In this blog, we discuss the differences between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, their key traits, and which one is right for you. Learn about corporate entrepreneurship and startup entrepreneurship, the advantages of intrapreneurship over entrepreneurship, and vice versa.
Let’s start off by establishing what the difference is between an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur. An entrepreneur is defined as an individual who takes an idea or product and creates a business. They are responsible for the set-up of the business (start-up entrepreneurship), taking on financial risks, in the hope of making a profit. On the other hand, an intrapreneur can be defined as an individual behaving like an entrepreneur within an already existing business. They are employees who are given the authority and support to create new products or innovations, striving for the company’s future success but not putting their own personal resources at risk. Intrapreneurship can also be referred to as Corporate Entrepreneurship as their aims are to drive revenue growth and encourage innovation inside the company through entrepreneurial thoughts and actions.
The Key Differences Between Entrepreneurs & Intrapreneurs
Organisation: Entrepreneurs start their own businesses from scratch, while intrapreneurs start initiatives within existing businesses.
Ownership: An entrepreneur takes on full ownership of their business, while an intrapreneur has none.
Autonomy: An entrepreneur has complete control of all decision-making, while intrapreneurs operate within an existing system.
Dependency: Entrepreneurs are completely independent, while intrapreneurs are dependent on the company they work within.
Resources: An entrepreneur needs to procure their own resources, while an intrapreneur has full access to the business’s resources, finances and personnel.
Risk: As mentioned before, entrepreneurs take on all the risk and responsibly that comes with owning their own business, while for intrapreneurs the risk is taken on by the company they work for.
Reward: An entrepreneur will reap all the benefits of potential success, while with intrapreneurs, it’s the company that will receive financial rewards.
Similarities Between An Entrepreneur & an Intrapreneur
- Both have a strong inclination for entrepreneurial thinking – that is they are good at identifying opportunities for innovation within their respective organisations and finding effective strategies to capitalise on them.
- Both have strong leadership and problem-solving skills. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs need to get the most from their teams, and be able to motivate, delegate and communicate clearly with each member of the team. This also requires them to be at the forefront of problem-solving when issues arise.
- Both require a certain level of adaptability. Both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs cannot be rigid in their thinking, as they will continuously face challenges within their projects. They need to be able to change and adapt to any new obstacles placed in their path.
- Creativity and innovation are seen the key strengths and similarities in both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs as they are seen as the driving force behind the project, and it is their responsibility to make it a success.
- Persistence is another shared trait. Starting a business or working within one to transform existing boundaries requires an endless number of long hours, patience and determination in order for it to be a success.
- Both are seen to be very confident in their role and passionate about what they do.
- They are both seen as risk-takers. Many would assume that it is just the entrepreneur that possesses this trait, but intrapreneurs are hired for the precise reason to break barriers and test new boundaries within businesses.
As these individuals seem to possess similar character traits it is not unusual for intrapreneurs to shift into an entrepreneur position when the time and idea is right. The same can be said for an entrepreneur who may offer their expertise to a company in areas that are needing change and innovation.
People may wonder, what are the advantages of being an intrapreneur over an entrepreneur, and vice versa. But there is simply no correct answer to that, as both offer benefits and drawbacks – it depends on what you as an individual value or find most important, let’s see below:
Entrepreneurship: Advantages and disadvantages
Advantages of being an entrepreneur:
- The business is 100% yours! You had a vision, and you built your dream business. Ownership is so much more than just executing the big decisions, there is a feeling that is attached to it, one rooted from a deep passion, one that can’t be replicated while working at a company.
- Never a dull moment! As an entrepreneur every day will be different from the one before. From meeting with new clients, dealing with investors, building your team, etc – the monotony of a regular job will not be a factor.
- Flexibility to run the business as you see fit. If regular office hours don’t suit you – you can choose how, where and when you want to work… the choice really is yours!
Now, let’s take a look at the disadvantages of being an entrepreneur:
- Greater personal responsibility and financial risk. During the start-up stage of the business, you can expect to handle all the communication, financial, operational, marketing, advertising and legal affairs, areas that you may not have any prior experience in. Generally, entrepreneurs invest a substantial amount of their own money into the business so the company can operate, placing a huge financial strain on the entrepreneur’s personal finances.
- Competition from other businesses that may be more established than yours. When you start a business, there are likely to be other companies that may provide a similar product or service, breaking into the market can take a while and place stress on the business.
- Longer working hours, requiring great sacrifices and ultimately leading to more personal stress. Getting a business set-up is a timeous process with lots of stress attached to it. While everything is in the foundation stage, many personal sacrifices would have to be made to try make the business a success in the long run.
Intrepreneurship: Advantages and disadvantages
Moving on to the advantages of being an intrapreneur:
- It’s all about the perks. As an intrapreneur, you know that at the end of the month you will receive a salary with possible great perks attached to it. Successful intrapreneurs are very valuable to big companies and are paid accordingly.
- Low risk. The consequences of an intrapreneur vs an entrepreneur failing are less severe, as the business will be able to offset any accrued costs, the same can’t be said if an entrepreneur was in the same position.
- A sense of stability. Getting a steady paycheck whilst still having the opportunity to work on innovative projects is the main advantage for many individuals.
Disadvantages of being an intrapreneur:
- Your idea/product/concept doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your company, and it always will, so don’t expect any recognition. The economic rewards of your idea will benefit your company and not necessarily you financially.
- Lack of freedom. Working for a larger company, you are bound by certain rules and policies that are put in place for all employees, you are not the exception but must work within the organisation’s process.
- Conflict within your team. Unlike entrepreneurs who would hand-pick their team, as an intrapreneur you may not have the ability to choose your team members, which can result in workplace conflict should different opinions arise.
As mentioned, both roles have pros and cons attached with them, and both can also yield huge failures or great success. Below we look at a couple success stories of both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.
Adi Dassler of Adidas stated his shoemaking career in the washroom of his mother’s house in a small town in Germany, with the vision to produce the best possible shoe for athletes. This vision came to life when years later in 1954, the German National Team won the World Cup Final wearing a new model of Adidas cleats. Since then, Adidas has grown into a massive global band worth billions of dollars.
Another more recent entrepreneurial success story is that of Melanie Perkins of Canva. After being overwhelmed by design software that was so expensive and overly complicated, her goal was to create an affordable, simple online design tool that everyone would be able to have access to with zero design skills necessary. And that is how Canva was born. It has millions of users and is accessed in over 190 countries around the world.
Looking at intrapreneurs, one of the best examples of intrapreneurship success is Google. The founders of the company initiated a concept known as the “20% Project”, where they advised employees to dedicate 20% of their time at work developing something that they thought would benefit the company. Many of Google’s most successful ideas, including “Gmail” and “Google News” were created internally by staff members through this project.
Another great intrapreneur success story is the McDonald’s Happy Meal. In 1977, a regional sales manager pitched his idea of the kid’s meal to management, and they loved it. They started production soon after and sell millions around the world still today.
In conclusion, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are described as highly motivated and driven individuals with visionary ideas, aiming for success. The ways and processes as to how they achieve this success may vary but the fundamentals remain the same. Whether you are an intrapreneur working in a big corporation with unlimited resources and large team at your disposal or as an entrepreneur working from home with limited resources and little to no team, you can achieve the success you so desire.
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