Revolutionize Your Business: The Untapped Secret to Accelerated Growth
If you’re connected to the world of business, chances are you’ll have heard the term entrepreneur but possibly not intrapreneur. Although they sound similar, these two terms are unique and separate, and understanding the difference can be crucial when strategizing how to take your business to the next level.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the intriguing world of intrapreneurs. We’ll delve into what intrapreneurs are, the roles they play within a business, and how you can determine if your company could benefit from working with one. Let’s unlock the immense potential of intrapreneurship and discover how it can revolutionize your business’ path to success.
Entrepreneurs vs. Intrapreneurs
Although it might be easy at first glance to assume the word Intrapreneur is merely a typo to the word Entrepreneur, there is a critical differences between the two.
An entrepreneur is an individual with a vision, goal, and plan to create a new venture or business idea, or scale a current one. They are independent thinkers, who willingly put up their own resources to build and grow a business idea, manage company’s finances, and take responsibility of the enterprise as their own. Entrepreneurs possess strong leadership qualities, together with creative and innovative thinking. They are driven by the desire to create something new, challenge the status quo, and make a difference in the world. They are often characterized by their drive and passion, and resilience in the face of challenges and setbacks. They are calculated risk takers and goal-driven.
An intrapreneur, on the other hand, is often an external resource to the business. Instead intrapreneurs works within an existing organization, sometimes within its core team or as a contractor. Although they are often entrepreneurs in their own right directing entrepreneurial ventures of their own, they also have the calling to work within another business that is being led by another. Here they work with the passion and drive as if it were their own venture, but with an ability to co-mission, aka, to take hold of the mission of another and adopt it in such a way, that it becomes their own.
Like entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs are individuals who take initiative, identify opportunities, and can introduce new ideas or products to the organization. They are creative thinkers, problem solvers, and motivated individuals who take up the call to work with others – sometimes as the second in command – sometimes completely unseen. Intrapreneurs may not have an ownership stake in the company, but they are driven to achieve the company’s vision, goals, and objectives often in an altruistic manner. Despite a preference to work autonomously as leaders in their own right, they also have the capacity to position themselves under authority and the leadership of others, bridging the gaps and transitioning across roles as needed. With a broad and deep, unicorn skill-set, they can be product or service creators, or even new market creators who can help enhance the company brand name, reputation and bottom line. With both visionary and integrator qualities, they tend to cross the strategic-planning-execution divide with the ability to see in greater detail, the “how” and the “when”.
Although at first glance the difference between an entrepreneur and intrapreneur might seem solely a practical one (with the privilege of the Entrepreneur to step outside ready made systems to construct news ones, and with Intrapreneur working within the confines of existing structures, processes, and cultures), their traits can subtly differ to the point that some intrapreneurs may not even score highly on entrepreneurial tests such as the Leap assessment pioneered by Gino Wickman.
What Drives an Intrapreneur
Working Together with a Pioneering Co-Missioning Spirit
Intrapreneurs exhibit an entrepreneurial drive. They take ownership of projects and initiatives, treating them as if they were their own business ventures. This sense of ownership motivates them to work diligently, see projects through to completion, and deliver results. Although many intrapreneurs might share with their entrepreneur, a Dominant trait in DiSC analysis, with a flair to accomplish results and seeing the big picture, it can often be hidden, sometimes by a more introverted nature. They are passionate about their work and are committed to the success of the projects they undertake which is why they are perfectly placed to co-mission with other entrepreneurs – running with the vision as if it were their own. It is this co-missioning trait which sets intrapreneurs apart.
Entrepreneurs might find this intrapreneurial drive a delightful shock. It can be a rare thing to find another who can carry the vision and heart of a mission, as passionately as the one who first envisioned it. Intrapreneurs can, and do. This can have a powerful impact on many entrepreneurs who otherwise have had to carry the heart of their mission alone.
