How Enterprising is Your Organization?

By Linda Henman, Ph.D.

Enterprising and resourceful—those are words that describe a successful change initiative.  “Enterprising” implies an innovative, inventive, creative approach to the status quo, and “resourceful” indicates an imaginative but practical orientation.

Both words are apt for the changes Enterprise Rent-A-Car has implemented in the last few years.

Who can forget Avis claiming “We’re number two, but we try harder”? Avis lacked both an enterprising spirit and a resourceful nature. They didn’t innovate themselves to overcome the behemoth Hertz; they painted themselves into a second-place corner.

St. Louis-based Enterprise, on the other hand, decided to change the landscape of car rentals. They created a new niche based on “We’ll pick you up” to service customers who needed a replacement rental after they’d been in an accident.

They didn’t initially take on Hertz by trying to “get you out of the airport fast.” They built customer loyalty in another arena, acquired National and Alamo, which have distinctive markets, and now dominate the rental car market. And, by the way, they get you out of the airport as fast as Hertz does.

Enterprise’s change initiative succeeded when so many fail, so what can we learn from this? Let’s start with some of the reasons change efforts don’t work.

  1. Too often companies focus on the short-term loss instead of the long-term gain. When Enterprise made the decision to go a different direction, they were losing to Hertz on airport business. That changed.
  2. Enterprise didn’t try to fix. They innovated. Fixing just returns you to the status quo or puts you in a chronic race to catch the leader.
  3. They changed the way we think about car rentals. It’s no longer just about the airport.
  4. No one has ever offered better customer service than Enterprise.
  5. Leadership focused on employee needs throughout. In addition to offering generous discounts for rental cars, they extend the benefit to family members. As the mother-in-law of an Enterprise employee, I can tell you first-hand that employees treat me like royalty each time I rent. I felt special until I noticed they treated everyone like this.

With any change initiative, start with the end in mind. What does an improved future state look like?

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