Article: Decoding entrepreneurial talent: 5 traits of an intrapreneur

Talent Acquisition

Decoding entrepreneurial talent: 5 traits of an intrapreneur

Uncovering entrepreneurial talent within organisations necessitates identifying individuals driven by ambition, adept at selling, financially astute, well-connected externally, and unafraid to take risks.
Decoding entrepreneurial talent: 5 traits of an intrapreneur

Entrepreneurship is not a profession, instead, it’s a way of life. One doesn’t have to necessarily be one’s boss or run an independent setup to be deemed an entrepreneur enough. Instead, demonstrating enterprising behaviour in earnest cuts the deal. Scores of organisations, ranging from IBM to TCS, and from Unilever to Google, and startups across sizes, seek employees who exhibit entrepreneurial traits, albeit willing to work within a larger setup. It’s a win-win deal– the firm retains the talent and its ideas, and the entrepreneur keeps the security of a larger enterprise while working fairly independently. 

Entrepreneur in residence is a nifty arrangement between full-time employment and independent working. But can any employee become an entrepreneur in residence? Yes, indeed. Below are the defining traits of an intrapreneur.

An aspiration beyond a career

Entrepreneurs are characterised by their ambition, often to an unreasonable degree. While conventional employees aspire to climb the corporate ladder predictably and with low risk, intrapreneurs envisage the world as their stage and the market as their ultimate arbiter. They are propelled by the desire to leave a lasting legacy, prioritising this over conformity to organisational norms. Within their workplace, they endeavour to harness organisational resources to realise ambitions that extend beyond mere career advancement.

Unlike those content with mere promotions or peer recognition, intrapreneurs are propelled by the pursuit of greatness. They value market success over hierarchical progression, envisioning their impact in terms of years or even decades, rather than mere quarterly achievements. Their loyalty is more to their talent than their status as employees, favouring minimal management interference over hierarchical structures. Identifying and retaining such individuals is crucial for organisational success.

A disposition for selling

Selling is a fundamental skill for any entrepreneur. Whether it's pitching a product to a customer, convincing an employee to join your team, or attracting investors with the promise of financial returns, selling is always part of the game. Entrepreneurs are perpetual optimists, always ready to make promises and offer hope, even if they can't always deliver right away.

However, in larger companies, employees may be assigned to roles where selling isn't a primary focus. Some research, some develop, others handle marketing, and eventually, someone sells. But for an intrapreneur – someone driving innovation within a company – the ability to sell is essential. You need to generate excitement around your ideas or products to secure investment and support to keep the enterprise thriving. If you naturally excel at selling, you've got a crucial skill for the job.

Also read: Purpose is key to succeeding in an entrepreneurial journey

Dexterity with numbers 

A big reason most startups fail is because financial prudence occurs very much as an afterthought. The founders remain under the delusion that if you make a great product the world will beat a path to your door. But this stickiness to your product or enterprise necessitates that you have created something novel, useful, and affordable—all three. And getting that combination in a competitive market isn’t trivial. So, a sense of numbers must prevail from the very beginning. It’s never too early to get a hang of the cost structure, the revenue stream, and cash flows, regardless of how many promises the future beacons.  

In most firms, a sense of numbers is limited to the bean counters. Even the general managers trust only their financial lieutenants with the job. Resultingly, they fancy poetry and prose over data and statistics, whereby losing their touch with reality and their credibility. The entrepreneurs in residence must be good with numbers, and not just financial numbers. They can’t afford to delegate this aspect of the business. 

A credible external network 

Employees, after having spent a considerable amount of time in a setup, tend to form stronger internal connections than a robust external network. They attend similar meetings with the same people, work together, eat together, travel together, and even think alike. Ask them to name ten professional connections outside of the workplace, and they would shudder. Their world is limited to their employer. Ergo, their flow of knowledge and ideas is circular. No fresh perspective, in or out. 

As an entrepreneur, let alone one in residence, you must have a wide network. A curated set of connections to secure ideas, talent and capital. Unlike employees who can get through the entire day or even their entire career in the confines of the enterprise, entrepreneurs solicit constant validation of their ideas and pursue complementary assets to push their agenda forward. They can’t rely on their bosses or other seniors to help make connections or secure advanced information. They must do it basis their personal/ professional linkages, and such ties can’t be forged overnight. Your credibility counts more than your institutional identity. Seek such people. 

Seek forgiveness rather than permission

The most unmistakable trait of entrepreneurs and innovators is their belief in validation through action rather than seeking approval beforehand. Regular employees tend to seek permission before making any move, often requiring endorsement from higher-ups. They avoid risks, stick closely to rules, and are better suited for making small improvements rather than driving innovation.

Entrepreneurs in residence, however, thrive on trial and error. They're not afraid to try out new ideas, and if they fail (which isn't a big deal), they're quick to apologise and move forward. They're willing to forgive themselves and let go of any sunk costs, including their credibility. They see each experiment as an opportunity to learn, understanding that if they already know something will work, it's not an experiment – it's just routine. Entrepreneurs are comfortable with taking calculated risks and are fine with failing publicly.

Identifying such individuals among the vast talent pool in organisations isn't easy. And retaining them is even more challenging. Three tips for keeping them: show them the bigger picture, give them the freedom to innovate, and when the time comes, allow them to move on. They'll leave the organisation richer for their contributions.

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, Entrepreneurship, #Retention

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