Doing the Difficult with Problem-Solving Abilities
Intrapreneurs possess a strong innovative mindset and this drives their problem-solving bent. They are not adverse to seeking opportunities for improvement and change within their organization. They are creatives who think outside the box, can identify new possibilities, and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. This can give a competitive leading edge to the work they do, helping a company adapt to changing market conditions and stay ahead of the competition. Acting as a catalyst, intrapreneurs can be a business’ secret weapon for disrupting an industry, driving innovation from the inside out and solving business challenges at warp speed.
Spear-Heading Change with Resilience and Adaptability
Another factor that can drive many intrapreneurs, is their willingness to take calculated risks. Like entrepreneurs, they don’t necessarily wait for problems to grow. Instead, they may even actively seek out challenges and opportunities – looking for the gaps and creating solutions in anticipation. They are often more comfortable with uncertainty than most and with an adaptable skillset, intrapreneurs can do more with less. With their unicorn skillset, they are often highly adaptable which enables them to handle the unknown or unexpected with a fight. They can fill gaps, jump hurdles and navigate the stumbling blocks that would otherwise derail other team members. Because intrapreneurs are not risk adverse, they are also resilient in change.
The Dark-Side of Intrapreneurship
As with everything, there is also a darker side to working in an Intrapreneurial fashion that is helpful to be aware of.
Perhaps stemming from the awesome ability to co-mission with Entrepreneurs, it is wise for Intrapreneur’s to safeguard their hearts so they don’t unwittingly fall from co-missioning into co-dependency as so insightfully pointed out by Kaelyn Benham, Founder of The Intrapreneur Academy. Perhaps a trap within any close partnership is where there is a lack of self-value, it can trigger an unhealthy reliance on the other.
By definition, co-dependency is the “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, especially one who requires support…” When you levitate a person’s value or wants to unhealthy heights, you can end up serving that person and behaving in a way that will ultimately keep you safe in the relationship, but won’t serve the mission. Below are some signs to look out for as entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs partner in the magical way that is co-missioning, and what to look out for when things might be gradually shifting into co-dependency and ideas on how to get back on track.
Intrapreneurial Excellence: Going Beyond Team Membership
Every Entrepreneur needs a team that shares in their vision, values, and passion for success. But not all team members are created equal.
Traditional employees, team roles and freelancers all tend to work under an Entrepreneur’s direction. Dedicated to following guidelines, adhering to company policies and completing tasks with an eye on the details, they can be the magic that make things happen. However, their role is often specific and limited. Employees don’t have the responsibility or authority to drive the new initiatives, procedures or processes that can really transform a business. They require their work to be defined and assigned, and although fundamentally important, many do not carry the entrepreneurial drive or spirit that allows for out of the box innovation, growth and strategic accountability.
However, Intrapreneurs are a different breed. As entrepreneurs themselves, they have chosen to work within another company co-missioning with other leaders. They generate ideas and drive innovation. They are ambitious, resourceful, adaptable, problem solving creatives. With their own unique expertise and specialisations that can cover a broad range of disciplines, they take ownership with an entrepreneurial fuelled drive, passion and dedication. Success is not clocked by hours worked or tasks completed, but on results that will keep the business faithful to its vision, aligned with its values, and reaching its goals.
Despite working in team, Intrapreneurs thrive on autonomy and will typically onboard into a business as an independent contractor even when they are given stakeholder ownership. Although some Intrapreneurs will come under an employee umbrella in terms of a company’s structure, the way they function will go beyond an employee mindset or remit.
How Intrapreneurs differ from VAs, OBMs and COOs
Intrapreneurs Vs Virtual Assistants (VAs)
In the giddy world of entrepreneurship, many business leaders choose to build collaborative partnerships with other businesses, as well as build in-house teams under an employee structure. While Virtual Assistants , Online Business Managers and Chief Operating Officers might have an intrapreneurial element to what they do, Intrapreneurs bring a unique dimension.
Without a doubt, Virtual Assistants (VAs) are essential for maintaining efficiency and organization, and are typically responsible for administrative and supportive routine tasks that free up an executive’s time so they can focus on more critical matters. Although highly experienced VAs can offer strategic support, and highly skilled VAs can offer support in more specialised areas such as technology or marketing, they often serve a number of different clients, juggling jobs and projects for a set number of hours or at a pre-defined hourly rate. Although there is flexibility and autonomy in their work, the depth of their service can be limited as they serve 1-2-1.
