When You Should Be an Intrapreneur Instead of an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs have a desire to solve problems, to innovate and to create. They are willing to take on risk and think outside of the box. They lead and they inspire. And by standard definitions, the way that they do all of that is through starting businesses.
Now, this gets a bit into the realm of semantics, but there are plenty of business owners who are not truly entrepreneurial, creating job-businesses that aren’t innovative and likely won’t experience much growth. Likewise, there are plenty of individuals who don’t own businesses, yet are entrepreneurial within the confines of another organization.
For those who don’t want to venture out on their own for any variety of reasons, you can be entrepreneurial in becoming an intrapreneur -- one who leverages the entrepreneurial spirit and tactics without the financial risk.
While the ideology of “working for the man” has been put down by many in recent years, I am personally quite off-put by these short-sighted individuals. While I think that there is great value in starting a business for some, there is also great value in doing great work in general, regardless of the venue. I think that it’s disrespectful and silly to put down corporate jobs, not to mention that we all have different definitions of success and so, different paths will make more sense for each one of us.
So, how can you start to think about embracing being entrepreneurial in different venues and becoming an intrapreneur? Here are some questions to help you find the right path.
1. Can you take on the financial risk?
The biggest risk with starting a business is the financial risk. Businesses need to have the start-up costs financed, plus there needs to be enough capital to sustain the business’s operations while it gains a foundation. Not to mention that the entrepreneur has to have the means to pay for life expenses during this time, which can easily take a few years.
Given that under-capitalization is a leading cause of business failure, this makes it a tremendous risk. When you work for someone else, if you want to pursue an entrepreneurial project or endeavor, you still endure risks. They may be reputational, political or even financial, in that you may be putting your current job at stake, but they don’t require you to invest your life savings at the same time. This may make being entrepreneurial in someone else’s sandbox very attractive.
If you are averse to financial risks or are not in a place where financially you can sustain yourself while you build a business, intrapreneurship can be a great outlet for you.
2. What’s your purpose?
Many entrepreneurs are driven by something other than money. Some want recognition for their efforts. Some want to create something of meaning and have an impact on society. Others really want to see their vision come to life. In a corporate environment, you may not get the benefit of full financial upside from your efforts, but you have a real chance to fulfill many of the other wants and desires of being entrepreneurial.
Think about your motivations and when you approach your employer (or even a new one), see if you can get those benefits worked into a new project (e.g., credit given to you internally or externally). If so, intrapreneurship may be the ideal way to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing.
3. Will a corporate partner let you start from 'square two'?
One of the least efficient parts of a new business startup is that you have to start all of your efforts -- from product development to marketing and more -- at “square one”. You may have to recreate the wheel in terms of vendor relationships, customer relationships, technology systems, operating systems and more.
Being an intrapreneur on the platform of an existing business may let you leapfrog many of those issues and hit the ground running with some extra fuel behind you. This can really have a positive impact on the success of your new project or endeavor.
So, the next time that you are thinking of leaving your job for a new business venture, evaluate if your employer might be the perfect partner, or even consider going to another company that values your entrepreneurial efforts. Intrapreneurship may, in fact, be your ideal option.
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author. She is also a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. A small business expert, Roth has worked with companies of all sizes on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to raising capital. She’s been a public company director and invests in mid-stage companies, as well.