Business Strategy

7 Tips For Being A Successful Corporate Intrapreneur


Are you driven to figure out better ways to do things, ask the challenging questions, and employ your creative talents to make possibilities into realities for your employer?

If you find yourself in a corporate job that is stifling your creativity — what to do?

  • You could hide your entrepreneurial nature, buckle down and stay nose to the grindstone, but frustration would creep in.
  • You could leave to start your own venture (though the fact that 1 out of 2 start-ups fail by year 4 of operation could give you cause for pause).
  • You could find a new job in a company that cherishes and supports innovation (though the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimates the median duration of unemployment is 4 months and some management gurus estimate it takes 1 month for every $10,000 of income to land a new job)
  • You could look for ways to innovate where you are.

The problem with new ideas and innovation is that you can’t be sure they will work. If you are employed at an organization that values innovation beyond one’s normal scope of responsibilities, you may be in position to pursue your passion without much risk… if your idea doesn’t work out, your managers will appreciate that you tried

However, if your employer doesn’t value innovation you could be branded as a failure and become professionally vulnerable if your ideas flatline.

You have to balance what you’ll get from becoming an intraprenuer—launching a project or service at your company—with the risks. If your idea has legs and makes money for the company, you may be rewarded. Even if your managers didn’t initially support you. If it doesn’t work out, you will have developed new skills and shown initiative that other employers may appreciate.

To make your ideas reality in a conservative culture, follow these steps to minimize your professional vulnerability:

-Create a business plan/concept paper defining.

  • what problem is being solved
  • how it impacts the company
  • how big the market opportunity/opportunity cost is
  • what the implementation barriers are
  • what the competitive landscape looks like

-Find an internal sponsor who can help you achieve broader buy-in at the senior level of your organization and help you access resources across the company. In a 2013 survey, Accenture found that nearly half the employees (49 percent) surveyed said management support is very important to the generation of entrepreneurial ideas, but only one in five (20 percent) believed their company delivered it.

-Define the steps necessary to develop the concept, including timelines and resources.

-Reach out broadly across the organization to tap expertise you lack – technical, legal, regulatory, marketing, manufacturing, design.

-Form an internal brain trust (formal or informal) of believers and non-believers who will vet your concept along the way.

-Establish checkpoints points with your sponsor that keep the concept development effort moving forward at a steady pace.

-Do not neglect your primary responsibilities for the company.

The old adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained” holds especially true for the intrapreneur who has the courage to take considered risks, shaking up the status quo.

About the Author

Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, a selective online career network for top performers.