“Entrepreneurship” Defined

Edge of the World – Walk on Water

I recently happened upon a Joel Trammell blog post from 2015, that called attention to Howard Stevenson’s definition of entrepreneur. Howard was a profession at the Harvard Business School, and I want to share his definition with you.

Entrepreneurship is

“the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.”

What’s so good about this definition? It helps distinguish the manager from the entrepreneur. Managers look first to the “resources controlled.” As they should. Entrepreneurs look first to the “opportunity.” As they must.

For entrepreneurs, opportunity comes first. “Resources controlled” comes in at a distant second. What do you have or control as an entrepreneur when you first contemplate an opportunity? Not much.

When you begin, you are unlikely to have any of the following important (often essential) ingredients you will need to make a success of your venture:

  • Team
  • Product
  • Customers
  • Revenue
  • Traction
  • Capital
  • Partners

All of these things are important. But they can never be, for the entrepreneur, the most important thing. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll want to be looking for opportunity. And to find your next opportunity, you’ll want to begin with problems that matter to you and that matter to someone else in the world besides you – to a customer. And to turn these problems into opportunities, you’ll want to begin to explore possibilities that have been, until now, largely untapped.

To make a success of your venture, you’ll almost certainly require team members. You’ll need to build or create something of value — a product—that you deliver to a customer who provides your venture with revenue (because the value you’re creating for the customer is so substantial that it with a surplus your venture is able to capture). And the traction you’re able to show will persuade investors to provide you with capital that helps your grow your business. And as your business grows you will create relationships with partners who enhance and amplify the value you are able to provide to your customers.

But unless you are Elon Musk, you aren’t going to have all of these things in place when you start your venture. Nope. You are going to begin with “few if any ‘resources controlled,’” and it will be your job to secure every one of these things your business so desperately needs. That’s what entrepreneurs do.

The world needs both managers and entrepreneurs. But the world needs far fewer entrepreneurs who don’t know the different between managers and entrepreneurs.

You’re an entrepreneur?

Prove it. It’s time for you, too, to pursue opportunities “beyond resources controlled.”

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