Entrepreneur vs. Intrapreneur: Don’t Get Stuck Making Your Boss Rich

Have you ever heard the term intra-preneur?

It’s a play on the word entrepreneur that basically means “being an entrepreneur inside a big company”. In other words, it’s someone with a regular job who has a boss just like everyone else – except they have the mindset of an entrepreneur.

But what does that mean exactly?

An intra-preneur could be someone who leads a new project within the company, like the launch of a new product. This would have similarities to a launching a new company based around a single product because they’d still have to manage a team, look at a new market, and generally wear may hats. They would be behaving just like an entrepreneur.

An intra-preneur could also mean an employee who thinks about the business in a broader sense. Most employee are 100% focused on the technical work that consumes their time, but if an employee was also involved in, say….bringing in new clients for the company, and making sales….he or she would be thinking like an entrepreneur.

Having an intra-prenurial mindset within a company is great, and I’m sure it would help you in your job. But there is one major problem with being an intra-preneur: you don’t reap the financial rewards like a real entrepreneur.

Lets say that through networking you brought in a large new client for the firm. Let’s say that through analysis outside your normal job you optimized part of the manufacturing process and saved the company 2% on every sale. Let’s say you helped start a new division of the company that went from 0 to 25% market share in one year!

After all that, you would get a pat on the back and probably even get a big promotion or bonus. But you would never be compensated for the full 100% of the value you added to the business. You could save the company $ 1 Million….and if you were lucky they’d give you a $ 10,000 bonus. It just doesn’t add up.

The reason is simple: the business (and those who own it) get the profit. Not you.

A friend of mind (we’ll call him JR) has a great entrepreneurial mindset, but before he fully embraced it he spent some time working at a fortune 500 company as a frustrated intra-preneur.

One of JR’s first tasks on the job was to look at the benefits program. It was costing the company millions. Their work force wasn’t getting any younger, and the medical coverage for the elderly workers was becoming a major concern for management.

. The company was initially inclined to go with a different proposal that was put together by two outside consulting firms, but after many meetings JR convinced them his plan was better.

It turned out he was right. In the first year after implementing his proposal, the company’s multi-million dollar benefits expense had been reduced by 15%, and everyone was thrilled.

JR sure got some BIG thank-you’s from his superiors that year, but do you think he saw any of that money? Not one cent! And that was one reason he eventually decided to use his entrepreneurial mindset in his own business.

You see, if you have great ideas and really believe in yourself, then why shouldn’t you reap the rewards? Why should you have to spend time convincing the higher ups that you’re right, when you KNOW that you are right?

Being an intra-preneur is a great idea, but to me it simply defines someone who is an entrepreneur at heart, but too afraid to go out on their own. (I used to be one of these, so don’t feel bad.) You will be continually using your greatest gifts to make someone else rich.

If you know an intra-preneur or happen to be one yourself, stop selling yourself short and get into business for yourself. Instead of being an entrepreneur at heart, you can start being an entrepreneur in practice.