6 Pitfalls Family Intrapreneurs Must Avoid


Why do some companies consistently succeed at corporate entrepreneurship while myriad others stumble?

There are several ingredients required to succeed at creating new businesses or lines of business within a corporate environment. These include culture, innovation, intrapreneurship best practices, and of course having the right intrapreneurs at the helm. But before an idea makes it as a business, someone, an intrapreneur, must run with it and transition it from a basic concept to a viable business model. To succeed, these intrapreneurs must be on the look out for six pitfalls. Here are 6 behaviors to be on the lookout for.

1. Too much asking

Too many ideas never make it past the starting block because those with the idea ask permission before they start. If you want to convince your boss that you have a great concept, you must show that you have thought it through. As a minimum, this means doing a little research on why the idea is great, how it will support your company strategic objectives, what the competitive landscape looks like, why it will work, and why it can make money.

2. Too much politics

The problem with office politics is that in trying to please everyone, you risk dumbing down your original business idea or changing it to a point where it no longer resembles what you had in mind. This will lead to failure. Your focus must be on making sufficient progress with the idea to find the internal supporters that will help you push it through. The right supporters are not in it to score political points and should be focused on supporting you.

3. Too much lone wolf

Too many intrapreneurs try to do it alone and in a business environment this can be an impossible task. Getting a company to support a new business idea does take some support from within. Support is the opposite of politics in that it refers to getting influential people to support the idea and agree to land a hand and free up resources because they believe in the idea. The other very important person for an intrapreneur to find is the innovator that will turn the idea into a tangible solution.

4. Too little air cover

An intrapreneur needs what we used to refer to as air cover in the military. This refers to the support of someone very high up in the organization.  This is the sponsor who will be sure to detract naysayers and prevent interference that would impact the progress of the new business idea. The need for air cover will increase as more resources and funding are spent on the idea. Always secure air cover.

5. Too big too soon

One of the difficulties in trying to launch a new business within an existing corporation is the tendency for parent companies to want to go big or go home. Unfortunately, this approach has been proven to fail more often times than not.  The opposite of go big or go home is to take a well-calculated and paced approach to introducing a new idea to your customers. The lean startup proponents refer to it as the MVP (minimum viable product) whereby a prototype is designed to validate basic assumptions before investing too much in the final solution. Going big too early can rob the corporate startup of the rich interaction with early adopters and the wealth of learning that is necessary to arrive at a winning solution.

6. Underestimating the emotional history between parent and intrapreneur

The challenges faced by family businesses are well documented.  The Business Family Foundation has played a leadership role in this regard in developing programs to sensitize family business owners and their family members to the challenges unique to this environment.  The intrapreneurs and sponsors must understand how these family, business and investor dynamics manifest themselves within their unique business context and relationships and address any behaviours that risk slowing down the startup as it launches and grows or jeopardize the family relationships.

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