What is an ‘intrapreneur’ and is it right for you?

Imagine if you had the visions of an entrepreneur and the capital and resources of a large organization. In its perfect form, this is the intrapreneur.

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True or false: everyone is an entrepreneur, wants to be an entrepreneur or knows an entrepreneur. It’s an accurate statement if you ask Michael Dermer – career expert, and founder and CEO The Lonely Entrepreneur. Even if this is the case, not everyone is the next Mark Zuckerberg or Arianna Huffington. And not every forward-thinker wants to create a mega-company that challenges industry standards or propels dramatic, disruptive change. Rather, there is a sweet spot for every self-starter, and many are finding it as an intrapreneur.


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This new term is becoming trendy, and inspiring many not-so-new companies to consider hiring someone to come in and shake, rattle and roll their fundamentals. If you’ve read this term in a headline or two, but you’re not sure of what it entails, here’s what you need to know.

So, what is an intrapreneur?

Most of the time, new companies start with very little but big ideas a lot of grit. On the other hand, household brands that have made their stake in the world have plenty of income — but lack creativity. An intrapreneur is where these two players meet.

“Imagine if you had the visions of an entrepreneur and the capital and resources of a large organization. In its perfect form, this is the ‘intrapreneur,’ ” Dermer shares. “It is someone that works within a larger organization who is charged with coming up with innovative ideas to help the firm’s business.”

By definition, an entrepreneur has a big, spanking, incredible, new idea. No matter if it’s a product, a service, an app, a community, a place or something else entirely — it’s killer and it needs to be known. However, going out on a limb isn’t always a reality for everyone, and it prompts some who are naturally idea-driven to use their knack for revolution in a different way.

“Many individuals need the security of a large organization with a stable salary and health benefits. But they also want to explore their vision,” Dermer continues. “This combination of creativity without the risk is incredibly appealing to an individual who can explore their entrepreneurial side without the strain of the entrepreneurial journey.”

The benefits of becoming an intrapreneur

It is no easy task to pitch a role that doesn’t exist (yet) — but that’s where the genius of an intrapreneur comes into play. Because you can see the forest beyond the trees, so to speak, creating a case study for why your services are needed can convince many brands to invest in your talent.

This might mean going to a major media company and explaining how they could win big by developing a different part of their business. Or to an app that’s doing something within the field of what you’re dreaming up — but you can do it better. Once you can sign up a client (or perhaps, a few) — you’ll find plenty of resources:

Exploration — sans risk

Most of the time when you hear about someone going into business for themselves, it’s usually a heroic tale of how they gave everything up to try and make a wave. Though you still need bravery to market yourself as an intrapreneur, your finances might not take as much of a hit.

As Dermer puts it, intrapreneurs can explore their ideas without the risk of investing in their own venture. Instead, a brand puts their money on you — and you’re under the gun to deliver.

Access to resources and capital

“Many entrepreneurs have great ideas but lack the capital and resources to bring them to life,” Dermer shares.

However, when an intrapreneur joins an already fully-fledged company, they have every chance to take the ability of the resources available to them. Instead of investing, say, $40K in a website that sinks to be an SEO competitor within a niche, you can use the already-staffed writers and content published to start off strong.

Even access to workspaces, other great minds and the luxury of time are perks.

“In some organizations, larger innovation infrastructure exists that creates ‘incubators’ which find internal ideas and help to germinate them. All of these resources accelerate the advancement of ideas,” Dermer adds.

Learning

Last — but definitely not least — one of the biggest advantages of becoming an intrapreneur is the ability to learn. Even if you are given the opportunity to change the way a company is conducting business, handling their internal politics or exploring an area for growth, you aren’t alone in the process.

Most of the time, intrapreneurs work across multiple teams and sectors of a company, giving you the chance to learn — in real time — how to set priorities, build budgets, mentor and manage people, and much more, according to Dermer.

“Larger organizations can support ideas in a way that enables intrapreneurs to advance not only their ideas but their skills as an entrepreneur,” he adds.

How do you know if an intrapreneur career is right for you?

If you’re reading along and nodding your head — perhaps you weren’t born an entrepreneur, but rather, an internal visionary. Dermer says to make this a valuable career choice, you should have these certain characteristics:

  • You have ideas but are not the type of risk-taker that would go out on their own.
  • You may be a risk taker, but you don’t have the financial resources to take the risk of being an entrepreneur.
  • Your family situation – such as supporting a husband, wife and/or kids – would prevent you from going out on your own.
  • You love bringing ideas to life but find much more joy in the ideation than the execution.

Even if it still seems a little far-fetched right now, but Dermer predicts in the not-so-distant future, it’ll be a career title. After all, gigs pop up all the time — remember when social media manager seemed crazy? You’re the intrapreneur, so go on and make a title for yourself.


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Lindsay Tigar|is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer