earnings, and grow.”

“When I first introduced the idea, the concept of ‘sustainability’ was not well known within the company,” Teixeira de Morais said. Spreading the concept of the triple bottom line, and the harmony between financial, social, and environmental results was key to moving Tribanco in the direction of becoming a healthy and responsible company.

With full support from leaders and good cooperation from colleagues, Teixeira de Morais built an inspiring and diverse team. After collaborating with the Akatu Institute, a Brazilian organization that develops projects to foster conscious consumption, her team implemented a program called Conscious Consumption of Money and Credit.

This program aimed to increase employee awareness of the importance of proper use of financial resources—for themselves and for Tribanco’s customers. “Once trained, engaged, and empowered, our employees became multipliers of the concept,” Teixeira de Morais said.

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“Furthermore, this methodology was available to customers and employees on our Distance Learning platform, which increased the scope of what we were building.” The result was a solid change of mindset at Tribanco, strengthened by collaboration with the Center of Excellence at the Universidade Martins do Varejo, a company program that provides management training, opportunities for innovation, and business model transformation for entrepreneurs–Tribanco’s customers. The two initiatives exchanged ideas about conscious consumption of money and credit, creating a widespread shift.

Today, the value chain speaks for itself: Tribanco has already delivered training for more than 302,000 retailers in more than 92,000 stores throughout Brazil.

It is not uncommon to hear that successful professionals have qualities like commitment, proactivity, and creativity. But increasingly, companies are valuing employees who go beyond their basic job description and are able to combine business success with social concerns.

“Social intrapreneurship is not an occasional phenomenon, but a real trend,” Teixeira de Morais noted. It is gaining traction in a labor market that has grown increasingly competitive, populated by well-trained professionals who understand the relationship of corporations to sustainable development processes.

Intrapreneurs’ productivity is superior to employees that are accustomed to the classic patterns of command and control, according to Teixeira de Morais. Moreover, the satisfaction generated by projects they champion that show measurable impacts increases the motivation of team members, and provides a positive climate for high-level collaboration.

So what is needed for a professional, who has good ideas and wants to become a successful social intrapreneur? “Be persistent, resilient, and patient,” Teixeira de Morais advises.

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Why? Because “the complexity of such projects requires an ability to connect different relationship standards, profiles, and departments,” she said. “Perhaps this is the greatest contribution of an intrapreneur. It might be not easy, but it is definitely worth it.”

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About the author

Isabela currently works at Ashoka Changemakers as a Community Mobilizer, where she develops strategies around media and community building, mapping out innovative projects with social impact. She has a passion for good stories and enjoys planning her next travels.

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