Enterprise and Small Business Principles

Intrapreneurial characteristics — who is the intrapreneur?

Studies have shown that managers and entrepreneurs vary considerably across a range of behavioural patterns. As Bouchard (2002) notes, their strategic orientation, the nature of their commitment, the way they access and consume resources and how they organise can be described as radically divergent. Indeed, what a corporate manager can accom­plish well constitutes a major challenge for the entrepreneur, and vice versa. For example, corporate managers and their organisations are good at improving proven recipes while entrepreneurs are good at seizing opportunities and creating value through innovation and responsiveness. Given this, there have been doubts expressed as to whether large companies, through management education and action learning projects, can turn man­agers into corporate entrepreneurs (Thornberry, 2003).

However, various studies suggest that this may be possible if the best of both types of individual are brought together into one set of competences. Vandermerwe and Birley (1997) have suggested that intrapreneurial organisations often need a new type of per­son who can bridge the two worlds between the entrepreneurial and the corporate world. Indeed, the set of skills that define the intrapreneur are quite different from the skills needed by either the traditional corporate manager or the entrepreneur (see Table 14.1). For example, unlike entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs will need team-building skills and a

Table 14.1 Managers, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs

Traditional managers

Traditional entrepreneurs


Organisational attributes

Attitude to organisation





Relationship with others

Sees organisation as nurturing and protective, seeks position within it

Pleases others (higher in the organisational hierarchy)

Wants promotion and other traditional corporate rewards

Organisational hierarchy as basic relationship

May advance rapidly in a firm - when frustrated, rejects the system and forms his/her own firm

Pleases self and customers

Wants freedom. Goal - oriented, self-reliant and self-motivated

Transactions and deal-making as basic relationship

Dislikes the organisational system

Pleases self, customers and sponsors

Wants freedom and access to corporate resources

Transactions within organisational hierarchy

Managerial attributes


Delegation of action





Problem­solving style


Agrees with those in power/delays decisions for superiors

Delegates action - reporting and supervising takes most of time

Primarily on events inside the organisation

Has market studies done to discover needs and guide product/ service concepts

Works out problems within the system

Professional management. Abstract analytical tools, people management and political skills

Follows private vision. Decisive, action-oriented

Gets hands dirty and can upset employees by doing their work

Primarily on technology and market-place

Creates needs. Talks to customers and forms own opinions

Escapes problems in formal structures by leaving to start own business

Knows business intimately. More business acumen than managerial skill. Often technically trained

More patient and willing to compromise than entrepreneur

Gets hands dirty - can do work but knows how to delegate

Both inside - management on needs of venture - and outside of firm - focus on customers

Does own market research and intuitive market evaluation like the entrepreneur

Works out problems within the system, or bypasses it without leaving

Very like the entrepreneur, but situation demands greater ability to prosper within the organisation

Table 14.1 (coat’d)

Traditional managers

Traditional entrepreneurs


Personal attributes


Can be forceful and


Self-confident; courageous


ambitious - fearful of others' ability to harm career development

optimistic, courageous

- cynical about system but optimistic about ability to outwit it


Highly educated

Transactions and deal-

Transactions within


making as basic relationship


Failure and

Strives to avoid

Deals with mistakes and

Attempts to hide risky


mistakes and surprises.

failures as learning

projects from view so can

Postpones recognising failure


learn from mistakes without public failure


Family members

Entrepreneurial small

Entrepreneurial small


worked for large


business, professional or




farm background Likes moderate risk -



Likes moderate risk. Invests heavily but expects to succeed

unafraid of dismissal so little personal risk


Cares about status

Happy sitting on an

Dismisses traditional status


orange crate if job is getting done

symbols - covets symbols of freedom

Source: Adapted from Pinchot (1986)

firm understanding of both business and market realities, while also possessing the leadership and rapid decision-making qualities of successful owner-managers. There­fore, in developing intrapreneurs, the task for organisational managers is to identify those individuals that possess the managerial skills to manage a project within the boundaries of a large organisation and the entrepreneurial skills to be able to take the project forward (Jansen and van Wees, 1994).

14.8.1 Managerial skills

The managerial skills required by an intrapreneur are as follows.

The ability to adopt a multi-disciplinary role

At the beginning, it will only be the intrapreneur who will have a sufficient grasp of the concepts or ideas that they want to put forward within the organisation. Whilst intrapreneurs frequently have a background in one particular business discipline, such as development or marketing, they must be able to adopt a multidisciplinary approach when they become involved with the development of their own ideas into a viable busi­ness. This may often mean crossing boundaries between functions in the organisation.

Understanding the environment

The intrapreneur needs to understand the environment and its many aspects to estab­lish a successful intrapreneurial venture. An individual must understand how their creativity can affect both the internal and external environments of the corporation.

Encouragement of open discussion

Open discussion must be encouraged to develop a good team for creating something new. A successful new intrapreneurial venture can only be formed when the team involved feels the freedom to disagree and critique an idea to reach the best solution. The degree of openness obtained depends on the degree of openness of the intrapreneur.

Creation of management options

The intrapreneur must challenge the beliefs and assumptions of the corporation and through this create something new in a largely bureaucratic organisation.

Building a coalition of supporters

Openness will lead to the establishment of a strong coalition of supporters and encour - agers - the intrapreneur must encourage and affirm each team member, particularly during the problem times. This encouragement is very important, as the usual motivators of career paths and job security are not operational in establishing a new intrapre - neurial venture.

14.8.2 Entrepreneurial skills

Some of the entrepreneurial skills required by the intrapreneur include the following. Vision and flexibility

The intrapreneur must be a visionary leader, a person who ‘dreams great dreams’. To establish a successful new venture, the intrapreneurial leader must have a dream and overcome all obstacles by selling this dream to others within the organisation, especi­ally those in influential positions. However, whilst intrapreneurs are visionary, their dream is usually grounded in business experience, mainly because they realise that their dreams can only become reality if they themselves take action to turn an idea into a viable business proposition.


Intrapreneurs tend to start doing immediately, rather than spending time planning the development of their idea in detail. Often, they do not wait for permission to begin their ideas. Instead, they will go ahead with the development of their ideas, often in their own time. Unlike managers, who often delegate responsibilities to subordinates, intra­preneurs will often be involved in a number of tasks associated with the intrapreneurial project, predominantly because of their affinity towards turning their vision directly into reality through their own efforts.


Traditional product development systems cannot compete with intrapreneurship for one simple reason - they are too bureaucratic to enable or encourage dedication. Traditional managers will divide marketing and technology, vision and action, and a host of other responsibilities into separate jobs, which will deny intrapreneurs the com­mitment, responsibility and excitement that inspires total dedication. In some cases this dedication can be extreme, often to the extent of putting the priorities of the pro­ject before the people involved - intrapreneurs will prefer to get the job done on time rather than meeting people’s needs.

Persistence in overcoming failure

The intrapreneur must persist through the frustration and obstacles that will inevitably occur during the creation of a new venture. Only through persistence will a new ven­ture be created and successful commercialisation take place. More importantly, intra­preneurs (like entrepreneurs) tend to see failure as a learning experience - a temporary setback from which the idea can be improved.

Setting self-determined goals

The intrapreneur often sets personal goals for the project, rather than those corporate goals linked to short-term needs such as reporting procedures, etc. These goals are often related to high personal standards, as intrapreneurs gain little satisfaction from adhering to standards imposed by others.

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