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January 7, 2020

Intro to Intrapreneurship: An Alternate Path to Entrepreneurship with Steady Income

The media loves to glamorize entrepreneurs. Everywhere you look, there’s an entrepreneur talking about how they…

“Left their corporate job”

“Wanted to be their own boss”

“Were tired of working for the man”

“Travel the world while earning passive income”

“Made millions doing something so easy anyone can do it”

I get the allure, but being an entrepreneur doesn’t make you any better than someone who’s not. In fact, entrepreneurs go through such ups and downs that they have higher than average rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

My concern is that society is pushing entrepreneurship like it’s crack, and guess who the dealers are?

People with privilege push entrepreneurship more than anyone.

They have safety nets to take risks but give advice to people who don’t. Read that twice.

When you don’t have family money to fall back on, you literally can’t take as much risk as someone who knows they’ll always have a place to live, food to eat, and a modest lifestyle. 

This is why I’m teaching you about an alternate path: one that allows you to run your own show, while having steady income and upside potential, without the downside risk.

It’s called being an intrapreneur.

What is an Intrapreneur?

Think of intrapreneurs like entrepreneurs who work in the company but didn’t start it. They are ambitious, have huge accountability, responsible for growth and innovation, and may have an equity-stake or a path to equity.

Here are glowing examples of intrapreneurs at different phases in their careers: 

Scott Trench, CEO + President of BiggerPockets

Scott Trench

Scott became the CEO + President of BiggerPockets at the age of 27.

“I joined this company as the 3rd employee. I was ambitious to make a difference, loyal to the founder’s interest and company’s vision, and committed to relentless self-education. Over time, opportunities to take on more and more responsibility came up and I accepted every opportunity I could.”

 

Shaye Moessner, Creative Director of Flow

Shaye Moessner

Shaye became the Creative Director of Flow, at the age of 29.

“I don’t believe you can be a successful intrapreneur without being an expert at leading an organization. It’s a different mindset than leading self or others in that you constantly have what’s best for the organization at heart — even over what’s best for yourself or your team.”

 

Tiffany Allen, General Manager, Survival Frog

Tiffany Allen

Tiffany became the General Manager of Survival Frog at the age of 32.

“I learned through podcasts, books, and with the support of the owner for sure. He is always available when I have questions, but has created a culture of deep learning and growing for everyone.”

Why are Intrapreneurs Important?

Behind every entrepreneur is a team of great intrapreneurs and the beauty is, there are a lot more opportunities for intrapreneurs. As companies scale, entrepreneurs need to focus on high-level strategies, relationships, and culture. Thus, they need intrapreneurs to integrate their ideas and manage the business.

Intrapreneurs are accountable for: 

  • Innovating on products/services
  • Customer acquisition and retention
  • Hitting revenue targets
  • Managing expenses
  • Delivering service
  • Creating processes
  • Hiring, developing and firing people

You’ll notice intrapreneurs have similar responsibilities as an entrepreneur, but without the downside risk and without having had to start the business and build it to scale to begin with.

Why You Should Consider Intrapreneurship Before Entrepreneurship

Many successful entrepreneurs were once successful intrapreneurs and worked for an entrepreneur. It’s a great training ground to learn how to build and scale a business. 

Intrapreneurship Trains You to Handle Risk

Entrepreneurs live off the least amount of income from the business because their payday comes from equity. As an entrepreneur, you have to get used to not taking everything out of the business and starving it of cash. Cash is oxygen to a business. 

This can make entrepreneurs feel poor. Many solopreneurs (people who started their own business but stayed as a one-person show), go back to their 9-5 because they hate the financial insecurity.

As an intrapreneur, you can put yourself in a real-life situation where you feel the ups and downs by having an equity position in the company, and can work on managing your inner self. Equity isn’t something you receive as a gift, you actually have to buy into the business, so not only is the money you invest at risk, but so are some of your earnings from profit distributions.

The bottom line is, you get to take smaller risks, be backed by someone else’s cash, and learn the lessons to manage the business and yourself.

Intrapreneurship is in High Demand

Every company that doesn’t want to sell needs a succession plan. But who’s their successor? If it’s not in the family, then they have to build them, or they’ve got to find them. Intrapreneurs are very difficult and expensive to hire, with low probabilities of success because the expectations of an outsider are often unrealistic. Thus, companies prefer to home-grow, nurture, and promote internal talent.

I’m blessed to be cultivating two intrapreneurs at Flow right now. They have full accountability over parts of the business with a healthy salary, bonus potential, and commission. Also, they’re allowed (and expected) to innovate on their path to equity ownership.

How To Become an Intrapreneur

If you’re going, “Holy smokes, I want an intrapreneurship!” then I want you to understand this: 

You’ll create significant opportunities when you approach entrepreneurs with a powerful intrapreneur mindset. 

But before you go to your boss, you have to develop clarity and skills to confidently land your first big intrapreneurial promotion. 

Learn to Manage Your Ego

You face peer pressure everyday to quit your corporate jobs and stop working for the man. Your ego will love the sound of the prestige that comes with bucking the system and striving for entrepreneurial status. 

Don’t listen to your ego. It will always lead you down the wrong path.

People will pressure you to start a business and praise you when you have, and those are both the ego’s playground. The ego gets FOMO and loves recognition, but that has nothing to do with what you’re called to do in life.

These people are  not ill-intentioned, but they haven’t done the work to realize you don’t need to be like them…

And in fact, if you don’t have a safety net like they did, you aren’t like them. 

