Intrapreneur To Exitpreneur

So how does one go about making the leap from an intrapreneur to an entrepreneur? The complicated answer is, it depends on some of the following:

  • Too many levels of bureaucracy
  • Lack of support for moving ideas up the chain
  • Passion aligned to something unrelated to current work
  • Unsatisfied with personal and professional growth opportunities

I chose to bold the only positive reason because to show that not all of the reasons for leaving regular employment for entrepreneurship are bad reasons, however, the negative reasons may greatly influence an individuals decisions.

I want to examine this not from the individual that chooses to leave, but from the employers perspective, so hang on.

Unfortunately, many employers use excuses and dangling carrots to keep underutilized employees for as long as possible. Why? Because they don't want to have to go through another round of hiring or perhaps good intentions just keep going sideways. Whatever the reason, it is unacceptable to limit the growth and opportunities of your employees.

I'm not exactly certain why, but most companies large and small view employees with grand aspirations with disdain. Ironically, these same companies are pushing some of their best talent out the door through these very actions and attitudes. Only companies are open-minded and willing to change will reap the benefits from their intrapreneurs.

Employers that put specific and actionable programs in place to develop this wealth of underutilized talent will reap the rewards.

  • Foster creativity - Ensure that individuals and teams have plenty of opportunities to collaborate and put forth their own ideas without fear of backlash or embarrassment. Encourage multiple ways to submit ideas both publicly and anonymously. This helps ensure you'll get ideas from both introverts and extroverts.
  • Provide Time - Give employees time during each week as well as larger chunks throughout the year to work on pet projects or ideas unrelated to current projects. Knowledge is transferable and interesting connections can be made from disparate topics. This happens organically and cannot be forced. Time to process will bring these ideas together.
  • Provide Opportunity & Education - Give employees opportunities to cross-train with another departments, mentor peers,take online classes or get a professional certification. Could you benefit from helping your employees understand your company's process for registering intellectual property? Absolutely.  Again, let employees elect what they are interested in and tailor programs based on feedback.
  • Provide Resources - Employees can't grow without access to resources, in fact if you aren't helping them develop, you are letting them stagnate and atrophy professionally. Ensure there is decent funding for books, classes, conferences and just developing proof of concept products. Even small budgets can add value when properly allocated.
  • Provide Infrastructure - Fast Tracking ideas and innovation can't happen in chaos, so be deliberate. Provide employees mentors related to getting a project off the ground. Help them understand the necessary processes to see their ideas move forward. Ensure that there are efficient ways for employees to get feedback so they can continue to iterate and explore.

When you company gets all the pieces for internal innovation in place your employees will:

  • Feel Empowered
  • Appreciate Growth Opportunities
  • Appreciate The Work Environment
  • Appreciate Their Creative Freedom

I can't wrap this up without some positive warnings. You may have helped develop the next Fortune 500 CEO. Yes, some employees will still venture out on their own, but not everyone wants to take on that level of personal risk. You'll still have a wealth of intrapreneur talent, and you should always be pulling more individuals into the program. Remember those employees that do venture out on their own, still be supportive of their efforts. If their venture doesn't work out, don't hesitate to pull them back into the fold.

This article was previously posted on my LinkedIn profile.


Jef Lippiatt

Owner at Startup Chucktown

I focus on business strategy, diversification and divergent thinking. I enjoy helping others see the hidden opportunities in front of them.


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Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot , Editor at SavvySME

Foster creativity is a very tricky one, don't you think? It something so many companies aspires to but it seems very hard to actually make it happen. What would you recommend to liven up a workplace/situation/person where creativity is dwindling?

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

Great questions Lina, Creativity may be something that many companies "aspire" to, however, they put little to know effort behind their words. Without action nothing will change.One great way is to create incentives for getting employees to submit ideas (could be small recognition, a $5 gift card or something much larger depending on the submitted idea and the money available). Also you could make idea submission a larger part of the company. On the company's intranet create a space that shows submitted ideas, the ability to comment on them and vote on them. The top voted ideas could then be reviewed for further business value (obviously, limit voting so employees cannot game the system to ensure fairness). Another approach would be to have an internal board that reviews ideas (think like an internal Shark Tank or Dragon's Den). This panel could then weigh the ideas and select which should move on. The ideas that are approved could be given a pot of money (perhaps $1000 or $5000 to further develop the idea). This would be a perfect point for the person working on the idea to have access to internal (and maybe even external) mentors such as C-level or VPs guide them to the next phase. Even though I could continue elaborating on this process, I'll end with, regardless of the project or idea being a success reward and recognize the individual who put in the effort to try to better the company. Ensure that the entire company knows that this recognition will happen regardless of success or failure. Why? You don't want your employees to have ideas but be too scared of failing to even submit the idea. Keep moving forward and curiosity and creativity will combine to reveal small and large innovations to approach.