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50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2020

Leveraging Intrapreneurship to fuel growth: The Plum Tree Group

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Intrapreneurship is expected to be an unavoidable part of corporations as they adapt to the digital age. Major corporations have already made their presence felt in a new entrepreneurial era of shakeup and disrupt at all costs. There’s undoubtedly some spark in the romantic ideal that employees of large, complex organizations can free themselves from the shackles of corporate governance to create and dream. Intrapreneurs insist that business leaders must empower them to promote creative thinking. Intrapreneurship will serve as a critical asset for organizations because most of the large organizations we know now will no longer exist in the same way we know them, 20 years from now.

Having started off as a boutique digital agency, The Plum Tree Group has become a collection of multiple businesses connected with a shared set of values. The Plum Tree Group is an award-winning digital agency that has also become a platform for launching other digital-based agencies, products, services, and experiences. They have been around for more than a decade and have been a past recipient of the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies as well as have been recently featured on a nationally broadcasted TV show called The American Dream. Today they have over 150 team members spread across eight offices around the world that work on at least one of a dozen different businesses that all make up the Plum Tree Group family.

The Plum Tree Group was founded in 2006, and it is based in Chicago, Illinois.

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In conversation with Daniel Townsend, Managing Director of The Plum Tree Group

Q. What does Plum Tree do?

At its core, Plum Tree is a digital agency that helps brands design, build and bring to market products, services and experiences in the digital channel. Our core competencies include UX and Design, Web & Application Development, Digital Marketing & Optimization and Strategy & Analytics. The spaces we play in are Digital Commerce, Customer Relationship Management and Venture Development.

Q. Tell us about yourself.

I'm an "Intrapreneur" who enjoys the arduous, never compromising but always rewarding journey of transformation, albeit personal or organizational. My professional journey started in corporate America as a consultant and migrated to startups and emerging businesses where I've held positions from CTO to Marketing Director to CEO. Alas, it has led me back to working with some of the world's largest brands in the areas of Digital Innovation and Transformation.

Q. You often describe yourself as an Intrapreneur and you list Intrapreneurship as one of your company’s most important core values. What is an Intrapreneur and what does it mean to be one?

An Intrapreneur is the one who takes responsibility for creating innovations and implementing them within an organization. He or she does more than just come up with the innovation but puts the ideas and plans into actions, aligns with other team members, and is accountable for results. It’s because of these folks that new ventures are born within an existing organization. Within our organization, we strive to give our people a safe place to take smart risks on the path to driving results for clients as well as their own career growth. In so doing, we create a culture that challenges us both personally and professionally, the byproduct of which results in great experiences for our clients.

Q. Who are some of the examples of Intrapreneurs that have come from The Plum Tree Group?

We have many team members that exemplify our core value of Intrapreneurship, and oddly enough, they often come in pairs. Shahil and Naim are some of the first examples of Intrapreneurs. They were some of our first employees, and now lead Fuse Digital, one of our web development companies focused on small business. Then there is Neal and Mike, who lead Phase 3 Digital, a full-service eCommerce marketing and development agency focused on the mid-market sector.

Q. What’s a recent example of Intrapreneurship and how it has driven growth in the organization?

I can give you a very recent example and perhaps our most successful one at driving unprecedented growth. There are two Intrapreneurs, Deepak and Jonathan, who, in 2018, identified a market opportunity that we had previously not been serving. They wanted to focus on driving digital transformation for some of the world’s largest healthcare brands. This was one of our most ambitious ventures to date. Fast forward to today, and ForceIQ, Inc. is just two years old but has grown to a multi-seven figure business with almost 70 employees and three global offices. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Anthem, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Delta Dental, just to name a few. We could not have achieved this level of growth without creating an environment where we can allow team members to take risks in going after new opportunities.

Q. What are you excited about? What motivates you today?

Finding and cultivating the next Intrapreneur. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure in this stage of my career than supporting the next wave of Intrapreneurs. In fact, Plum Tree is shifting from becoming a Digital Agency to an innovation platform where we hope to create a framework, which affords those so committed, motivated and aligned to have both space and support to accelerate their personal and professional growth while helping the organization to grow at the same time.

“Our secret to growth has been in our ability to create a culture where Intrapreneurship can flourish”