Sir Richard Branson Uses Intrapreneurship
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman and CEO of Virgin Group, is a successful entrepreneur and self-made multi-billionaire. Branson is a firm supporter and vocal advocate of using Intrapreneurship. He has shared the importance of Intrapreneurs and Intrapreneurship within his Virgin Group.
Sir Richard Branson is the author of an intrapreneurship article in the January 31, 2011 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine “Sir Richard Branson on Intrapreneurs: The business icon talks about empowering employees to break the rules.”
Sir Richard Branson’s quote on intrapreneurship:
“Many millions of people proudly claim the title ‘entrepreneur.’ On the other hand, a title that hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves is entrepreneur’s little brother, ‘intrapreneur:’ an employee who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services and systems, who does not have to follow the company’s usual routines or protocols.’ While it’s true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it under way, healthy growth requires a smattering of intrapreneurs who drive new projects and explore new and unexpected directions for business development.”
Intrapreneurship, which many still refer to as corporate entrepreneurship comes from the idea of using entrepreneurial ideas, innovation and start-up business techniques within an large (or medium sized) organization. Intrapreneurship can be effectively used to create a new product line or a new service thereby increasing profits long-term success.
There are existing formal intrapreneurship programs in place throughout the world. Many forward-thinking organizations allow their employees time and freedom to pursue new ideas for the organization, sometimes within the existence of a formal intrapreneurship program. Intrapreneurship programs very widely in their scope, structure, and incentives to employees for successful creation of a product.
Self-made Billionaire, Sir Richard commented on the importance and significant contributions of intrapreneurship and intrapreneurs in helping him build Virgin: “Virgin could never have grown into the group of more than 200 companies it is now, were it not for a steady stream of intrapreneurs who looked for and developed opportunities, often leading efforts that went against the grain.”
For example, Virgin Atlantic Airlines big expensive seat design firms seemed unable to solve the design problems posed by our specifications for Virgin Atlantic Airlines Upper Class cabin. Fortunately for Virgin a bright, creative, young designer Joe Ferry volunteered (insistently) to give the project a go for Virgin and was empowered and encouraged to be an intrapreneur by Virgin. This young innovative Intrapreneur was given a free hand and the herringbone-configured Virgin private sleeper suites resulted. Branson commented that “from his [Ferry’s] ‘outside the box’ creativity put us years ahead of the pack and made for millions of very happy horizontal fliers.”
The Role of an Intrapreneur
Sir Richard Branson noted about the value of intrapreneurship: “We inadvertently developed this role at Virgin by virtue of the fact that when we’ve chosen to jump into a business about which we have little or no real knowledge, we’ve had to enable a few carefully selected people who do know which end is up.”
The intrapreneurship project Sir Richard was referring in the quote above was about Virgin’s entry into the mobile phone industry. Virgin previously had no experience in the mobile phone business. Virgin sought out to hire away the mobile phone industries (including Virgin’s soon to be rivals) best managers. Virgin was able to obtain the best mobile phone industry managers by offering them intrapreneurial freedom and empowered them as corporate entrepreneurs (intrapreneurs) to “set up their own ventures within the Virgin Group.”
Virgin clearly has a successful intrapreneurship program. Virgin helps their intrapreneurs succeed by removing formal organizational structures, eliminating internal roadblocks, and sidestepping organizational bureaucracy. Empowerment, freedom, and openness to innovation are the hallmarks of intrapreneurship success. The total support of intrapreneurs and an intrapreneurship program by both senior management and middle management is critical to intrapreneurship success and a firm’s long-term success.
Self-made Billionaire Sir Richard Branson concluded his intrapreneurship article with an insightful quote: “Perhaps the greatest thing about this form of enabled intrapreneurship is that often everyone becomes so immersed in what they’re doing that they feel like they own their companies. They don’t feel like employees working for someone else, they feel much more like … well, I think the only word to describe it is…“belongers.”
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