To figure out whether you’re listening to your ego or to your soul, read my book Bling

Figure Out What Problem You Want to Solve

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. Most people ask themselves, “what do I want to do?” The more skills and experiences you have, the more difficult that is to answer. I believe a better question is “what problem do I want to solve?” The problem you want to solve is your calling and comes from the soul, and as a result, you’ll find that all your skills and experiences converge to work on this problem.

Design Your Intrapreneurship

Your intrapreneurship needs to be focused on solving a problem while growing your potential. Make sure your design reflects your commitment and confidence to deliver results. There are two essential parts to include:

Responsibilities and Accountabilities

Responsibilities are the basic duties of the position. Responsibilities are just table stakes, what you really need to define are your accountabilities. 

Accountability specifically means what you lead, manage, and are accountable for.

Not only do you own the inputs, but you own the results and their consequences. Intrapreneurs with higher accountability are under more pressure to increase productivity and innovate growth.  

What do you want to be accountable for in your intrapreneurship?

Not quite sure? Here are some things to consider: 

  • Innovating on products/services
  • Customer acquisition and retention
  • Hitting revenue targets
  • Managing expenses
  • Delivering service
  • Creating processes
  • Hiring, developing and firing people

Salary Plus Commission, then Equity

Set a salary for your basic needs and set a commission or bonus structure to align yourself with business growth. You should feel confident with a lower salary because you are confident in your ability to grow the business, which will also make you money.

For example, say you can make a $75K salary, but there’s an intrapreneurship opportunity. Ask for $60K with a 5% commission on gross revenue because you believe you can make back that $15K and more.

After you’ve proven success with this structure, it’s time to put hard cash at risk to purchase equity. Since entrepreneurs rely 100% on equity, your equity path will align you with the owner. 

Remember, doing what’s right for the business is the foundation for its growth. Equity says you’ll put the business above your personal gain.

Develop Soft and Hard Skills 

You need an operating system to keep your intentions pure and ego in check. It’ll help you focus on creating incredible results for yourself and the company.

The soft skills you’ll need are the fundamentals from Bling

The hard skills you’ll need are job dependent. Identify what you need and start developing the competencies to qualify for the position.  

Pitch Your Vision 

Paint a picture of your intrapreneurship with your salary and accountabilities. Express you want to groom for a C-suite position so you can manage a slice of the business in the future with trust. 

You could say something like this: 

I’d like to talk about building myself to the point where I might eventually lead a piece of the business.

To start with, I’d like to align my financial incentives more closely with the business and with yours as the founder. That means I’m willing to take on more risk with a smaller salary and would like upside potential, either through a commission or bonus, that’s tied to business growth.

I’d like to learn how to generate revenue and show you I can earn a profit. I want to be accountable for managing expenses so I can budget, forecast, and maintain margins. The bigger picture is if you ever left your role, I would be the kind of person you’d consider as a successor.

Is that something you’d be open to discussing?

A pitch like this is music to any entrepreneur’s ears.

Once the door is open, it’s important for you to ask questions like:

  • Does this sound like any position we have now, or we’ll need in the future?
  • What are our 1/3/10 year goals?
  • Are there any revenue-generating opportunities that I could be a part of?
  • Could we map out a skills-development plan to help build me into what you’ll need?

If the entrepreneur isn’t down with your proposal, then that company likely isn’t right for you.

If you hear, “There’s nothing available right now, but I know where we’re headed. Let’s do X, Y, Z to start grooming you in your current role,” then you’ve hit gold. Work with them and watch how they accelerate your learning and growth.

Work Like You’re On A Mission

To work hard, you must, must work with purpose.  When you enjoy your work, you’ll be willing to put in the extra 1,000 miles it’ll take to achieve your grand plan. Your work ethic will back up your ambition with less effort and more energy. 

Take my previous employee, Hannah, for example. 

Before working at Flow, she followed my blog. One day she emailed me saying, “Hey, I love the work you’re doing. I’d love to volunteer and help. Is there anything I could do?” I told her to read Traction and build out a hundred-day client experience. 

She built it, and it was dope. 

Hannah came back to the States on June 30th, I hired her on July 1st. 

Hannah ditched TV time to build client experiences because she was ambitious. Her work paid off and landed her a job. Of course, I wanted her on my team.

Somebody might say, “Yeah, but you’re going to be working all the time and won’t have a personal life?” 

Well, what the heck do you think it’s going to take? 

You need to want it so bad. You need to work your ass off to get it. Dedication will get you anything! 

Entrepreneurship Isn’t For Everyone

Anybody willing to put in the work as an intrapreneur is someone all entrepreneurs want on our team.

Intrapreneurship is a much safer route to build wealth with intrinsic motivation for autonomy and mastery at the same time. Businesses need intrapreneurs, but they’re not traditionally advertised. You have to go out and create opportunities yourself. 

If this is what you want, then go get it. Design your role, do the self-work, and build the confidence to walk into your boss’s office to pitch your grand plan.

If you need the extra support and advice or want to share your stories, reach out to me anytime. I’m here to help you realize your potential.

General FAQ

What is an intrapreneur?

Think of intrapreneurs like entrepreneurs who work in the company but didn’t start it. They are ambitious, have huge accountability, responsible for growth and innovation, and may have an equity-stake or a path to equity.

Why are intrapreneurs important?

Behind every entrepreneur is a team of great intrapreneurs and the beauty is, there are a lot more opportunities for intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurs integrate the founders’ vision and manage the business.

What does an intrapreneurship look like?

Intrapreneurships are focused on solving business problems while growing an individual’s potential. There are two essential parts to an intrapreneurship: high accountability and a path to equity.

What skills does an intrapreneur need to have?

The hard skills depend on the company, but the soft skills needed are to reduce your ego, self-awareness, unemotional decision-making, and helping others.

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