Two Popular Paths For Intrapreneurs

By Ron Cocquyt on October 5th, 2015 / Comments

Some years ago I introduced the term “intrapreneur” at a university program where I was a guest speaker.  A colleague of mine who was an executive at Ford Motor Company was the prototypical example of intrapreneurship.  He saw a deficiency in customer service at Ford Motor Company and proposed a radical change in how the company approached customer service.  This required securing the permission of the highest levels of management, identifying the problem succinctly, and developing the plans that would create the business unit within Ford that would solve the problem.

It was a high risk, high reward situation, just like any entrepreneurial endeavor.  An intrapreneurial opportunity may be more readily available to individuals who work in businesses than stepping outside a company and creating a new business.  Not everyone is capable of or interested in being an entrepreneur, but anyone who has aspirations of being promoted, achieving high levels of success, or being an integral and vital part of their company should understand and be qualified to be an intrapreneur.  Intrapreneurship is rapidly becoming an integral part of the mainstream conversation regarding business and business development. Most recently it was brought to my attention that intrapreneurship was featured in an article in the women’s magazine More, and there have been similar conversations in print, on the radio, and on the Internet.

Here is feedback from one of my distinguished colleagues about the value of intrapreneurship and how it is perceived.

In California/Oregon/Washington where the tech companies are so prevalent, acting like an entrepreneur within a big company is encouraged.  They work hard to create an environment where bottom line/profit responsibility is shared and new out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged.  It is a formula that works extremely well in major companies like Google and Apple.  You can see the malaise that sets in with companies like Microsoft and HP when they lose that intrapreneurial mindset.  It’s also why so many companies out there are actually spin-offs of bigger companies – or why so many new companies are founded by managers from bigger companies – they think strategically about a problem and create a solution that will result in profits for the company . . .  companies are desperate for employees who understand how business works and will get intellectually invested in their jobs always looking for new opportunities.   — Penny Pompeii, former company executive and currently president of a SCORE chapter in South Florida

Two Popular Paths For Intrapreneurs

There are two ways that individuals can become intrapreneurs.  My business history allowed me the opportunity to engage in both.  The first way is by an assignment.  You are often charged with the task of developing a new business unit. When I was at C. R. Bard in the early 70’s, I was assigned the task of creating a business unit around products that were new to the company and not part of its core offerings.  I had to evaluate these new products; prioritize their importance; and develop the marketing plans, sales budgets, and training programs that would affect the success of these products on the company’s bottom line.

The second might happen by way of a timely opportunity or trend in the marketing place. This occured for me when I was recruited to build an entire business division within a company that was looking to benefit from the growth within the medical industry.  The company’s focus and capabilities were all in industrial and commercial manufacturing.  They saw an opportunity to enter the sophisticated medical device industry and brought me on board to build that business “from scratch.”  This required identifying opportunities; generating the plans; bringing together the resources necessary to produce, sell and distribute the products; creating a sales force, etc.

In both cases, entrepreneurial skills were required to produce intrapreneurial success.  The real difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs is what is at risk.  Entrepreneurs risk investors’ money; intrapreneurs risk their careers.  One of the most important aspects of success in either situation is the ability to quickly recognize failure, learn from it immediately, make the necessary adjustments, and move on.  Failure is generally part of the process, and failure needs to be dealt with efficiently, not hidden or ignored.

Intrapreneurship needs to be studied on campuses and developed and promoted within businessess

About the Author

Ron Cocquyt

Ron Cocquyt

Ron Cocquyt has had a successful career building four different companies “from scratch” with each one eventually being sold, and for the past twenty years he has been instructing and mentoring small businesses in the essentials for success.