Entrepreneurial Employees

In 2021, thisinteractive webinar which addressed 3 Key Questions -

1) What are entrepreneurial employees?

2) Why do we need them? and

3) How can they be developed?

Our speakers were:

Chris Friedl, SHINE Project Partner, Austria 🇦🇹

Susan Foley, Guest Speaker, USA 🇺🇸

Mart Kikas, Guest Speaker, Estonia 🇪🇪

The event was moderated by Paul Coyle, SHINE Project Founder, France🇫🇷

Registrations were received from participants in 13 countries:

Austria🇦🇹, England🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿, Egypt🇪🇬, Estonia🇪🇪, France🇫🇷, Germany🇩🇪, Hong Kong🇭🇰, Ireland🇮🇪, Norway🇳🇴, Pakistan🇵🇰, Scotland🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, Tajikistan🇹🇯 and USA🇺🇸

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Key Question 1 - What are entrepreneurial employees? 

The first answer to this question came from Paul Coyle, the Director of t Entrepreneurial Mindset Network  He explained the value of the mindset in helping employees to become more entrepreneurial and thus supporting the operation and strategic development of the company for which they work. Many people in the webinar were of the view that, as a result of COVID 19, companies really need their employees to have the right mindset and to act in a manner that is more entrepreneurial.  Such employees are the ones who are proactive, innovative and who take the initiative.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset Network promotes the idea that you don’t need to be an entrepreneur to benefit from having an entrepreneurial mindset. Therefore, the mindset is relevant to employees in organisations. An entrepreneurial employee is someone who is trying to do their job in a way which mimics how an entrepreneur thinks and acts.

With the right mindset, every employee become more entrepreneurial, playing their part in creating success for their team, their organisation and its customers. The mindset drives innovation and the creation of new products & services. 

Why do organisations need the entrepreneurial mindset? In too many organisations, employees have become demotivated and disillusioned. As a result they hold back. They no longer give their best. The ambition of the entrepreneurial mindset is to release all this untapped human potential. 

The mindset has the potential to be a powerful force for change in a wide range of organisations.  The mindset offers a smart blend of bottom-up and top-down processes, whereby changes in the behavioural norms of individuals and teams, combine to transform the organisational culture.

Our first speaker Susan explained that entrepreneurial employees are also referred to as ‘intrapreneurs’. These people often say they don’t “fit in” and that other employees don’t appreciate them for what they do or how they do it. Intrapreneurs look at the world differently - they have a ‘wide angle view of the world’ which is more holistic. They also tend to be action-oriented and keen to take timely decisions. 

Our second speaker Mart identified that entrepreneurial employees are essential for companies who want to be more innovative. Businesses can reap substantial benefits from employees who behave like an entrepreneur inside their organisation. Mart wondered if middle managers are more like employees or top managers when it comes to being entrepreneurial.

Our third speaker Chris explained that intrapreneurs are sometimes seen as  a lesser version of an entrepreneur e.g. they don’t take as many risks as an entrepreneur.  However, he saw intrapreneurs as much more than this; they are able to contribute to all aspects of a business including strategic renewal and opening up new markets.

Key Question 2 - Why do we need entrepreneurial employees? 

Susan Foley

Susan Foley was our first speaker.  She manages a firm called Corporate Entrepreneurs which helps  individuals and organisations to develop intrapreneurship as a core competency. The focus is is on the competences and behaviours that intrapreneurs need to develop in order to be effective.

In the Video Clip below, Susan considers why we need those employees who contribute to the core business of the organisation and also other more entrepreneurial employees who can be change agents that help organisations to  grow. She thinks there is a gap between organisations wanting more innovation and knowing how to achieve it. She sees intrapreneurs as the people who can help to identify and close that gap.

Mart Kikas

Mart Kikas, our second speaker, has been entrepreneurial in all the stages of his career.  In his 20s he was a serial entrepreneur and then his 30s he worked as a corporate manager. Now in his 40s he teaches business innovation & management and helps companies to make innovation happen.

In his Video Clip, Mart explains that it is up to each organisation to make a choice as to whether they want to have entrepreneurial employees or not. If top management decide there is a strategic need for innovation then it makes sense to turn to intrapreneurial employees and ask them to generate new perspectives based on their understanding of the market.

Chris Friedl

Chris Friedl, the third speaker, is both an intrapreneur and entrepreneur.  As an intrapreneur, he teaches and researches intrapreneurship and he leads the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) in Austria. As an entrepreneur, he works in the music industry and he coaches organisations how to nurture and train intrapreneurs.

Chris agrees that companies need both the people who get the core business done and also other innovative people who look for opportunities and act on them. In the current uncertain times, he says that we need people who can innovate and potentially disrupt their own company. Ideally, disruption comes from inside the company itself and not from an outside competitor. 

Key Question 3 - How can we develop entrepreneurial employees? 

Chris is convinced that more needs to be done to understand intrapreneurs and to offer better support during the different stages of their careers.  In fact, intrapreneurship can happen even in the later stages of one’s career. Intrapreneurship is open to all people and its success depends on the company context, its management and culture.

Our participants were of the view that organisations often don’t appreciate the value of entrepreneurial employees. Chris noted that intrapreneurship can sometimes be frustrating both for employees and employers.  It helps if companies put the right structures into place but even then top managers cannot force employees to become intrapreneurs. 

For Mart, individuals first need to have the right mindset before they can become more entrepreneurial over time. Secondly, top management needs to put the right corporate structure and processes into place. Within such a culture, intrapreneurs will thrive if they have the right competences.

For our participants there has to be the right balance between intrapreneurship and the bureaucratic systems necessary to run an organisation. There is an inevitable tension between conformity and innovation in a corporate structure. Employees need to be aware of the scope and legitimate boundaries of their intrapreneurial behaviours.

In her Video Clip, Susan states that there is untapped potential in organisations. Ideally, the experience of senior people should be combined with the entrepreneurial mindset of staff who are perhaps new to the organisation. Working together, they can move the company forward; even incremental change is beneficial. 


A number of interesting questions arose during the xCHANGE 2 webinar and the answers were co-created in discussions between the speakers and participants.

Could you find yourself in a difficult or dangerous position in terms of employment or career advancement if you are trying to be intrapreneurial in an organisation that doesn’t really want it?  

Intrapreneurs will always have to overcome obstacles.  If things become very difficult they might consider leaving but that’s not always a viable option. A focus on learning helps, as new skills can be put into practice with a current or future employer.

In essence, the entrepreneurial mindset and intrapreneurship are both about reacting to the status quo. In spite of the organisational culture, intrapreneurs find themselves compelled to suggest new ways of doing things, even though they know there can be risks involved.  

It is essential to understand workplace politics, so wise choices can be made about which risks are worth taking and which ones should be avoided. 

The Entrepreneurial Mindset Network offers an online MINDSET Tool that can give you feedback about the entrepreneurial behaviour [D] Dare to take risks.  

Do you need to find the right organisation where you can flourish as an intrapreneur? 

Some organisations understand intrapreneurship and are accepting of intrapreneurs but many are not. It’s also difficult when organisations say they want to have more entrepreneurial employees but their actions work against this happening.   

There is a key difference between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. Entrepreneurs create the organisation, its structure and culture. Intrapreneurs have to accept or adjust to a culture that is given to them.  This explains why intrapreneurs say they don’t ‘fit in’.

Clearly intrapreneurs will flourish when there is a good alignment between their personal values and those of their employer. Having said that, in most organisations, intrapreneurs will have opportunities to consolidate and strengthen their learning about intrapreneurship. They can discover how to grow their skills and how to push an organisation as far as they can.