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Book Review: The Boardroom Entrepreneur by Mike Southern and Chris West

Book Review: The Boardroom Entrepreneur by Mike Southern and Chris West

Book Review: The Boardroom Entrepreneur by Mike Southern and Chris West

boardroomEntrepreneurMike Southon and Chris West have a skill for writing very readable books and The Boardroom Entrepreneur,  follows on from their first joint book, The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your Good Idea into a Great Business.


While The Boardroom Entrepreneur is a great read, there is definitely a feeling of deja vu when reading this book. There are common threads in both books and constant references to the ubiquitous ‘Beermat’. Overall, an easy read with some interesting insights in a book that can be read at one long sitting.

Chapter 1 – The Right Stuff

Entrepreneurship is the product of both skills and personality. S&W suggest that entrepreneurs are:

  • Visionary
  • Determined
  • Ambitious
  • Charismatic
  • Well connected
  • Positive
  • Industrious

Entrepreneurs that work within the corporation have been described by S&W as Intrapreneurs. These are corporate staff who act like entrepreneurs within the security blanket of the business.


Chapter 2 – The Right Project

Just as an entrepreneur needs a great idea to start a business, the intrapreneurs need the right project to take their vision forward. Intrapreneurs look for:

  • Customer’s pain
  • Customer complaints
    • Process bottlenecks
    • Poorly served markets
    • Crippling costs
    • Frustrated consumers
  • How to solve the pain
  • How do we do it profitably

When looking for options, the Ansoff Matrix is a useful model:

  1. Sell more of an existing product into an existing market – Better, cheaper, faster?
  2. Sell a new product into an existing market –What else would our customer want?
  3. Sell existing product into a new market – Who else could benefit from this product?
  4. New products into New markets – Who wants something different?

S&W suggest that intrapreneurs should focus on points 2 and 3 from the Ansoff model as point 4 is too adventurous.


Chapter 3 – The Right Team

S&W suggest that solo intrapreneurs nearly always fail and that great businesses are built great teams.

The team should have:

  • A Foil – someone the intrapreneur can bounce ideas off and get a reality check
  • A Sponsor – to support the project
  • A Strong team – to carry out the facets of the projects
  • Cornerstones

The sponsor is important for:

  • Giving advice
  • Asking the right questions
  • Opening doors
  • Watch for abuse of the brand

Cornerstones are people that form a balanced business team around the intrapreneur. They are:

  • An Innovation person
  • A Delivery person
  • A Sales person
  • A Finance person

S&W also suggest that there are 3 psychological types needed for a small business:

  • Drivers – Energetic and charismatic – Belbin’s Resource Investigator
  • Deliverers – Those that get the job done
  • Diplomats – Balance the teams energy -Belbin’s Monitors and Evaluators


Chapter 4 – The Right Style

The right style describes the culture that is likely to achieve the vision of the intrapreneur within the constraints of the organisation. Culture relates to how things are done and this is normally the result of team values and the myths and stories of early successes. Key to having the correct team style is leadership.

S&W suggest the following leadership points:

  • Select wisely
  • Set clear rules
  • Have a vision and communicate it well
  • Have a culture of success
  • Be clear and polite
  • Lead by example

Startups have a few common traits that encourage:

  • Powerful tribal culture
  • Hard work
  • Fun
  • DIY Mindset
  • Relentless cash pressure
  • Part time to start with
  • Get to market as quickly as possible


Chapter 5 – Here Be Dragons

There is a cultural class between the organisation and the intrapreneur. The organisation looks to reduce risk and the intrapreneur embraces risk to improve the business performance. S&W suggest there are certain types of people that will oppose the intrapreneur’s efforts:

  • Clever nay-sayers – creating clever arguments against your ideas
  • Green-eyed monsters – who oppose the idea because of jealousy
  • Former nay-sayers – those who have always opposed change and resist the idea
  • Carthorses – Those who are happy with the status quo
  • Short-termists – those that will expect rapid results from your efforts
  • Rescuers – those that look to help you but never actually add value
  • Brand Police – Those that oppose you to ensure that the corporate brand is maintained and make themselves feel safe
  • Overeager suits – Those ‘experienced managers’ that look to grow the startup to the next level too early in the development

Be prepared for these ‘dragons’ and be ready to defend your intraprise against their attacks.


