A big part of being an entrepreneur is working in an environment with like-minded, interesting people. But an environment like that doesn’t just materialize overnight — like anything else, you need to work hard to make it happen.
Curious about how other entrepreneurs went about creating a culture of “intrapreneurs” within their own startups, I asked a panel of 12 founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share their top trick. Their answers are as follows:
1. Hire Aspiring Entrepreneurs
It’s no coincidence that aspiring entrepreneurs are attracted to the startup environment. These types are eager to gain experience and tend to see opportunities in markets or the industry where others don’t. Bring them in, and empower them to flex their entrepreneurial muscles within your organization.
- Matt Ehrlichman, Porch
2. Make Employees Feel Like Partners
Give everyone in your company equity, and motivate them to view your company as their company. You really need to believe that everyone at your company is your partner and treat them that way.
- Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp
3. Empower and Encourage Employees
Empower your employees with more responsibilities, and encourage them to make decisions on their own. Encourage creativity, reward your employees when they make good business decisions and use their mistakes as learning opportunities.
- Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
4. Be Open to Micro-failures
I try to create an environment in which employees know that I am open to micro-failures in the macro-pursuit of success. If people are afraid to take risks, then we aren’t going to grow as quickly or smartly as possible. But people don’t always believe that making mistakes is OK. I strive to give them proof that it is, so they can let go of any fears and try new ways of getting the job done.
- Bobby Grajewski, Edison Nation Medical
5. Give Incentives to Employees
What’s in it for them? If they’re proactive, go the extra mile and really impact your company positively — what do they get out of it? Incentives can include raises, bonuses (time off, a paid holiday, etc.), stock options, promotions and even public recognition of one’s efforts.
- Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net
6. Lead by Example
You need to lead by example, take a few risks, and then let those ideas materialize. In some cases, your risks will fail; you need to show your team that failure is OK. They should embrace it, fail fast and get back on it. The only way your employees will feel like taking risks is if they know that failing will not be looked at in a bad light. Just make sure each failure only happens once.
- Tracey Wiedmeyer, InContext Solutions
7. Give Employees a Voice
By giving employees voices, listening to their ideas and implementing them, you can encourage a culture of “intrapreneurs.” Seeing that they are an integral part of the company — whether it’s saving money by using a different vendor or creating a new process to streamline production — will give them pride in the company.
- Phil Laboon, Clear Sky SEO
8. Make It Safe to Share Ideas
Create a culture where new ideas are welcomed and not shut down. You want every employee to feel like she can make a difference with her idea rather than depend on the founder or management team for the next big idea. Encourage your team to share often and openly to encourage intrapreneurship.
- Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent
9. Give Employees Ownership
To create a culture of intrapreneurs, you have to give employees ownership of projects and follow their recommendations. We encourage an entrepreneurial mindset by having employees take turns being “Sensei” and leading a professional development training session. Additionally, every employee is expected to take a project from start to finish every quarter.
- Sean Kelly, HUMAN
Related: 9 HR Basics for Any Small Business
10. Ask Them for Their Recommendation
Nearly all employees can present information; rock stars will prepare a recommendation. When team members bring back information, ask them, “What do you think?” You’ll create a culture of thinking beyond the current step toward next steps and implications. It’s the first step toward creating intrapreneurs.
- Leah Neaderthal, Start Somewhere
11. Create a Startup Culture
If you want to have intrapreneurs in your organization, you need to foster an atmosphere of entrepreneurship. This can be done through articles you share with the team, weekly meetings and, most importantly, mentorship. Creating a library of books about entrepreneurship helps as well. If you create and promote the culture, the entrepreneurial spirit within your employees will be empowered.
- Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC
12. Make Hires Draw an Owl
There is a great Internet meme that we use as a hiring philosophy called “How to Draw an Owl.” Step one: Draw two circles. Step two: Draw the rest of the owl. We need people who can self-direct and get things done, even if it isn’t the way we’d ideally do it. Drawing owls is a microcosm of the “intrapreneur” culture we want to foster.
- Liam Martin, Staff.com