Nuances of Identifying Corporate Entrepreneurs

An executive recruiter told me that now that the market is heating up for corporate entrepreneurs, growth leaders and entrepreneurial leaders, more and more professionals are claiming to be one.  The reality is that few individuals fit this role.    

Research has found that only a small percentage of individuals in large organizations are entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial.  The statistics are stacked up against all those professionals claiming to be corporate entrepreneurs. They are hurting themselves and the real entrepreneurs out there.

A few nuances that may help you identify corporate entrepreneurs:

1. They think, act, and communicate in ways that are just the opposite of what is expected.  They make the rest of the organization very uncomfortable.  These individuals are viewed with suspicion.

2. They are transparent and open about who they are and what they do. Everyone thinks they are trying to hide something.  Just the opposite, they are letting everyone know who they are, how they operate and what they need to be successful.  Their honesty is unsettling.

3. They have a breadth and depth of experience that enables them to see problems as opportunities, uncertainty as a challenge and ambiguity as a game to be played and won.  They calculate the upside and downside of every decision.  They take risks based on what they can afford to lose.  Their actions are unnerving to others.

4. They are not afraid to fail. They are more concerned if they don’t try.  Ask them how many times they have failed. Then ask them to tell you about a time when they failed and what they learned from the experience.  They see failure as a step to success.

5.  They do not conform to the corporate model.  They don’t fit.  This is the number one issue that we hear from corporate entrepreneurs all the time.  If they fit they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs.

The lack of understanding about corporate entrepreneurs is creating havoc in the market and putting pressure on organizations to be more cautious. It is also prompting individuals to claim that they are something they are not, corporate entrepreneurs. There is a cost to all this confusion.

It is becoming more difficult for organizations to find corporate entrepreneurs and more difficult for corporate entrepreneurs to distinguish themselves. The cost is progress, growth and renewal for both organizations and individuals.

Now that the word is out that corporate entrepreneurs are in.  What are you doing to identify them?

To find out more about what it takes to be a corporate entrepreneur download the Free e-book Acceleration: Changing the Speed of Growth at


  1. Rebecca says:

    This is great! As a Corporate Entrepreneur type myself I have often felt that I don’t fit in. Which is why I loved your comment “If they fit they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs.” As I am looking for my next opportunity your blog has helped to put things in perceptive. With that said, do you have any suggestion for how to par Corporate Entrepreneurs with Corporations? Many of us don’t fit in the boxes…

    • Susan Foley says:

      Mary, My work is to identify individuals who are corporate entrepreneurs and then companies that want to build corporate entrepreneurship as a core competency to eventually match them. It is work in process…will keep you posted.

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