Chapter 6 – Intrapreneur Skills and Advantages

In this chapter, S&W provide a basic outline for the skills you will need to be an effective intrapreneur:

  • Political skill – to manage your superiors and peers.
  • Social skills – to ally with you equals.
  • Motivational skills – to inspire your team and the members of other manager’s teams.
  • Networking skills – top ensure you are connected to those who could help you and those who may oppose you.

Chapter 7 – The Boardroom Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship at the board level is to be encouraged but cannot be undertaken in a piecemeal manner. Ideas can come from anywhere, and you should not be constrained by top level management thinking. Suggestion systems need to work effectively to:

  • Yield invaluable information from all levels.
  • Act as a motivator.
  • Involve everyone in the innovation process.

Venture units should be created to support innovation. Intrapreneurs in these venture units will need:

  • Prototyping – to test things early and quietly before the early failure can induce adverse comments.
  • Information – to get the best from each part of the organisation and the team.
  • Idea circulation – to ensure that interesting ideas can be exposed widely and have the maximum chance of being exploited.

S&W suggest some reason why an intraprise emerges as a success:

  • Strategy – long term advantage is gained over rivals with a robust strategy.
  • Knowledge – ensuring that ideas are captured and the necessary information to exploit those ideas is available.
  • Motivation – to ensure that the team will continue work hard even in the dark times.
  • Leadership – to ensure the team has someone to look to when decisions need to be made.
  • Efficiency – Lean and fast will help an intraprise to weather the scrutiny of the senior management in the startup phase when it is easier to stop the project.

S&W further suggest that there are 12 hurdles for an intrapreneur to jump over:

  1. Having the idea.
  2. Falling in love with the idea.
  3. Getting people to join the team.
  4. Finding customers to express interest.
  5. Gaining a senior sponsor.
  6. Getting the core team together.
  7. Getting an early customer to give feedback.
  8. Getting a white paper to outline the product and the happy customer’s comments.
  9. Generate some more paying customers.
  10. Ensure that these customers are happy.
  11. Creating the formal business plan and structure.
  12. Running the new intraprise as a disciplined business unit.

Finally, the intrapreneur needs to remain motivated. This is normally achieved by one or more of:

  • More opportunity
  • More challenge
  • Freedom to act and develop new opportunities
  • Respect
  • Career progression
  • Money

Chapter 8 – The Beermat Entrepreneur Process

In this chapter, S&W run through the ‘Beermat’ process again for those that need their memory refreshing or are learning it for the first time.

  • Get an idea and write it on a Beermat.
  • Write a 30 second pitch (elevator pitch) that a child could understand
  • Get a mentor

The team should include:

  • A sponsor
  • A foil
  • Cornerstones
  • A dream team (self starting active people that just make things happen)

In the seedling phase:

  • Get customer input
  • Create a product of service
  • Improve iteratively
  • Get a sale
  • Create white paper to advertise your offering
  • Create a business plan
  • Introduction
  • Market overview
  • Sales plan
  • Operations plan
  • Strategic assistance required
  • External alliances will you form
  • Team
  • Financial projections

In the sapling phase the team goes for growth with disciplined sustained business processes until your business achieves the stage of the mighty oak!



The Boardroom Entrepreneur both interesting and inspiring with some good advice and some excellent insights into the problems that an intrapreneur will face in a large corporation. Although not as good as the original beermat entrepreneur, this is worth the short amount of time is will take you to read it.

Dare to Aspire

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