Get Ready for the Age of the Intrapreneur

We’re all familiar with entrepreneurs: the romanticized dreamers, innovators, explorers, who chart their own way in the business world. We praise their perseverance, resourcefulness and visionary approach. But it’s improbable that everyone who exudes these traits will set off to create his or her own business. A term has grown out of the understanding that there are plenty of companies that employ individuals with entrepreneurial qualities -- intrapreneurship.

Given the proper environment, intrapreneurs can be amazing assets to a company. Some may be looking to gain a little experience before setting off on their own endeavors, others may prefer the security of a steady job. Whatever their future plans may be, empowering intrapreneurs can help push your company to be more innovative, efficient and agile.

Intrapreneurs typically:

  • Enjoy taking risks and trying new things
  • Question/challenge the current way of doing things
  • Find the opportunity in a bad situations
  • Easily adapt to a changing environment
  • Leverage resources in new, creative ways

If an employee meets the majority of the criteria above, you may have someone who operates with an intrapreneurial mindset. Here are a few tips to help them flourish.

Foster Their Vision

Part of entrepreneurs' success lies in their ability to see the larger picture, beyond the typical day-to-day. In the world of an entrepreneur, this vision may be a business plan or product pitch, but in the world of an intrapreneur, this can be anything from proposing efficient budget cuts, to targeting a new market segment, to rolling out a new killer feature.

Afford your intrapreneurs the opportunity to paint a vision for an area of the business. These micro-visions may not be the grandiose company vision by which the CEO or board chart their progress, but they can be powerful opportunities to unleash an employee’s passion to create and inspire others. By challenging the status quo, intrapreneurial visions can help a business dust off the cobwebs of excessive bureaucracy, and if executed properly, propel an organization forward.

Keep It Interesting

A sense of resourcefulness and a thirst for challenge makes intrapreneurs very good problem solvers. They can seize opportunities that other employees may see as unattractive, and turn them into something positive. They're great to have at every contribution level of the business (from individual contributors to vice presidents), as they are typically self-reliant and capable of making things happen.

Sounds like someone you want in your company, right? So keep them interested in your company. Give intrapreneurs enough opportunities to tackle issues and provide the resources to properly solve them. Otherwise you risk them getting bored, or worse, seeking more challenging opportunities at other companies.

Grant Ownership

Just as many entrepreneurs enjoy being their own boss, many intrapreneurs crave a similar feeling of autonomy and accountability. While it’s likely that your company’s intrapreneurs will still report to someone, many find ways to claim “ownership” of something within the business. Intrapreneurs often seek opportunities to arm themselves with decision-making rights, and carve out a niche in which they can “be the CEO of what they do best.”

Creating a process, project, budget or new program can allow intrapreneurs to put their vision to something larger than their traditional job description. While this may not require an immediate title change or pay raise, it can be an opportunity to show off greater capabilities (which can lead to larger compensation down the road). Small steps can tap into intrapreneurial spirit and showcase potential to come.

Push Them, But Not Too Hard

The most important thing to note is that while these traits may be typical in intrapreneurs, not every intrapreneur exhibits each and every one of them. There are some intrapreneurs who love solving problems, but hate being in the spotlight. There may be some who love making high-profile decisions, but lack a clear direction or vision. Just like any entrepreneur, bolster their strengths and complement their weaknesses with the strengths of others.

Be up front with any employee who you feel demonstrates intrapreneurial qualities. Help them understand their professional goals, desires and needs, and then introduce more visibility, problem-solving and ownership as you both see fit. You may find some people you identify as an intrapreneur have no interest in anything other than executing their core responsibilities, and that’s alright! Provide the experience and opportunities each type of employee is looking for.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Think Blink