Intrapreneur: An employee within an organization who uses entrepreneurial skills to develop a new product or service, or improve an existing product or service for the company’s benefit.
Based on this definition, do you (or have you) ever considered yourself a military Intrapreneur? Ever seen a process or practice in your organization that wasn’t working and you came up with a solution without being asked to do so? Ever took it to heart when your boss said, “leave the organization in better shape than when you got it” and devised a smart solution to enduring challenges? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are a military Intrapreneur.
The Safety of Intrapreneurship
Generally speaking, Intrapreneurship feels safe to its practitioners for a couple reasons. First, they are taking on these actions while employed with full benefits for themselves and their families. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the work is accomplished to benefit the unit and its cause.
The only “risk” (if you want to call it that) is time. They are taking on additional work and still getting paid the same. Over my 20+ year career, I ran across this group of officers and enlisted folks frequently and was constantly in awe of their innovative solutions to unique challenges. Despite the time commitment, they always seemed to find the personal bandwidth to be innovative with additional work and also perform very well in their core jobs.
Here is the question…where do these military Intrapreneurs go when we stop talking Intrapreneurship and start talking Entrepreneurship?
Why Entrepreneurship is Considered High Risk
Why does the word Entrepreneurship evoke such a visceral “it is too risky and implausible” reaction by nearly everyone, including practicing military Intrapreneurs? It seems like the word itself is almost the largest barrier to entry. Despite the fact that both groups similarly seek out and solve problems, Intrepreneurship is considered normal and low risk while Entrepreneurship is considered abnormal and high risk.
One reason for the disparity may be the resources required to do the work. Intrapreneurs have organizational resources at their disposal to solve problems. Entrepreneurs must independently find resources, often times on a shoestring budget, to turn their vision into something tangible.
Another reason for the disparity is guilt. The Intrapreneur feels no guilt because they were asked to perform the work for the organization they are employed by. For some reason, PreVeteran Entrepreneurs may feel guilty because they are creating their own product or service while still serving.
Take a moment and challenge that thought process. First, re-think resources. Consider your time in the military as your time resource and your salary as the money resource. They are both something you have 100% control over (spouse notwithstanding).With time and money at your disposal, you can plan your small business in manageable chunks. This is what the Active-Duty Entrepreneur concept is all about (get your free e-book here). Why would this be considered risky? To the practicing Intrepreneur, using your own resources to create value should be a familiar pathway to consider exploring Entrepreneurship.
Next, re-think guilt. Current or prospective PreVeteran Entrepreneurs should not feel guilt about wanting to start their own small business while still serving for two reasons: First, the money and free time you earn while serving is yours to do with what you like. You earned it and so long as your business idea does not conflict with your current job and you don’t use government resources, there are no limitations. Second, the only person you can count on to make your transition successful is you! Remember, when you finish your military service and walk out that figurative door, the Department of Defense owes you nothing. You should never feel guilty about preparing to make your second career (perhaps as a small business owner) as successful as your first career. It is good for you, your family and the country.
Time to think differently. Wouldn’t you say?