For some, being an entrepreneur is either built into their DNA or they have the skills needed to develop to a point where that journey makes sense for them. Yet, for others it may be that they have "entrepreneurial tendencies" but maybe should not venture out on their own. That discussion is not happening as loudly as it should. It has become almost an insult in the entrepreneur/start-up space to say that you "work for someone else". Believe me, I understand why some people feel that way. Not every job or career path will allow you the freedom and resources to make the same kind of great strides that are possible in an entrepreneurial world. However, not every boot-strapped (or even well funded) startup venture will lead to fabulous success either. Sometimes you have to deal with an ignorant boss or a team of people who just don't get the vision that you see. Yet striking out on your own is not the ONLY path for you. Entrepreneurship may be the answer for some but it is not the "one ring to rule them all". Maybe exploring the path of an intrapreneur should be the consideration for some.
When most people think about entrepreneurs they usually make some assumptions about what that means. They know it has the ability to earn a fabulous lifestyle of success that involves the heights of comfort, freedom, status, financial stability, and material rewards. Sometimes, the entrepreneurs themselves even have grand ideas of where they will be 5 or 10 years down the road. They wholeheartedly believe that they are starting the next Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook. To them, a billion-dollar valuation or multi-million dollar buyout is surely just around the corner. They are either ignoring or are oblivious to the fact that the statistics are heavily stacked against that becoming a reality.
Now, don't misinterpret my words; I think that dreams are very important. It is vital for you to believe in what you are doing and have an unwavering dedication to achieving your goals. However, balancing that optimism with some heavy doses of realism cannot be forgotten. This is a theme that is covered frequently in the content being put out in the business community. Hard work. Perserverance. Focus. Determination. Making smart decisions. Hustle. They are all milestones that pave the road to success.
The thing that tends to be missing in the discussion is what that success should realistically look like. What are the goals you have to hit before you can announce to the world that "I made it"? The truth is that somewhere along the way they were distorted into being unrealisticly high. The impression is that you have to be a millionaire or nothing at all. "Get rich or die trying". Maybe it is an exaggeration of the "American Dream" or maybe it is Hollywood who has changed the conversation. Either way, the actual numbers of success are nebulous but the proverbial bar is undoubtedly high.
Over the last few years there has been frequent news coverage of "The 1% to 2%" group of ultra wealthy people in America. Keeping in mind the kind of wealth you envision when you hear about them; if you heard someone make the claim that they were in the top 10% group, would you be just as impressed? What about the top 5%? Here is where the truth needs to come out. According to statistics, if you are in the top 10% earning group that actually means you make $100,000 a year. That slightly more impressive 5% group...it is just $166,200 per year in earnings. Doesn't sound so staggering and unreachable does it? In fact, there are many jobs out there that will pay in the low six figures without ever having the need to start down an entrepreneurial path. Especially ones where some innovation, skills, and hustle will be welcomed within an existing organization and allow you to be compensated nicely for it. Or, if you did want to go down the entrepreneur path, you would need to generate just $400,000 in sales at a 25% profit margin to hit that six figure earning mark.
Another thing that Gary Vaynerchuk mentions in his rants on this topic is how the #6 employee of Facebook made a sizable amount of money. He does not give the specifics of that example so I took the time to gather them. Aaron Sittig. Have you ever heard of him? Probably not. Yet, he was a vital part of the company and used his talents, experience, and drive to be an integral part of the team that made the product what it is today. Guess what he came up with? The concept of tagging friends in photos. Was he an entrepreneur? Nope. He was an Intrapreneur. Yet he achieved wealth, success, and stability many of us may never have.
I had the opportunity recently to listen to a keynote speech by Steve Wozniak. During that talk he made it abundantly clear that he was not good at running a business. He had no savvy skills with management, sales, or marketing. If it had not been for Steve Jobs and his uncanny ability to design, market, and sell products - Apple Computer as we know it would never have existed. In fact, Steve Wozniak never thought about selling the homemade kit that became the Apple I. It was only after Jobs saw it that he started the journey that eventually lead to one of the most successful companies of all time. Steve Jobs was an Entrepreneur. Steve Wozniak was an Intrapreneur.
Ironically, it is Steve Jobs who is often linked with the word Intrapreneur even though he is not the one to have coined the term. After the fabulous success of the Apple II, Jobs became obsessed with bringing the Macintosh to the world. He assembled a team of internal Apple employees and demanded the same dedication and obsession from them to work on the project. In his words, " The Macintosh team was what is commonly known now as intrapreneurship—only a few years before the term was coined—a group of people going in essence back to the garage, but in a large company." In subsequent interviews he added the idea of an intrapreneurs as: "Dreamers who do."
America is built on the backbone of small business and our economy only thrives because of them. "As of the 2010 Census, there were 27.9 million small businesses registered in the United States, compared to just 18,500 companies of 500 employees or more. Included in that total figure are sole proprietorships (73.2 percent), corporations (19.5 percent), and franchises (2 percent). 52 percent of small businesses are home-based. The most important thing to note? 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms are small businesses." The vast majority of those are 5 employees or less and earn enough for the owners to make a decent living. That used to be what the American Dream was. Earning a decent living. It did not guarantee vast stores of wealth and earning 50x more than the average minimum wage worker.
Speaking of small businesses, what about those who are made up of 2nd or 3rd generation owners? The business was handed down to them from a parent or grandparent. What are they? Technically they are not entrepreneurs either in the sense they started something from nothing. They are Intrapreneurs. Yet they still have to roll up their sleeves, hustle, stay relevant, and continue to sustain and grow a business that is existing in a vastly different era then when it began.
What about you? What makes the most sense for your journey? I guarantee that even the people who have chosen the path of the entrepreneur are looking for a team of "dreamers who do". They want to supplement their vision with the experience and talents of others who want to innovate. You might not be building the house, but you can go back to the garage in someone else's house. Reframe what success looks like. Achieve success and purpose by being the best version of yourself in all the roles inside your business and personal life. Even if that is taking the reigns inside an existing organization and blazing a new path.