(and that’s not a TYPO)
"I've heard of entrepreneurs. They are self-starters. But what is an intrepreneur? Did you make that up?" Over coffee at 4:30 a.m., I received this response from a coworker as we boarded our flight to visit clients in Charlotte.
Let’s allow Wikipedia to define this for us — no point reinventing the wheel, or in this case, the definition:
Pinchot (1984) defined intrapreneurs as "dreamers who do. Those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind, within a business" . In 1992, The American Heritage Dictionary acknowledged the popular use of intrapreneur and defined the term as "a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation" . Koch (2014) goes further, claiming that intrapreneurs are the "secret weapon" of the business world . Based on these definitions, being an intrapreneur is considered to be beneficial for both intrapreneurs and large organizations. Companies support intrapreneurs with income and access to corporate resources, while intrapreneurs create innovation for companies .
If you work in a corporation (large or small), you probably know an intrepreneur or two. Heck, you might be one. Take this three-question quiz to test yourself:
1. How much paid time off do you have left in the bank?
2. Do you intentionally avoid tasks that aren't in your job description?
3. Does working on nights or weekends bother you?
If you don't even know your PTO or vaguely remember your job description, you might be an intrepreneur. If you lose track of where work ends and nights or weekends begin, consider yourself even closer to the title.
Understanding the Origin of Entrepreneurship
Intrepreneurs often quit their jobs and set up their own businesses, which is against the very nature of intrepreneurship. As a millennial, I studied in college during the housing bust and Great Recession. Graduates faced the harsh reality of little to no job availability. As I entered the workforce, no one was hiring. Many of my friends and family members graduated with college debt and no prospects, or very low-paying ones.
Under these circumstances, the trend seemed to be entrepreneurship. #Startup culture began to take off big time. My home city of New Orleans along with many other cities branded itself with slogans like "Get Caught in Our BRAINSTORM.” Entrepreneurship programs began substituting Free Enterprise courses. Shark Tank spurred a slew of non-profit organizations funding local self-starters. In a sense, if you weren't working for yourself, you weren't taking part in the movement.
To say I got caught up in the entrepreneurship trend would be an understatement. I lived and breathed it. I first treated my 9-to-5 like a daily chore. I eventually quit my secure, benefits-ridden job to pursue my passion of business ownership, starting three businesses within three years of graduating.
Making the Switch from E to I
So, five years later, why did I accept a position within a growing company and dedicate my talent, time, and passion to someone else's bottom line? There are a few answers to why intrepreneurship seemed more appealing.
Own Your Work
1. It doesn't matter who owns the building. If my name appears on the work, it will be done 100 percent. Call it ego, call it responsibility. Whatever you want to call it, intrepreneurs take ownership of anything that reflects their abilities. Intrepreneurs also celebrate team wins as well as individual wins. Their work allows the company they work for to improve as a whole.
Take Risks and Still Receive Stable Income
2. The glamour of entrepreneurship leaves out the truth of how broke you are. The ups are very high, having hundreds of thousands of dollars in your bank account in your twenties, for example. Meanwhile, the downs are very low. You wind up skipping a paycheck for three months to pay your employees first. Your employees support their families with this income, so you keep them. Working for someone else means stability. Intrepreneurship allows you to take risks, innovate, and create without staying up all night or feeling depressed about the near negative balance in your bank account.
Build on a Company’s Existing Success
3. Think of business as a launchpad. Entrepreneurship presents the uphill battle of starting from the ground up, or what I like to call hopping on flat land. Starting with investors may feel like a trampoline, but every bounce involves a come down. By joining an accomplished business with measurable growth and success, the intrepreneur jumps from a much higher vantage point, reaching greater heights quicker and seeing the greater vision of where a company can go based on where it’s been.
Considering a New Route to Innovation
To recap, intrepreneurship can be a more rewarding route than entrepreneurship for innovators. For me, I saw greater opportunity to build off of what others already built. If you take an intrepreneur’s mindset and energy with you to a company, and they support it, you’re going to find a golden mecca where stability meets creativity and growth meets opportunity. Just be sure to pay respect to those who put their blood and sweat into this before you – they are the reason you have this opportunity to begin with.
Does your business instigate and nurture the intrepreneurial mindset? Stay tuned for more on this in my next post!