Some say that an entrepreneur, through their vision, skills and passion is a person who builds a business where they’re the bottom line in terms of its success or failure. An intrapreneur, however, is someone who uses similar qualities to achieve something for someone else’s business. Both share vision, talent, hunger and determination – the main difference being that the entrepreneur normally has more freedom to act on their instinct while the intrapreneur usually has to seek approval.
Another difference is that the butt stops with the entrepreneur who ultimately has to fund the ambition, innovation or idea as well as bear the financial burden of failure and funding the ‘go again’. The difference between the two is almost like that between a shorter term romance and a marriage. I’ll explain…
If the relationship ends, it’s sad, it’s difficult but you move on (i.e. the intrapreneur). On the other hand, if the marriage ends, it’s more public, seems somehow like more of a failure, you’re potentially screwed (financially speaking), some of your friends ditch you and it’s a bit harder pick yourself up and start again. I know, I know… poor entrepreneurs, right?!
I recently took up horse-riding again (not really advised to wait until your 40s), my Brave Betty alter ego often turns into Nervous Nelly on jumping weeks but just lately some advice about getting over my course of what are really teeny wee jumps drew real parallels with the nature of entrepreneurs. ‘Don’t look at the jump, look at where you’re going, if you look at the jump, the horse will stop, you’ve got to tell it where you’re going by looking at where you’re heading.’ This seemed to me to be a fitting metaphor for business – if you look at the hurdle you’ll either fall, the horse will stop or both! As an entrepreneur the most disappointing days are the ones where, dammit, you looked at the jump and took a bit of a temporary nosedive. There’s also disappointment to be found in those days where you were absolutely looking where you were going, you believed your horse (team) were jumping with you, but one or two looked at the jump and didn’t come with you. Then you have to ask yourself, did we communicate clearly enough about where we were going and what we had to jump over to get there? Could we do more to ensure the intrapreneurs are as heading in the same direction as the entrepreneurs?
Whether it’s entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship, it’s not for everyone. Being a leader in a small business can be as tough as it is relentless and sometimes you just have to take the fall and get back on the horse.
As we go into our tenth year as a business, our challenge is to nurture the entrepreneurs who will become equity stakeholders in the business and really champion the intrapreneurs with a vested interest in its success. Some might even be both. These individuals will have to be just as determined in the tough times as they are when they’re on a winning streak. They’ll have to believe in the team’s ideas and values and make sure to keep their eyes stay on the prize without faltering. They’ll have to make personal sacrifices at times in favour of the greater good, embrace diversity in all its guises, get just as much out of introverts as extraverts and convince clients to take brave pills when required and trust in the plan. Oh, and most importantly; if they have a fall, knock a pole down or even experience a wee refusal, they’ll jump back up, learn, refocus and go again, again and again.
One of our SMT’s ongoing agenda items is to create a culture and environment where everyone thrives, so ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘intrapreneurship’ and how we support these behaviours will definitely be on the agenda at our next meeting. So we’d like to give a big thanks to Entrepreneurial Scotland for such a thought provoking and enjoyable dinner discussion. An honourable mention goes to John Watson for being such a brilliant speaker who clearly relished the lively debate!
Oh, and for those like me still exploring the differences between ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘intrapreneur’ – this Forbes article is very interesting.