Entrepreneur vs Intrapreneur: Creating Innovation No Matter Your Position

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Entrepreneur vs Intrapreneur: Creating Innovation No Matter Your Position

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between entrepreneur and intrapreneur? Innovation lies at the heart of both intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship. Both use creative and critical thinking skills to benefit their company. The biggest difference between the two is ownership.

What is an entrepreneur? In the most basic sense, an entrepreneur personality is someone who runs their own business or organisation and started with a small business structure. Those who attain a certain degree of success become synonymous with their companies (like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates). Starting out with nothing, they build their own company through hard work and dedication until it runs itself without their direct involvement to create a successful business.


An intrapreneur is an employee who uses social entrepreneurial skills for their employer’s benefit. Instead of dedicating their time to building their own company from scratch with their own business structure, they apply themselves to finding ways to improve the company they work for.

Entrepreneurs constantly have to think up new ideas for their business. What products or services should we offer? What’s our target demographic? How can we stand out from our competition?

While the entrepreneur is thinking externally, the intrapreneur sets his mind to internal affairs. Some are self-starters, who recognise areas of opportunity in the company they work for and try to find ways to improve upon them. As an example of a self-starting intrapreneur, let’s look at the sci-fi show Continuum.

The show’s protagonist (Alec Sadler) is a genius-turned-entrepreneur described as “Zuckerberg, Jobs, Buffet and Gates — all rolled into one”. After getting a job at a computer store, through a small business structure, he was able to triple the efficacy of the store’s computer systems, automate the production of sales reports and save 15 per cent on labour costs.

While an extreme example, it demonstrates how an effective intrapreneur can assess the needs of a company and figure out how to improve upon any areas of opportunity. This type of innovation offers a great chance of being rewarded with little risk. It’s unlikely your supervisor will punish you for finding ways to be boost efficiency. At worst, your idea may get rejected.

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Regardless of where you stand in the company, you can always make a change for the better. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the shared aspects of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship.

Establishing a Goal (Where Do I Want To Go?)

Where is the company now? Where does it need to be? How do I get it there? These three questions are faced by entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs alike.

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The first step in achieving success is establishing a goal. Whether you’re an up-and-coming entrepreneur trying to decide which industry you’d like to establish yourself in or a branch manager trying to ensure your department meets this quarter’s quotas — in order to strategise you first need a vision.

With entrepreneurs occupied with all the big stuff — company direction, profits, stockholders and the like — it’s up to intrapreneurs to analyze the intricacies. Like Alec, you can look into your inner processes in hopes of finding a way to streamline them.

Now that you’ve clarified your goal, you need to figure out your starting point.

Assessing Your Needs (What Do I Need to Get There?)

In order to plan a successful strategy, you need to assess your current station. Entrepreneurs need to pay special attention to finances. Say you’re developing a website for your company. You don’t know the first thing about design, so you hire a professional. But what about the content? Do you hire a professional writer or use the money to hire a marketing consultant?

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Alternatively, you could be the head of a big project. Often, when a corporation’s growth starts to plateau, they’ll look to its employees for a solution. This is the intrapreneur’s moment to shine. You’ll likely be given a goal (possibly a vague one) so the first step is already taken care of.

One advantage employees have over the head honchos is their familiarity with the goings-on of the office. Who works hard? Who slacks? What protocols are always followed and which are ignored? Are there any customer complaints? Use your insight to your advantage. If you’re the team leader of a big project, try to select members who you know will bring their A-game. If you’re designing a new system, make sure it works for both employees and clients.

Another leg up intrapreneurs have is the availability of resources. If you can make your superiors believe in your vision, they’ll give you the means to execute it. You’ll likely be given a budget, so you don’t have to worry about raising capital. Plus, your company (presumably) already has marketing, sales and HR departments — guaranteeing you’ll have all the help you need.

Problem-Solving and Perseverance (Find a Way to Make it Work)

Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, freelancers, interns — everyone faces obstacles from time to time. What matters is getting past them.

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What obstacles do entrepreneurs face? The correct answer is all of them. Cold-footed investors, angry stockholders, unproductive employees, failed strategies… the list is endless. Plus, as the (usually) largest stockholder, you have the most to lose if the business fails.

Intrapreneurs have it just as hard — egotistical supervisors, lazy coworkers, under-appreciation, stifling work cultures and more. Let’s go back to our example from earlier. You could have your plan to promote growth turned down by higher-ups. Alternatively, they might want you to do it with half of the requested budget.

The key to success is drive. When faced with a problem, roll with the punches. Show your investors and stockholders your rising intrapreneur’s new plan to promote growth. Consider offering your employees commission, bonuses or other performance-based rewards.

If you’re sure you’ve struck gold with your innovative new plan but your supervisor keeps turning you down, go over their head. Take it as high as you need to, using the feedback you receive to make small alterations and improvements. If your company still ends up turning you down, it’s their loss. Venture out on your own and use your plan to go from intrapreneur to entrepreneur.

Whether you’re an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur, if you can establish a goal, assess your needs, and persevere in the face of problems — you’ll succeed.

Laura Day
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