September 12, 2021

I received this in my daily email today:

According to a new fact sheet from the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, “[a] substantial amount of family wealth is in business ownership. 

On average, the self-employed are wealthier than the non-self-employed. 

This implies the value or potential value of business ownership in economic mobility [and] that business equity represents a relatively large share of nonfinancial assets.  

It’s hard to argue with the Small Business Administration…but I will (at least a little). 

While business equity is first and foremost gained by business ownership, I believe we gain an equal amount of “business equity” from being an “intrapreneur” as much as being an entrepreneur…maybe not in dollars in the bank…but non-financial assets come in many shapes and sizes. 

As someone who never had a hankering to start my own business when I graduated from college, that didn’t mean I wasn’t interested in carving out a career that would be satisfying on a number of levels…financial and non-financial…and if business ownership was in the cards, so be it. 

My path to career satisfaction was becoming an intrapreneur inside an entrepreneurial company…and when I left that entrepreneurial company in January of 2015, I became a full-fledged entrepreneur (with ease). 

It only took me 34 years…but I am a very patient person—and it was a great ride. 

And the ride is far from over. 

Intrapreneurship has its privileges too. 

I wrote a blog post entitled, “From intrapreneur to entrepreneur” as I headed out the door of that very special company; and two years after I left (in 2017) I reflected on that journey again adding some lessons learned in that short span. 

Today is a further update of that post, with some repeats of those lessons, and some new ones, now almost seven years later. 

And whether you play either of these roles in your career (or neither one of them), I believe there are insights to be gained by hearing the story.   

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan and I both got very lucky. 

Some of you may recall…or you can look it up…that on that day outside of the Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C., the then President of the United States Ronald Reagan narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. 

By all accounts, he dodged two bullets…although I’m not sure he would have agreed with one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill (which I quote often): 

“There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result.” 

I use that quote to describe the marketing wars I’ve been involved in but I’m not so sure I like using it when talking about live ammunition…and in Reagan’s case, it was no laughing matter. 

Reagan was courageous through the experience…he tried to laugh it off when he said as they wheeled him into the operating room, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.” 

And the quips and jokes continued from there (including the Churchill quote above) …and his popularity rate rose to over 70%. 

I got lucky that same day because I started working for publisher and direct marketer Marty Edelston and his small but mighty newsletter and book company, Boardroom Reports. 

My first day at Boardroom was far from a full day of work as we watched the news about our President being shot…and little did I know that was the day I was beginning a 34-year career helping build one of the most successful direct marketing empires ever. 

We went from around $3 million in revenues in 1981 to a high of $157 million in the mid 2000’s. 

We may not have had the sales or profits of some of the other star companies in direct marketing over those three decades…but because Boardroom was a true “learning organization,” we always worked with the smartest people, produced the highest quality products and we often spent as much time teaching and sharing as we did making a profit. 

Our financial advisors often told us: 

“How about a little less teaching and sharing and a little more selling?” 

But we couldn’t help ourselves. More on that in a minute. 

Marty always treated me like a partner in the business and together (with some of the most talented people both internally and externally), we grew Boardroom into something very special. 

And I was spoiled. 

I had all the advantages of an entrepreneur with a lot less risk. 

Once becoming Marty’s formal partner, by earning equity in the company, I had the freedom to think of new ideas daily with phenomenal resources at my fingertips: 

The best copywriters, consultants, database experts, list mavens, numbers gurus, 20,000+ articles and pieces of world class content…and a database of customers and former customers that fluctuated between 5 and 10 million names. 

What a playground for anyone…Boardroom was even more…the best amusement park ever for serial direct marketers like us. 

Don’t get me wrong…we had risks and we went through tough times. 

I remember in 1983 when we had a mailing ready to go out and we did not have enough cash in the bank to pay for the postage. 

And over the years, there were many pay cuts for the ownership and management teams when it was necessary…and we had layoffs that coincided with downturns just like everyone else. 

34 years is a long time. 

The amusement park was lots of fun but the roller coaster had many ups and downs…and needed many adjustments. 

