Old Testament Intrapreneur
Just over six months ago, I stripped myself of the self-employed tag and went back to working for the man. Before that I had been out on my own succeeding and failing through multiple ventures that left my identity proudly staked to the term “serial entrepreneur.” It was a humbling transition, but it wasn’t out of necessity. I wanted it because being an entrepreneur isn’t about being your own boss – it is really about identifying, pursuing, and succeeding in any opportunity regardless of the form that it comes. In my case it just so happened that the next grand opportunity was at the hands of the man – and thus I became an intrapreneur.
In 1992, The American Heritage Dictionary acknowledged the popular use of a new word, intrapreneur, to mean “A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.” It isn’t as sexy as the term entrepreneur, but the scale of opportunity can be just the same. You too are an intrapreneur; you just don’t know it yet.
And one truth of Christian business I’ve discovered is that God favors intrapreneurs, too. This I know – for the Bible tells me so.
Christian Business Lessons in the Old Testament
Rewind all the way back to the book of Genesis, chapters 30 and 31. Jacob and Rachel had just given birth to Joseph, and Jacob is ready to end his tenure as an employee of Laban (30:25). Realizing that Laban is about to lose his best and hardest working employee, he offers whatever it will take (30:28) to keep Jacob around. Jacob, intent on becoming his own boss, evaluates the opportunity and offers a counterproposal.
“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.”
In this very moment Jacob sees Laban’s offer as a sign of God’s favor and an opportunity to kick-start his own venture. Laban agreed (30:34) and a new partnership was formed. Still with a vision for how to better tend the livestock, Jacob decides to incubate his idea by leveraging his employer’s resources. Genesis 30:37-43 details Jacob’s new methodology and says that through this he became exceedingly prosperous (30:43).
Eventually Laban became jealous of his employee’s success (31:2) and a conflict arose. As often is the case with intrapreneurs, employer and employee both want to own an innovation, and the employee ends up having to leave (voluntarily or forcefully). Timing is everything in business, and Christians need to be in tune with God’s voice in order to meet the consequential demands of good timing. Jacob did just that, hearing God’s calling for him to finally leave his employer and go out on his own (31:3).
The story goes on and Jacob remains very successful. What is offered here by scripture is a lesson in Christian business about being an intrapreneur God’s way. I’m in awe of such a simple business concept outlined so early in scripture, but then again, our God is also the god of business, so I shouldn’t be surprised. What I learned here is that just because you work for somebody doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur someday. Your marketplace anointing also covers intrapreneurship and you should embrace that with trust in God just as Jacob did. If you feel called to go out on your own, but don’t believe the timing is right, take encouragement from this and remember that timing is everything. Listen for God’s voice and take great pride in being an intrapreneur. I know I do.
Photo Credit: Jule_Berlin (via Flickr Creative Commons)