Last Saturday I attended a National Speakers Association meeting where the speaker talked about the need to decide if you want Fame or Fortune.  Do you want to be known for something that changes how people think about the world or do you want to build a business that generates lots of cash.  The speaker was focused on making a fortune.

It raised a number of questions in my mind.  Did you really have to choose one or the other? Why not both?  Was there more to being successful than fame or fortune.  Was he an entrepreneur or a capitalist?  Was he sincere in his efforts to help attendees find their own way to fame or fortune? Was he helping us understand the steps to being successful? Was his success a matter of drive, ambition, talent, networking or the right connections?  Was it more important to make a difference or build an empire? Was the driving force behind him to be bigger and better than his peers?

Like others in the audience it was not clear what the real take-away was from his presentation.  Clearly he had found the right formula for his own success and we applaud and admire him for that.  The real question was how we could use his success to enhance our own.

Although I got a number of good ideas from him the whole event left me still pondering the question of fame versus fortune when it comes to Intrapreneurs.   Was this the great divide between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs? Was there more than fame and fortune for intrapreneurs?

The literature says that entrepreneurs are motivated by money and intrapreneurs are motivated by creating value and generating new business growth.  They aren’t in it for the fame or the fortune because in most cases they are the unsung heroes, working behind the scenes, making things happen, taking personal risks, driving change, adding value and making a difference.  It isn’t about them, it’s about what they can contribute to the organization, to the greater good, to society.  Their own reward is the satisfaction in knowing they have done a job well done, that they had an impact and made a difference.

Looking at all the intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs that I’ve met,  my sense is that they would have difficulty choosing fame or fortune.  Look at fame.  If you ask someone to name the top five Intrapreneurs you get a blank stare.  Ask them to name a famous entrepreneur and they give you a list. The same is true when it comes to those who’ve made a fortune.

Most of us think of Art Fry at 3M who helped develop the post-it notes.  When I show participants in my workshop a picture of Bill Gates and next to him is Art Fry everyone knows Bill but only one or two will guess who Art is.  And that’s because the wall behind Art is covered with post-it notes.  It wasn’t about fame or fortune for Art it was finding something to hold his place in his hymnal while at church on Sunday.  Post-it notes were not a planned product.  They served a purpose, solved a problem and leveraged a product that otherwise had little or no use at the time.

If we think about it Art eventually developed a bit of fame because he is now held up as an example of being a corporate entrepreneur or intrapreneur.  Although the product he discovered created billions for 3M it is not clear that Art shared in the same financial fortune.  The real fortune for him was knowing that he had discovered something that we see in just about every business environment today, that his idea contributed to the growth and success of 3M, served as an example to other employees that anyone can be an intrapreneur, that there is satisfaction in creating something that has value to you, your customers and the organization.

So perhaps we need to rethink this notion of fame and fortune as a choice.  Not that these aren’t important and nice to have but they may not be what drives and motivates intrapreneurs.  The most successful intrapreneurs I know that have built million and billion dollar businesses for their company but their names are not listed anywhere.  They are widely recognized within their own firms but much less so outside their organizations.

Most however have done well financially.  These individuals are handsomely rewarded for their efforts.  The more successes they create the more money seems to come their way.  But have they made a fortune, I wouldn’t say so.  A little bit of fame, a rewarding career and being financially secure have been and will probably continue to be the modus operandi for intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneurs want the freedom and flexibility to explore the unknown, create value and have an impact.   They want to leverage their passion with purpose and meaning.  They recognize that the world is rapidly changing and they want to be a part of that change.  Do they want fame and fortune as well?

Let us know what you think.

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