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?

Last week’s book review post on The Mom Test made me think more about Googling solutions to problems. It also reminded me of a post from a few years ago about testing a business as a hobby first ( “Before Starting a Business from Your Passion, Can You Stand It If It’s A Hobby?”).
The gist of both Googling and testing an idea as a hobby is this: is this even important enough to do something about?
Read: Is a problem a problem enough for you to (and others) Google? Is the problem one where people are seekinga solution? Would you even want to solve this problem as a hobby before? Happy enough to pursue part-time, let alone full-time?
There are ideas everywhere – just ask any wantrepreneur. Many ideas just come from happenstance annoyances. These annoyances aren’t problems. They’re rarely big enough or occur often enough to warrant looking for a solution, let alone paying to solve – certainly not enough to build a sustainable business around.
Is it problematic enough?