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The 10 Intrapreneurs Commandments: How Companies Can Benefit

Beats by Dr. Dre, Gmail, the Facebook “like” button, Java, Sony PlayStation. These products, icons and services, and many more, are now part of our lives – and some of us could not imagine living without them. But very few know these names were the result of innovative, smart intrapreneurship, way before the word was even invented or became mainstream jargon.

Intrapreneurs are employees who work within companies but still retain some level of entrepreneurship. These professionals benefit companies, themselves and the public in several ways.

The 10 Intrapreneurs Commandments: How Companies Can Benefit

Here are 10 competitive advantages this breed of “inside entrepreneurs” ascribes to their sponsoring companies.

#1. Fostering Innovation

Intrapreneurs help a company win the innovation game, fostering research and development and working on the next big product or service that traditional R&D might overlook.

In a global economy in which technology has asserted its pre-eminence, companies that are able to innovate and bring their innovation to market effectively and quickly are poised to expand their market share and make money in the medium term.

#2. Breeding Talent

A company with an intrapreneurial approach is better off because Intrapreneurs are not only talented, but their work and dedication also bring the best in colleagues.

In other words, they make other people talented because of their commitment to a project,  product or service. Consider the immense impact that Paul Buchheit, Gmail’s creator, had on his team at Google, and how he was able to  form a cohesive team to develop and deploy the email service in 2004, after working on it the previous three years.

#3. Saving on R&D Money

With intrapreneurship, a business saves money on traditional research and development. Gone are the days when the company would need to follow the typical review and approval process, as well as spend millions of dollars on hiring, training and developing R&D staff.

Now, with the savvy and insight of one or two employees eager to work extra hours, the organization can still beef up its product pipeline.

#4. Gaining Competitive Intelligence

Insiders who have an entrepreneurial approach put their insight to the benefit of the sponsoring organization. Normally, companies spend tons of cash to spy on each other, often through third parties in a process called ‘competitive intelligence.’

Through intrapreneurship, organizations gain valuable intelligence at no cost, especially if the employee is a high-level professional who was just hired from a rival.

Granted, many companies hedge their operational risks by making top-rate staff sign confidentiality and non-compete agreements. But the bottom line is that some shred of operational information still gets leaked when employees jump ship onto a competitor’s platform.

#5. Fostering Market Research

Intrapreneurship fosters market research because Intrapreneurs do all the research – or at least most of it – before presenting the idea to corporate management.

Here, again, the main benefit is that the sponsoring organization spends no cash, or little cash, on market research yet it gets all the advantages.

Take the example of  Shutterstock, which holds every year a 24-hour hack-a-thon, a type of brainstorming marathon aimed at producing brilliant, innovative ideas. Before each hack-a-thon, employees spend countless hours researching the market, testing ideas, and fixing potential glitches.

#6. Increasing Revenues

Obviously, a clear benefit of intrapreneurship is an increase in revenue. Intrapreneurs also make money in terms of bonus and royalties, but the bulk of sales cash goes into the sponsoring company’s coffers.

That makes sense, in a way, because the business served as some sort of venture capitalist initially, and thus is entitled to a good portion of the cash pie.

#7. Boosting Employee Morale

Employee morale goes up when personnel know there is  a corporate culture in which entrepreneurship is valued and rewarded.

In addition, staff members are keen on completing their usual workload quickly so they can spend more time on where their passion really lies – thus boosting productivity.

This phenomenon typically occurs in technology companies, but can also be seen in other businesses as diverse as Lockheed Martin (Skunk Works project) and W. L. Gore (Gore-Tex fabric).

#8. Expanding Product Pipeline

Businesses reap operational benefits from intrapreneurship, especially in terms of expanding their product pipelines.

Industries such as technology and pharmaceuticals rely heavily on well-stuffed product pipelines to survive and ensure future profitability, because most patents expire after 20 years, significantly reducing corporate revenues afterwards.

Companies in which intrapreneurs are vibrant and well nurtured can gradually replace expiring patents with new ones created by inside entrepreneurs.

#9. Attracting External Talent

An organization with an intrapreneurial mindset attracts like-minded professionals. Legendary intrapreneurs, like Steve Jobs, relish an occupational context where unbridled creativity is fostered and recognized.

