The world of the entrepreneur is one which is well documented. Through the more recent success stories of Branson, Jobs and Gates and the historic much quoted tales of Henry Ford, people have been mesmerised by stories of billion dollar companies founded in bedrooms and garages. And spawned from these stories are the debates about what it takes to achieve such success and what it is which separates out these successful entrepreneurs from the thousands of people who had similar dreams but ultimately failed.
In recent years there has also been a rise of the lesser quoted intrapreneur . The person working in a fast paced and entrepreneurial manner but within an established business owned by somebody else. Is it purely the ownership of the business which is different? Or are there fundamental skills difference between the entrepreneur and the intrapreneur ?
Ali Golds, Managing Director and Founder of Operation Enterprise and The Juno Project, lists 10 key skills she would associate with an entrepreneur whilst admitting “when you look at the list, you will see that we all need these skills on a personal level too…so in theory, there shouldn’t be anything that will take you very far out of your comfort zone.” Her list is:
- Good Communication Skills
- Can Present Information
- Can Present Themselves
- Problem Solver
- Builds trust
- Risk taker
Looking at them in slightly more detail, would they apply to an intrapreneur as well as an entrepreneur?
Creativity: there are undoubtedly many opportunities within an organisation to be creative and indeed often creativity is needed when negotiating procedural and political challenges so I would say the most successful intrapreneur s would rank this up there with their key skills.
Good Communication Skills: essential for the intrapreneur . Communicated up the tree to influencers as well as communicated within departments and teams is a vital skill to the intrapreneur .
Presentation Skills: Another essential for an intrapreneur . Whether it is presenting results or plans at a board meeting or to clients and teams the ability to present information that can be easily digested and understood goes hand in hand with communication.
Focussed: I would group this with being driven as a key skill of an intrapreneur which may be even more important than it is with an entrepreneur. As an intrapreneur you will face challenges, road blocks and politics on a daily basis which, without this drive and focus, it is easy to succumb to.
Problem Solver: The problems may be different but the skill is the same. You might not be solving funding or cash flow problems but that doesn’t mean that the challenges are any less, the intrapreneur needs to be a master problem solver.
Intuition: The entrepreneur uses their intuition to sniff out new market or product opportunities, the intrapreneur probably does this less. That’s not to say they don’t use it, but they are often led by an overarching business strategy which diminishes the need for this skill.
Builds trust: Without the trust of peers and superiors the life of an intrapreneur would be pretty shot lived. A critical skill whether working inside someone else’s organisation or on your own.
Resilient: Group it with focussed and driven as key, keep knocking at the door until it falls down!
Risk taker: Risks are different for an intrapreneur . It is not their money they are risking, more their careers and reputations. You could therefore argue the risks are less, however try telling that to an intrapreneur who has just put their neck on the line to the CEO!
So all in all intuition and risk taking seem to be the main differences as far as I can see, although another observer may look at this differently and interpret these as vital for both roles. But if it is not skills which differentiate the intrapreneur from the entrepreneur what is it? Personality traits? Mindset? Priorities? Maybe I need to do another post as a follow up, watch this space.