Unlike a VA, Intrapreneurs seek to integrate themselves more deeply within a business, with many serving a single Entrepreneur and with highly-skilled Intrapreneurs serving at most 3 clients concurrently (especially if they themselves don’t have a team).
Intrapreneurs Vs Online Business Managers (OBMs)
An Online Business Manager (OBM) is a crucial figure in the realm of virtual and online businesses. This professional is an integral part of the leadership team, responsible for managing and optimizing various facets of a digital enterprise. Skilled in overseeing the day-to-day operations, growth, and management of a virtual enterprise, their role bridges the gap between the entrepreneur’s vision and the practical execution, ensuring that all elements of the business run to plan. Although the skillsets of an OBM and Intrapreneur might overlap, they actually serve very different purposes within an organization and in certain situations, an Intrapreneur’s role can supersede that of an OBM based on the organization’s needs and goals. This is because Intrapreneurs are known for their innovative thinking and ability to identify new opportunities for growth.
Here an Intrapreneur will not just manage existing operations, but will also shape future ones, thinking beyond the day-to-day to focus on long-term transformation. Intrapreneurs are also proactive problem solvers, not waiting for issues to escalate but addressing problems even before they become significant obstacles, and handling challenges not within an OBM’s purview. Although OBMs have a flair for operational excellence scoring high as Integrators, Intrapreneurs seek excellence over the entire organization, and can introduce cross-functional initiatives as needed leveraging their Visionary-qualities. While OBMs are powerful team leaders, their focus is typically on achieving predefined objectives (rather than creating them), whereas Intrapreneurs drive change beyond traditional boundaries and can have a place in leading in the strategic. Intrapreneurs are transformational leaders, inspiring and motivating teams to embrace change, take risks, and pursue innovative projects. Their leadership style can lead to a more dynamic and adaptive organizational culture that creates fun for all, very much like an OBM. However, Intrapreneurs often look beyond an OBMs remit of optimizing existing processes, to creating new ones that disrupt the market.
Intrapreneurs Vs Chief Operations Officers (COOs)
For more corporate-based or corporate-inspired endeavours, the leadership team is often separated out into a C-suite collection of positions including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) amongst others. In particular, it is The Chief Operations Officer who is responsible for overseeing an organization’s day-to-day operations, developing and implementing strategies to drive growth, streamline processes, and optimize efficiency. Functioning very much like a OBM, COOs often differ by the need to stay out of the weeds of everyday execution in order to drive more strategic initiatives, and this is where an Intrapreneur’s ability to flow from strategy to hands-on implementation brings an advantage.
In touch with how things work on the ground, an Intrapreneur can ensure that strategic initiatives are do-able and fit for purpose, no matter how the landscape of business changes. With one finger on the pulse and an insatiable desire to learn and develop and do, they can bridge the strategy-implementation divide, covering multiple roles within one – perfect for companies that intend to move and evolve fast.
The New Need of Modern-Day Business
Although there are business fundamentals and principles that have stood the test of time, the modern-day marketplace can feel like one that is worlds apart from that a few decades ago. Emerging technologies such a blockchain and AI have not only accelerated changes in our expectations, but technology itself has changed the way our culture behaves.
To keep relevant and competitive, modern-day businesses need to provide faster and faster results with a client experience that places the consumer at the pinnacle. In a digital marketplace, automations replace human effort, and the demand for fast results is the new normal – despite the need for businesses to keep resources and time, minimal in order to ride the volatile and unpredictable waves of the current world climate. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years.
The need for highly-skilled team members and the development of small, but powerful collaborations and alliances, has never been so high.
Redefining Boundaries and Amplifying Impact
Unlike more traditional roles, intrapreneurs are not limited to specific job descriptions. Instead, they thrive with a freedom to explore, innovate, and impact various aspects of the business. Intrapreneurs are perfectly built to take on responsibility, this can free an entrepreneur to focus elsewhere or take time out without the fear of things falling apart in their absence. This can be profound. This can be the key to an entrepreneur being able to lead and keep ahead without overload or losing their peace.
