Read this post in 3 minutes
You will not find them on the covers of some of the world’s most famous publications. Most would not be able to tell them apart in a crowded space. Yet the work they do in the companies they lead has led to the generation of millions of jobs and billions in revenue.
They are Intraprenuers. The most underrated pioneers of our time.
Investopedia breaks down the term Intrapreneur as an inside entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur within an existing firm, who uses entrepreneurial skills without incurring the risks associated with those activities.
Meet Stella Obinwa. An ultra-successful tourism business genius who is the personification of intrapreneurship. As the current Director of Dubai Tourism, perhaps the biggest evidence of this in Obinwa’s career was the role she played as the Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer in the growth of Wakanow.com, a Nigerian startup which is now the country’s leading online travel company.
However, given her ambition and enterprising character, the expectation of being an entrepreneur herself is imminent. One may undoubtedly ask the question:
How did you manage to navigate around that expectation during your career?
“Easy. Every company requires visionaries and executors. By providing value as an executor, I made sure that my role was not diminished or in jeopardy.
The visionaries need me to turn their visions into reality.
I gain satisfaction from that and the knowledge that everyone recognizes my contribution to the success of the company.”
The case for the rise of the Intrapreneur
According to VentureBurn, the solution to lack of funding for startups is through acquiring formal business management training as “this knowledge will assist them in building feasible business plans, which will, in turn, increase the chances of receiving an investment.”
In light of this there has been a growing awareness on the creation of intrapreneurs, with organizations like Virgin launching initiatives such as Intrapreneurship Month. Stella concurs with this movement.
“Intraprenuers keep a company viable.
The formal business training and task expertise bring stability and structure to what could easily deteriorate into chaos. I’ve seen many companies stagnate success because the internal processes and controls were never created nor implemented.”
However, the narrowing of the corporate ladder as one rises is no secret. From this comes forth the question:
How does one position themselves in their current work place to consciously become an Intrapreneur?
To this Obinwa responds: “Develop strength in niche areas where the playing field is less crowded. Identify the market trend ahead of others. Be willing to take risks and grow horizontally versus vertically.
Find a way to add value, and the ladder becomes easier to climb.”
Obinwa adds that industry knowledge, constant field education, relationship development, and a positive attitude are some of the key traits towards success as an intrapreneur. The most important of these traits being relationship development. “I developed relationships with colleagues, employers, and the market that enabled me to showcase my value and skills. They endorsed me along the way, and opened up opportunities that I didn’t know existed.”
The most important relationship that an intrapreneur must nurture is that with their seniors in the firm. The most famous intrapreneur of all time, Jack Welch, was enabled to transform General Electric through a relationship he held with an executive, Reuben Gutoff. Obinwa mirrors this to her career. “The founders of Wakanow.com embraced the skills and knowledge that I brought to the company. They are great visionaries, and recognized that I could take their vision and translate that to executable tasks towards growth and awareness of the brand.”
However, as one who has held corporate executive roles she admits that pursuing intrapreneurship in a larger corporate firm is harder than in a startup. “Younger companies are more adaptable to changes in the industry. This makes it easier to be pro-active and execute. Bigger companies tend to have a lot of controls and bureaucracy that make the processes take longer to execute. These often means you miss the target or profit margins.”
Money and Intrapreneurship. Can Intrapreneurs be just as rich?
Given the fact that Paul Buchheit, the intrapreneur who created Gmail at Google is worth an easy $600 million, considering being an innovator within an organization can’t be all that bad. Obinwa agrees.
“Money is always important. Bills must be paid.
However, one must be willing to sacrifice some comfort to succeed in a career. Success here is defined as job satisfaction and career growth.”