Soft vs. Hard Entrepreneurship and What to Prioritize

HARD vs SOFT

You can divide all the elements of entrepreneurship into two distinct categories: hard and soft. Here’s what the HARD column can be populated with:

  • Valuation
  • Product-market fit
  • Lean Startup Methodology
  • A-B Testing
  • Seed, Series A, Series B, Series C….
  • Pivot
  • Runway
  • Dilution
  • MVP
  • Growth Hacking Strategies

Here’s what the SOFT column can be populated with:

  • Passion
  • Founder Dynamics
  • Culture
  • Maturity
  • The entrepreneurial spirit
  • Mentors
  • Perseverance
  • Following the heart
  • Following the dream
  • Motivation
  • Taking a leap of faith

Now, ask ANY successful entrepreneur what the reasons are for her success.

Do you think most responses will fall within the HARD category or the SOFT category?

Yep.

It’s interesting that despite having MOST entrepreneurial educational material out there focusing on the HARD part, it’s the SOFT part which will largely determine your entrepreneurial success.

Here’s another task: ask most ANY startup/early stage investor what factors they closely consider in investing in a startup. Watch those answers fall within the SOFT category.

In fact, I’ve a strong suspicion the first factor isn’t even in my list above – integrity. 

Does that mean the HARD factors are unimportant? Of course not. (I blog about a lot of those here)

It’s the order of priority that’s crucial.

Master the SOFT column first, and then the HARD column becomes that much easier to accomplish.

Inner before outer.

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Comments

  1. Cross posting from the FB group:

    “The hard entrepreneurship part can be taught in school and it can be measured with graphs, charts, and the like. While I believe soft entrepreneurship can be taught like hard entrepreneurship (through leading by example, being an inspiration to others), does the soft part of entrepreneurship have a gauge like the hard one?

    If it cannot be measured, how can it be managed properly? In this case, how do you know you have enough of the soft part to accomplish an undertaking?”

    Anyone have comments or thoughts regarding this?

    • Great question, Rick. My two cents: I don’t think you can really measure the soft items. It’s part of the definition of “soft” and “hard.” It partly explains why there isn’t really a formulaic path to success (although lean startup has a path, if you don’t have the soft items right, it won’t really matter).

      I still think you can manage the soft items without necessarily measuring it. For example, you can’t really measure parenting (“My dad is better than yours!”). But you know it when you see it. It’s like art. Also, the proof would be in the pudding – good kids will likely be produced by good parenting.

      I think its a good tip to be conscious of the two categories when we educate ourselves as entrepreneurs. We have to make sure we grow on the soft categories. This is where mentorship can come in quite powerfully.

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