Intrapreneurs operate beyond the constraints of defined roles or departmental boundaries, which is why their impact can be truly transformative. They are often visionaries who can work across teams, go from strategy to execution, and work with the breadth of a consultant and depth of an implementor. However, this can mean that pre-defining their role within an organisation can be challenging, often requiring a business to take them on first under a more exploratory ethos and/or trial period.
Unlike typical employees, intrapreneurs can bring a co-missioning energy and passion to their work that is not limited by set hours or rates of pay. It’s quite possible for an intrapreneur to wake in the middle of the night pondering or stressing over next steps. Inherently driven like entrepreneurs to be compensated by the value they bring – not the hours they work – this can make compensation tricky, with the best approach calling for regular review-points with open, honest dialoguing and re-negotiations. This is a much more fluid way of working and although the ambiguity may not align well with some businesses, those that embrace this, can reap a significant reward. One of the most powerful outcomes of this type of flexibility and willingness to negotiate, is that even launch-stage ventures can enrol the help of an intrapreneur. Compensation need not be hourly, but graduated, or a fusion of revenue share or stake in a business. The options and possibilities become limitless, because it’s not longer about hours clocked, but on the outcomes of the mission.
An Intrapreneur for Every Need & Business Stage
Because Intrapreneurs follow a code of working, rather than a role description, they can come in a multifaceted array of skillsets and inclinations.
Certain intrapreneurs might have a preference and expertise for launch ventures, while others might focus specifically on scale-up or leader-up initiatives. Some carry marketing and sales expertise, while others are experienced in operations and technology, finance or leadership and people. All will be creative with a heart and drive for success, but because each intrapreneur will be unique, it’s possible their gift-set will cover a broad range of needs and gaps.
This can be particularly advantageous for companies that do not have big teams, where one Intrapreneur might be able to cover the role of multiple team members, saving finance and increasing speed and efficiency. For companies that lean towards having bigger corporate-inspired structures, an Intrapreneur might not focus on a role-set, but instead, be able to problem solve across the board, leveraging their strategic vantage point.
This means that for every company, there is an Intrapreneur out there that will be a great fit. The challenge is finding them, which is why initiatives like the Intrapreneur’s Directory and Academy pioneered by founders Scott and Kaelyn Benham, are worth their weight in gold.
The Profile Of An Intrapreneur
Something I have had the privilege of exploring with others, is the idea of an “Intrapreneurial Identity Profile” – a phrase first coined by Scott and Kaelyn Benham – Founders of the Intrapreneurs Academy.
This brings together the WHY behind the things we do, our VALUES on how we like to treat others and be treated, the WHAT we do (and sometimes more important, are not likely to do) and HOW we might function when working with others. Of course, with the myriad of assessments out there, some might lend themselves more accurately than others, but the idea of creating an identity profile is both intriguing and powerful, and could be an extremely helpful way to find an intrapreneur you could work with successfully.
To The Power Of Two
In conclusion, the partnership between an Entrepreneur and an Intrapreneur, is like none other. Although this type of co-missioning alignment is something many Entrepreneurs secretly long for, very few have experienced it. The reason is that it inherently requires a depth of trust and respect, which if not handled well, can lead into the unhealthy realms of co-dependency. However, when navigated right, the benefits can far outweigh the risks.
Because Intrapreneurs carry a breadth and depth, exploring this form of alliance can be extremely simple. From onboarding as a strategic partner or business confidant with monthly or weekly touch-points, both Entrepreneur and Intrapreneur can explore the potential they carry together. Depending on the Intrapreneur’s skillset, a time-bound project-based venture may provide a level of partnership that can be tested from the strategic right through to implementation. Such projects could be as minimal as a single development day, to a 12-month venture incorporating month to month reviews and re-negotiations to keep things lean.
Intrigued by the possibilities of this transformative synergy? Then it could be time to explore the world of Intrapreneurship and the extraordinary value they could bring to your entrepreneurial journey…