But it will never be lost on me that it was Marty’s courage to go out on his own in 1972, from his basement, and using his life savings, to launch Boardroom Reports, which created so many wonderful careers and legacies…including mine. 

(NOTE: If you are interested in additional background on Marty’s thinking about launching the company and the “brand” Boardroom Reports, read my post entitled “Branding without getting hives”). 

I am well aware that I didn’t start the company…just helped to build it in a huge way…which is why I say I was a bit spoiled. 

I am not apologizing for not starting Boardroom…just creating the proper setup for my topic today which is all about “intrapreneurship,” which is defined by Wikipedia this way: 

Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization. Intrapreneurship is known as the practice of a corporate management style that integrates risk-taking and innovation approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques, that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.  

Based on interactions I’ve had with many of you over the years, my gut told me that this is a topic worth exploring one again. 

The first time I talked about this was in 2015, when I left Boardroom. 

I’ve learned a lot more about you, my online family, over the past 6 plus years. 

That is, a good percentage of you work in different kinds of companies for someone else–but itching to go out on your own. 

Some of you love your job but want to get more out of it without necessarily going out on your own. 

And of course, there are also many of you who are on your own already, budding or established entrepreneurs, and I’m hoping this topic will be relevant to you as well…to see if anything I share is similar to your experience moving into full entrepreneurship. 

It may also give you some insights as to how to deal with your staff, many of whom may be intrapreneurial (like I was) …which can lead to incredible growth for your most talented employees…and your company. 

My thesis: Being innovative and resourceful can never get old or tired no matter what your ownership percentage is of any business. 

In my post “Come for the information, stay for the inspiration,” I told you about my experience speaking to 400 entrepreneurs in France in late 2014…many very young…and all with incredible drive to go out on their own (despite whatever “day job” they currently held). 

And I’m not sure if the Americans on this list realize every country does not have the same entrepreneurial spirit we have in this country…in some countries it’s even frowned upon to be entrepreneurial…and it’s definitely not as common outside of the U.S. to meet large groups of people who are sick of “working for the man.” 

However, the entrepreneurial spirit is becoming more global every day which I find so inspiring. 

Back to my friends in Paris. 

They treated me like royalty, and frankly, it made me uncomfortable. 

I went back on stage the day after my keynote, after I had 24 hours to reflect on their warm reception, and told them this: 

I am so grateful that you think I am some celebrity from America, here to dazzle you with my brilliance and my achievements. 

But I want to remind you that like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time (however that got translated into French)—and it is YOU who I look up to. 

I got lucky…I landed in an entrepreneurial organization, worked hard, read everything and learned something new every day for 30 years…but I never had the true entrepreneurial experience where I had to “kill what I ate” (not sure how that translated either) in the same way that you will have to do when you strike out on your own. 

I am not apologizing for being an intrapreneur…but please know how much you inspire me to truly be an “Entrepreneur Libre” (“Free Entrepreneur,” the name of the conference). 

And when I came home from France, I realized it was time for me to leave Boardroom after 34 years. 

I saw a bigger mission for myself, to deliver on my promise to Marty before he passed away that “we have to teach this stuff to as many people as we can.” 

He and I had been doing that together in smaller doses since the mid 1980’s and we talked about doing something bigger shortly after the death of the world renown copywriter, Gene Schwartz, who spent his life teaching everything he learned. 

Which is a lot…trust me on that. 

Read my post, Building larger mice which tells the tale of Gene Schwartz through the afterword of his classic book, Breakthrough Advertising. 

Marty and I never really got around to “teaching it” as broadly as we would have liked (in Gene’s image). 

But a year after Marty’s death, when I created (with Boardroom), an epic tribute event in his memory, Titans of Direct Response, that was what created the springboard to taking our dream to the next level. 

Too bad it had to wait until Marty was gone…but I know he was there watching over the 350+ attendees, the top experts and speakers (all of whom were friends and colleagues) …and me. 

He was watching over me to make sure I got it right. 🙂 

And…since leaving Boardroom, creating Titans Marketing, I have continued that dream in spades, the promise Marty and I made to each other. 

For one, bringing Gene Schwartz’s classic books, namely Breakthrough Advertising, to a new generation of direct marketers and copywriters in over 50 countries around the world. 

