Okay, so you hear a lot about entrepreneurship and now you're hearing about intrapreneurship as well.
You want to know what that means, what the difference is, and why you should maybe consider becoming one of the other.
In this post I am going to help you understand what the differences between an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur and which one is the best fit for you where based on where you are in your career today.
There's a few key differences between being an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur that I will to highlight to get the conversation started.
Who You Work For
The highest level difference, and the key difference, is that an intrapreneur is someone who is innovating within a company, whereas an entrepreneur is someone who is innovating at their own company. So they are maybe solo, maybe they have their own company, an intrapreneur is working for someone else.
Risk & Reward
The intrapreneur actually has less risk. They probably don't have as much skin in the game, they're probably not investing their own money. If something doesn't work out, if they're especially if they're part of a big company, it's probably not going to have a huge impact.
Maybe it's not going to help them get promoted as quickly as they want, but there's not any major drawback if the initiative isn't successful.
Whereas an entrepreneur has placed all of their eggs into one basket. There is only one option for the entrepreneur: success.
Now on the other hand, if the initiative is wildly successful, the intrapreneur doesn't actually stand a lot to gain. All of the benefits of the entrepreneurial initiative is going to go to leadership, to shareholders, and to the company executives. They're probably not going to see a large piece of that pie unless they have like stock and it's like super huge, in which case their benefit from it is still going to be fractional.
Maybe they get a really nice bonus, but that's not something that you're going to count on as an intrapreneur.
Whereas the entrepreneur, if their initiative is wildly successful, they can make millions and millions or maybe billions or trillions of dollars (if you're someone like Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg).
The intrapreneur has less risk on the outset but less to gain, whereas the entrepreneur has all of the risk but there is a huge upside to their success.
Access to Resources
The intrapreneur probably has a lot of resources available to them. There are likely different teams (or at least people) within their company who may be supporting them.
For example, when I was an intrapreneur at another company, I was creating a new service. But I had the advantage of having a marketing team behind me. I had the advantage of leadership, who was sounding board and gave me advice and counsel whenever I solicited it. I had a sales team who did eventually sell my service. I had a partner network as well, who also helped to deliver and to sell for me.
An entrepreneur is not going to have all of those resources available - or at least they're not going to unless they're paying for them.
If they are pre-revenue, they're going to be paying out of their own pocket or under their investment round in order to actually acquire the resources that they need.
So if I, as an entrepreneur decided that I need to invest in marketing, I have to go and hire a marketing consultant, or hire a marketing person on full time. Whereas as an intrapreneur, I would just contact my marketing partner.
This is actually very different if you're an intrapreneur versus if you're an entrepreneur.
If you're an intrapreneur, you probably have some resources available to your company: you probably have a manager, they probably have a manager - maybe you even meet with that manager on a regular basis. You likely have some sort of training team, maybe you even have a budget allowance in order to invest in education, coaching, training, conferences, all of those things.
If you're an entrepreneur, you have to find a way to actually get those professional development resources for yourself. You're going to be investing in business coaching. You're going to be investing in conferences out of your own pocket. If you decide that you need to go take some coursework or certifications, that is all going to be something that you sell fund.
I know that there's a lot of people that are starting out in their career, and they're trying to make a decision in terms of which they should be should they go work at a company and maybe be an entrepreneur, or should they go and be an entrepreneur or a solopreneur. This could be freelancing, or it can be actually starting their own company, I want to speak to this point from a solopreneur perspective as well, because this is really important.
Intrapreneurs have high potential for growth of their company, they're creating high impact, they're creating new revenue, they're saving money, they're going to get notice they're going to be leading from wherever they are, and they are creating a high career trajectory for themselves.
However, if you're a solopreneur, you're a contractor or you're a freelancer.
You're probably not going to be given a lot of stretch assignments. You might not be given a high level of creativity in your work. This is the risk of solopreneurship if you take it on too early in your career.
If you are someone who wants to grow professionally, you want to get to the next level, you still maybe don't want to climb the corporate ladder but there's some sort of ladder you want to be on, it's actually much more challenging to find that as a solopreneur.
I bring this up because it was very early in my career that I was working for a recruitment agency. And we were specifically selling consulting services that this came to realization: I always was an entrepreneur, ever since the first day of my career, I counted myself as an entrepreneur. However, it was in that position that I realized that my path to entrepreneurship was not going to be direct, I wanted to be an intrapreneur as long as possible to take risks, to get experience to break my teeth, to grow as a leader and to learn how to manage people how to grow businesses.
I wanted to learn all about the different areas of business while I was still working for someone else, the safety of a paycheck.
That is something that the entrepreneur and solopreneur do not have. There is no guaranteed income when you're working for yourself or by yourself. Whereas obviously, if you're intrapreneur or you have a base salary, maybe you have a bonus structure, maybe you have stock options.
ROI & Income Opportunity
Longterm as an intrapreneur, you're probably not going to be as good for versus your entrepreneur or solopreneur.
But that is going to be the trade off.
There's always going to be a risk versus reward.
Should You Be an Intrepreneur or Entrepreneur?
There are three questions that I would really encourage you to ask yourself.
Question 1: What do you actually want out of your professional life?
Do you just want to go do your job? And that's it? Do you want to have safety in terms of a paycheck? Do you want to have additional support? Do you want to actually take less risk in your career?
Question 2: How risk averse are you?
Are you someone who has substantial amounts of student debt that you need to make sure are paid off?
Maybe you dream of buying a home before you go and create your own company. Or maybe you're someone who has a lot of financial freedom, or you're just very comfortable working with a lot of financial risk, that you're willing to go out on your own, and you're going to make it work because when you need to make it work is going to be the time that you do.
Question 3: how do you want to get to the C suite?
I've said this before, the easiest job to actually get is CEO.
Just go create a company, call yourself a CEO.
Et voila, you're a CEO.
Now, if you're someone who sees that there is more to it than that, if you want to be in the C suite, but you want to have earned that seat, you want to be seasoned, you want to be knowledgeable, you want to be an admired, appreciated, respected and known leader, you might want to take the path of intrapreneurship.
It is going to be through your experience evolving within a corporate setting that you're going to have a safety net access to mentors and access to sponsors, who are going to help you develop into that C suite leader that you want to be. It's going to take you longer, but it's within your reach.
Now, if you don't care about that, and you just know that you can feel your way to success, then entrepreneurship is maybe a great path for you to consider.
For me personally, I ended up choosing a hybrid.
I worked until I got to an executive leadership position.
Then I realized that it was a point in my career that I was ready to work for myself, that it was no longer a fit for me to work in corporate America, because it wasn't serving my actual mission to help ambitious professionals achieve the professional success that they deserve in life.
That's when I decided to flip the switch and become an entrepreneur.
Are you trying to make the decision right now on which one you are? Let me know what questions you have and what you're doing down in the comments below.