Therefore, they are more likely to choose an intrapreneurial company over a regular organization, even if the latter offers, say, better benefits and a generous compensation package. For some intrapreneurs, money is not necessarily the biggest hook.

#10. Benefiting Society

Intrapreneurs benefit the entire society with their innovative products and services. In return, they receive accolades from the media and the public, but the sponsoring organization is the ultimate beneficiary of this public-relations bonanza.

Nobody thinks of Paul Buchheit when referring to Gmail or Ken Kutaragi when alluding to Sony PlayStation, right? Everyone thinks of Google and Sony, respectively.

To Wrap It Up

Intrapreneurs provide many benefits to their sponsoring organizations and society in general.

Even though the intrapreneurial trend is more prominent nowadays in the IT sector, other industries are catching on and seizing the myriad financial and operational opportunities that in-house talent can bring.

Images: ”Back view of businessman drawing sketch on wallShutterstock.com

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Dr. Emad Rahim is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, author and community leader. He has been invited to be a TEDx Speaker and keynoted at several different university events. He was recognized by the United Nations Foundation as a 2013 Empact100 Honoree for his social entrepreneurship work, received a Congressional Award for his community service and was the recipient of the Forty Under 40 Business Leadership Award sponsored by Syracuse University. His personal story was turned into a short documentary, ‘AGAINST THE ODDS,’ and featured in the Huffington Post and Forbes. He co-authored ‘RESILIENCE: FROM THE KILLING FIELDS TO THE BOARDROOM’ and ‘LEADING THROUGH DIVERSITY: TRANSFORMING MANAGERS INTO EFFECTIVE LEADERS’ and ‘THE 4-TIONS: YOUR GUIDE TO DEVELOPING SUCCESSFUL JOB SEARCH STRATEGIES,’ and is a frequent contributor to Forbes, CEO Magazine, TweakYourBiz and YFS Entrepreneurship Magazine. He currently serves as the Endowed Chair of the Project Management Center of Excellence and Associate Professor in the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. He is also a JWMI Fellow at the Jack Welch Management Institute in the Executive MBA program and Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University. http://www.amazon.com/Dr.-Emad-Rahim/e/B006HJSWOO

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Comments
  • davidquaid

    Hi Conor

    I’m so pleased you mentioned Big Boys and little brands. You are right on the money here. Is there anything worse than watching people advise small brands to copy massive brands with saturated advertising. These are existing brands.

    I think its possible to be right and wrong in this post because I can imagine contexts you hadn’t thought of at the start but zipped in and out of along the way.

    Mostly – I have a different definition of Marketing – but that’s not a disagreement!

    The thing is that great businessmen are often great marketers because they’ve built and delivered a product that the market needs, without having to create the desire. I think if you’re creating desire, you’re in an intensive marketing situation.

    The issue at hand – is unless you’re talking to an audience who know you – then you have no brand, so forget the brand message. People don’t care and YOU cannot change them. Lead with the USP and the Value Proposition and go back to the labs if you don’t have one!

    Thanks for helping me crystalise an idea!

  • I concur – Big Boys and Little brands should resonate well in our current climate – it hints at tapping into values and a local or community focused approach if you were starting out small, targeting the people you know and what really makes them tick

  • “people are not price conscious, they are value conscious.” Interesting observation and certainly something we should consider more, when looking to offer value to our clients and customers.
    Welcome to TYB Conor!

  • Donncha Hughes

    In her book Beyond Buzz : the next generation of word of mouth marketing, Lois Kelly discusses marketing as follows:

    Marketing is about things that help people to get to know us in ways that build understanding, trust and feelings that make them want to do business with our companies

    So I agree with Conor that marketing is about messages to create the desire to buy. And messages is much more than promotion. it is very much about delivery. Your customers can be your best salesperson.

  • Thanks for another brilliant post Emad. It’s really interesting that a lot of what we use every day was created by names we don’t know within a company. I believe it’s good to know that not all staff are 9to5’ers and come up with innovative ideas despite the fact it isn’t their own business. As always I look forward to your next post for us. Happy New Year




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