Paula Hulley, CEO of the IAB.
  • When approaching your manager with a new idea, don't be vague. 
  • Instead, write up the project, consult as widely as you can and cost it out - before you present.  
  • This is part of an 'intrepreneurial mindset', which is absolutely required in business these days, says Paula Hulley, the new CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa.

To survive in a fast-paced, highly competitive environment, companies need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and challenge their preconceptions and business structures in order to evolve, says Paula Hulley, the new CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa (IAB).

Teams need to harness sharp strategic thinking, while being able to respond on-demand to customer needs. "They need to be able to be able to build a plane while flying it. In short, they need to think like entrepreneurs.” 

Hulley recently assumed the position of CEO of the IAB, the business organisation for the digital advertising industry. Previously she was managing director at Gloo@Ogilvy Cape Town, working with brands such as FNB, Skip, Speedo, Puma, Audi and Cadbury.

Working primarily in the digital environment impressed upon her how competitive the business landscape has become, and what companies needed to do to truly keep pace.

“The internet has given companies around the world the same tools and information, and often at no cost. This means that businesses now have to be immensely competitive and agile to gain customers.”

This competitive environment holds many opportunities for employees to be innovative and create new opportunities and solutions. This has given rise to the intrapreneur –  an employee who can recognise opportunities, evaluate them, and then go after them while assembling the required pieces they need as they go.

Hulley believes building an intrapreneurial mindset requires the following:

A determination to get to ‘yes’

Many people approach their managers with a new idea in the wrong way.

“Approaching your boss with a vague ‘Do you think we can do it like this’ probably won’t get the desired response.” Instead, do the work before you approach your boss. “Write up the project, consult as widely as you can, cost it out and make sure that you have some kind of showcase to present,” is her advice.

"Having a clear idea of your desired outcome will elicit a positive response."

Resilience and ‘live thinking’

You need to have the resilience to bounce back from setbacks and the mindset to take on board new information that would require you to correct your course. Hulley calls this ‘live thinking.’


"Perspective is key and context is everything,’ says Hulley. When a colleague tells you something, there is always a reason for that observation. ‘Learn to take it on board.’

Voracious reading

Read as much as you can, from a variety of sources.

Celebrate the wins

Recognise and celebrate when things go your way and when you did a great job. ‘Also be sure to recognise and celebrate that in others and tell them. This includes your boss, as they usually only hear about the problems!’

Hulley will be speaking on cultivating an “intrapreneurial” mindset at the SheSays event in Cape Town this week. SheSays is a global network for creative women in more than forty countries.

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