And creating mastermind groups of the best-of-the-best direct marketers. 

In fact, that’s where I am this week, hosting my extraordinary Titans Mastermind.

NOTE: I will share the highlights of this event in an upcoming post…it’s the first time we have gone “live and in person” since January 2020 before there was COVID…and the speakers are amazing (although they will be masked). 🙂 

Beginning with that epic event in September of 2014 followed by my epiphany in Paris (and a similar experience in Hungary a year later), and the publishing of Breakthrough Advertising (and The Brilliance Breakthrough)…the almost seven years of going from Intrapreneur to Entrepreneur have been incredibly special. 

And to a large degree that is because of you, my online family. 

I was a little sad when I left Boardroom because it was the end of an era…but these last 6+ years have been unbelievable as I look to make new contributions daily and you remind me of it after every weekly post. 

As I said earlier, I have had the freedom that most entrepreneurs have for much of my career…without the same initial risk…and I was thinking about what I could share about that experience that could be useful. 

And I want to be helpful whether you are simply working in a company as an employee or if you are on your own already as a bootstrap (or established) entrepreneur.   

For you as an employee (and potential intrapreneur): 

How can “intrapreneurship” be present for you?

What kind of mindset do you need? 

And what do you need to bring to the party to make it most fulfilling? 

Be hungry and curious, with passion, ready to learn every hour you are working. 

That’s the basic prescription. 

Also: Get noticed by the people who need to notice you…for all the right reasons (e.g your performance, your successes, your innovations)…and none of the wrong reasons (e.g taking credit for other people’s ideas, being ruthless at all costs, empty brown-nosing). 

It’s easier than you think and fairly simple too.   

For you as an entrepreneur: 

What can you do for your staff to create an environment of intrapreneurs? 

I would encourage you to read “Being extraordinary matters” which discusses Marty’s “four pillars to becoming extraordinary,” which was, in fact, my opening session at “Titans of Direct Response” 

One of Marty’s favorite sayings: 

“You only go through life once so you might as well be the world’s best.” 

I know that’s a repeat…but I can’t emphasize it enough. 

And when everyone is striving to be the world’s best in their specialty in a company—from the top down—that’s how you create the most magical intrapreneurs.   

Whether you are an employee/intrapreneur or an entrepreneur…I would love your feedback on this concept and how it has played out for you in your career…and I would love to share some of those stories (and possibly lessons) in future posts. 

I’m hoping this topic resonates with many of you. 

I know it sounds corny (and maybe a little dreamy too) to hear all of the good things you can still do even if you are feeling like you are a prisoner to a paycheck (and the security of a full-time job). 

As someone who ran with an opportunity to be an intrapreneur at a very satisfying level, maybe there is something in my story that could be helpful to you…although I understand I had some wonderful luck as well…working inside a learning organization with an amazing role model and mentor. 

However, don’t underestimate how much of your luck you create yourself (I implore you to read about Marty’s four pillars by clicking here).  

If you don’t have time to read it (which I understand after reading this lengthy post), here’s the short version: 

  • Outwork everyone (but not in a haughty or egocentric way)
  • Never stop asking questions
  • If you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room
  • Stay passionate about what drives you the most…always with empathy

Now…if you are one of the many entrepreneurs in my online family, it’s time you return the favor and teach me a thing or two…on how you got there…and how you stay there.

You are the heroes I look up to.



P.S. In the spirit of teaching all I’ve got to you, I want to encourage you to sign up for the “Breakthrough Advertising QuickStart Bootcamp” which begins on September 28th.

It’s a two-week sprint through Gene Schwartz’s miracle of a book…and knowing how dense it is, the “BA Bootcamp” is the best way for you to apply the principles of this classic.

Read about it here and sign up for the alert list to be notified when registration opens.

Those who are on the alert list will get first crack at the available seats before I make them available to the rest of my online family.

P.P.S. And if you are not one of the thousands of people in over 50 countries who know of this book or have not purchased it yet, go here to pick up a copy:

If you do anything in marketing or copywriting…as an intrapreneur or entrepreneur…this book is a must for your library.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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