I was recently asked, “what is entrepreneurship?” and “what does it mean to be entrepreneurial?” I’m curious how you’d answer those questions. Before reading on, take a minute to think about it. Hold onto that thought (write it down, if you can, before you move on).

I don’t remember my exact words but I said something similar to:

Entrepreneurship is commercializing a solution to a problem using resources effectively and efficiently. Being entrepreneurial means the active commercialization of a solution while consuming resources effectively and efficiently.

From Merriam-Webster, entrepreneur is:

“one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” (Merriam-Webster, 2018) Entrepreneurship is the noun incarnation while entrepreneurial is the adjective version.

BusinessDictionary.com defines entrepreneurship as:

“The capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is the starting of new businesses.” (BusinessDictionary, 2018)

Then, you have Harvard Business School (HBS) who uses the definition from Professor Howard Stevenson:

“entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled” (HBR, 2018)

Let me parse out my definition to see how I got to it:

  • “commercializing”: The heart of an entrepreneur’s endeavor is making money and doing so at a scale that optimizes this.
  • “a solution to a problem”: Every innovation, idea, product, service should be in pursuit of addressing some problem. HBS’s Stevenson refers to this as opportunity. In layman’s terms, it’s “sale”.
  • “using resources effectively and efficiently”: I admit that this does not have to be a part of the definition. As I sat thinking about the definition I gave, there’s no rule to use resources like this. Entrepreneurs and startups can spend and drive up their burn rate all they want without a firm grasp of returns. That, of course, is not a smart way to build a business. Nevertheless I included this at first because it’s where my mind goes. There’s limited resources either money, time, or people.

Then, there’s the distinction of being an entrepreneur vs. being entrepreneurial. I look at entrepreneurs as the real risk-takers. They’re typically who I would also call the founder(s). Being entrepreneurial provides a broader stroke for those who do not take the initial plunge with the risks involved. However, there’s still a pursuit in commercialization, innovation (problem solving), and resource-consciousness.

Go back to those definitions you thought about at the beginning. Why’d you define those questions like you did? I’m curious – can you share your definitions in the comments below?

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