Entrepreneurship is the perfect paradigm: you invest in yourself and you can immediately see a change in your business. But that changes when your company is acquired or when you transition into a larger company. As an intrapreneur, you're a leader within a larger corporation -- free to exercise your entrepreneurial skills but without incurring the risks associated with those activities. Reward without risk sounds great, right? Here's the downside: acquisitions allow you to influence but not own, which is something not everyone is open to.
Sure, it's a compromise, but the transition from entrepreneur to intrapreneur can pay off if you do it right. Here are five tips on how to remain successful once you've made the leap.
Maintain an entrepreneurial mindset
The key to my success? Maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset, even as an intrapreneur. I see it two ways: you can either be a meteor or asteroid. Meteors keep moving and ascend. They burn bright and shoot across the sky. Asteroids float around in a belt and revolve around bigger bodies. But they don't affect change. They just blend into the pattern. With your entrepreneurial mindset, you've driving innovation forward and constantly evaluating the next steps as opposed to the classic intrapreneur that remains static in the orbit and doesn't propel change.
Keep true to your mission
You're wondering how you can you protect your entrepreneurial mission while reporting to someone else.
Advice to all leaders transitioning into intrapreneurial roles: respect your new team. But remember that you're there to continue your mission, not to conform. My former company, Cloudant, was charged with developing for the cloud and integrating open source, something that's now being done within IBM for our cloud and Watson platforms. Sticking to your mission isn't possible unless you stick to your guns as an entrepreneur.
Innovate or die
Most big companies can't be trailblazers because they suffer from the innovator's dilemma -- that successful companies can do everything "right" and still lose their market leadership -- or even fail -- as new, unexpected competitors rise and take over. Small companies have the advantage because they lack the bulky overhead and can deliver much more effectively. But as difficult as it is for larger corporations to innovate, there will come a day when innovation will be critical to their existence. At IBM, we've launched Blue Unicorn, a program that fosters just such innovation. In the spirit of facilitating breakthroughs and a culture of product incubation, Blue Unicorn is positioned to transform IBM by focusing on real world problems, using real world measure, and reaping real world rewards.
Identify the red-tape cutters
Once you become an intrapreneur, find the people within your new company who provide you with the right resources (people who can cut down on the BS). Within large and well-established companies, there are often rigid structures that can stifle an entrepreneurial mindset. That's why you have to find the resourceful allies who think like you to achieve your goals.
Keep an open mind, you are now an influencer, not an owner
As the pace of innovation increases, the traditional idea behind the big company is bound to change. Here's why: the next generation of innovation will come from a crop of people who have been taught to get their products to market as quickly as possible. These people (we're looking at you, Millennials) are used to working in collaborative teams and believing that good is better than perfect. As an influencer, you have the opportunity to model collaborative behavior. Be the entrepreneurial-styled intrapreneur that fosters innovation and facilitates knowledge sharing to keep your company at the forefront of the competition.