We’ve all heard of entrepreneurs, those who roll the dice and go out and start their own company. But in fact, 70% of successful entrepreneurs got their business idea while working for a previous employer. Why not bring that same spirit of innovation with new ideas into your current organization?
Intrapreneurship is a word coined in the 1980s to describe bringing about profitable ventures and money-saving programs under the umbrella of an existing business.
One of the most famous intrapreneurs is Arthur Fry, a scientist at 3M Corporation and also a church choir director. Frustrated that his bookmarks were always falling out of his hymnals, he was excited to hear about a special glue discovered by a colleague, Spencer Silver. Fry came up with the first version of the Post-it note, and believed so strongly in his invention that when engineers told him a machine didn’t exist to manufacture them, he went home and built one in his basement. When he couldn’t fit the machine through his basement door in order to bring it to the factory to start production, he knocked the wall down.
You probably don’t need to go to that extent to be an intrapreneur, but whether you are a manager or an administrative assistant, anyone can become one. Here are a few tips to help get you started on becoming an intrapreneur:
Ask to form a small intrapreneurship group to help create a proposal
If you have a new business idea or a way to help save the company money, ask if you can form a small group to help put together a proposal. You could always meet over lunch. You will have a much better chance of success if a group makes the proposal rather than just one person sticking their neck out.
Ask if a “suggestion box” can be available to all employees
Sometimes people might be more willing to propose a new idea if they can do it anonymously using an employee suggestion box. Volunteer to collect these ideas and bring them to the attention of upper management.
Allocate a specific time each day to look at the big picture
Are there better ways of doing something? Do customers always complain about the same thing? If so, could you think of a way to fix it? Is there a social media site that could be utilized more for marketing purposes? Any ideas for a new product or service that customers have been asking for? The difference between an employee and an intrapreneur is that an intrapreneur doesn’t just wait for an assignment. They spot a problem or an opportunity and then volunteer to work on it.
Meet with the people closest to your customers/clients
In order to spark intrapreneurship, listen to the people closest to your customers/clients. These might be salespeople, customer service representatives or those who do repairs and maintenance. They deal directly with customers all the time and might have suggestions for new solutions, ideas or business programs you could work on together. If you can volunteer to work at the annual sales meeting, you will get an earful of ideas.
Ten minutes of every staff meeting should be about new ideas
To encourage and foster intrapreneurship, suggest that 10 minutes of every staff meeting be spent talking about new projects for saving money or increasing revenue. Let everyone brainstorm, and no one is allowed to put down or laugh at someone else’s idea.
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Remember patience is a virtue~root~>
Don’t implement a great new idea and then give up on it because it didn’t pay off right away. Be in it for the long term. However, it always helps to have some initial wins that you can point to in order to gain the confidence of everyone involved—and to help prove you are on the right track.
Reward everyone who helped with the new idea
Make sure everyone who was involved in coming up with the new idea is rewarded publicly. The reward does not necessarily have to be money or stock, but if the idea resulted in more revenue for the company, a monetary reward would be a nice gesture. This will encourage others to come forward with their own suggestions.
Take action to be an intrapreneur
Don’t spend all your time planning with every “T” crossed and every “I” dotted before taking action. Forming a good plan is important, but if you obsess over every detail you will never get to implementation. Establish clear deadlines and stick to them, and don’t feel you have to have everything perfect before taking action.
Take risks to be an intrapreneur
Never avoid attempting something new just because you think you might fail. We all learn from our mistakes, and think how much wiser you will be the next time you try. Once you get buy-in from upper management (preferably in writing), then go for it! Form that team, write up a plan and let everyone know as soon as steps are completed. If something does go wrong pick yourself up and move on.
If you are a manager, earmark funds for development
If you are a manager with budget responsibilities, earmark funds for the specific purpose of developing new products, procedures and services. Whether you work in a large or small business, know that sponsoring a spirit of intrapreneurship can also help engage and retain your best workers (and you know how expensive it is to replace someone). How often do we hear about employees having a great idea and receiving no support from upper management? That gets very discouraging over time, and they might decide to take their talents elsewhere.
Being an intrapreneur will not only help your company, it is a great way to advance your career and increase your visibility. If you can propose and implement a new idea, people will notice and realize all that you are capable of.