January 11, 2023

Noting The Difference: Does Success As An Executive Equal Success As An Entrepreneur?

If you are midcareer and have run things (divisions, projects, and so forth) in larger companies, like I have in my career, and feel they will serve you well in trying your hand at being a true entrepreneur—you are half right. While these skills and experiences will serve you well, they are quite different than the skills needed to be a true entrepreneur. Success in one will not guarantee success in another.

One of the rages of the 1980s and 1990s was the term intrapreneurship. This term was meant to push professionals in larger companies, who were possibly working on smaller/nimbler things, to act like an entrepreneur, but within a larger company (hence the turn of phrase intra). While I truly think this was a noble spin on things, and I was surely guilty of fashioning my own efforts along those “intra” lines, it does not translate to being an actual entrepreneur. I have met, and continue to meet, people who will tout their running of things in larger companies and try to equate that to being “just like an entrepreneur.” I’m sorry, but that’s baloney! Being intrapreneurial is not the same thing as being an entrepreneur. Allow me to expand on this.

If you lead a group, division, area, or region within a larger company, those are wonderful skills to have accumulated. These skills will serve you well if you decide to start your own business. That said, they are not true entrepreneurial skills/talents. Don’t get me wrong; these experiences are very strong, but they are not start-up experiences.

I only mention this to give those intrapreneurs a sense of what is to come if they venture out on their own, and to not get too cocky from their corporate résumés. Once you get on the outside, nobody cares about your windowed, corner office with wood furniture and bookcases!

Here are some tangible differences between the two:


Corporate success will be a big help in starting a business from scratch, but it will not be a guaranteed determinant of entrepreneurial success. I hope this quick snapshot of the differences helps prepare you for the journey ahead.

Originally posted on Forbes.