The New Definition of Lean Entrepreneurship - Leanpreneurism

Defining a new type of lean entrepreneurism.

The New Definition of Lean Entrepreneurship - Leanpreneurism

I’ve always struggled with the question, ‘what do you do?’

You know, the one you get when meeting other adults for the first time. After mutual commentary on the weather of course.

I dislike the pressure of introducing myself on video calls to strangers, as I feel a bit like a chameleon.

To date, my main business income has derived from my recruitment business, but over time I’ve leaned into other business ventures and have diversified my income.

I also grew a team, then scaled it back, replacing team members with tech.

So, am I a solopreneur now, or a multipreneur? Or both?

I often talk about being lean as a positive. I’ve already written about running a lean recruitment business.

To pigeonhole what I do and find likeminded people, I’m opting for leanpreneur. Let’s jump into my thoughts on Leanpreneurism.

Where We’re Up to

When I started digging around lean entrepreneurship, a few bits came up. Let’s cover off what is out there already.

Lean Startup

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a groundbreaking book about entrepreneurship and product development. The core idea is to treat a startup as an experiment, not a smaller version of a large company.

The principles centre around eliminating wasteful practices and increasing value production during the product development phase (lean thinking). It talkss about creating Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) to test a market and then listening to customer feedback to iterate.

Leanpreneurs will take ideas from this, but in essence it’s a related, but separate concept.

Lean Entrepreneurs

The other result that pops up when I Google Lean Entrepreneur, is the same titled book by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits.

This serves as more of a guide to applying Lean Startup principles. It features case studies and methodologies such as Value Stream Discovery, Innovation Accounting and Pivot or Persevere decision-making.

Again, it’s a useful book, but it doesn’t fit my definition of a lean entrepreneur or leanpreneur.


This is a blanket term that covers all manner of someone running a business for profit.

The Silicon Valley scene popularised the term to the point where the masses consider entrepreneurs to be the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Of course, they are, but they’re also an extreme version of an entrepreneur. You can be an entrepreneur at any scale.

We need to get more granular on our definitions. There are other types of entrepreneur:

By demographic:

  • Mompreneur
  • Kidpreneur
  • Seniorpreneur

By product or market focus:

  • Social Entrepreneur
  • Ecopreneur
  • Infopreneur

By behaviour or business model:

  • Solopreneur
  • Multipreneur
  • Leanpreneur

I’m not looking for a definition linked to demographics or product/market selection. Let’s dig into the behaviours and business models.


Solopreneurism has boomed recently, with famous solopreneurs like Pieter Levels, Justin Welsh and Dan Go.

They eschew the traditional entrepreneurism route, shunning funding to become a one person army.

Hubspot defines Solopreneurs as the following:

  1. They’re both founders and employees
  2. They don’t hire a team
  3. They have a single business focus
  4. They are not building a business to scale
  5. Different financial/business structures
  6. They have minimal workplace requirements

Solopreneurism is getting much closer, but there are a few key differences.


A term recently coined by Greg Isenberg, he defines it as:

someone who creates multiple products per year, with the aim of creating a company that creates companies

This has grown from his experience and expertise in community building. I like the thought of a micro-holding company.

Checking out, I love the rules they’re looking to break:

  • Diversified risk
  • Creator aligned
  • Community currency
  • Exponential leanring
  • Cross pollination
  • Controlled destiny
  • Personal growth
  • Silicon world

This is certainly an area to watch and one I’ll be following closely.


So, I’ve settled on describing myself as a leanpreneur.

Leanpreneurs are a blend of the above.

vs Entrepreneurism

Leanpreneurs are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship means many things to many people.

I just consider it to be anyone running any kind of business, but society has attached a status to it. For example, would I describe myself as an entrepreneur at my 20-year school reunion? Probably not.

But I am an entrepreneur. I think it comes down to levels and what you’re comfortable with. For me, entrepreneur is the parent category here, and we’re niching down.

vs Solopreneurism

They’re different from solopreneurs in that they are not wedded to the idea of staying solo. I like to partner with others. I like to outsource to freelancers or businesses, and I’m not averse to hiring when needed.

I don’t have a single business focus, and I want to scale businesses.

I do have minimal workplace requirements and build/operate businesses without the help of any or many others, so in that sense, it’s similar to solopreneurism.

vs Multipreneurism

Leanpreneurism isn’t reliant on having an audience and launching multiple products to that same audience. You can service diverse audiences. My recruitment and job board businesses service a different audience to this blog, for example. However, I’m constantly looking for overlapping opportunities.

I like to think of this as my Mafia Plan.

A Mafia Plan is a concept from a long-time mentor, James Schramko. The idea is to create a business model that is so good and that offers so much value that customers feel like they can’t refuse it. Much like offers made by the Mafia.

He focuses on core elements such as recurring revenue, delivering high value and seeking leverage. He’s been a huge inspiration to me, and you should check out his book, Work Less, Make More.

Principles of Leanpreneurism

How to define a leanpreneur succinctly?

A leanpreneur is an entrepreneur who builds businesses for themselves, not for others.

A leanpreneur relentlessly focuses on building more spare time. They can reinvest that time personally or back into their businesses. Building with time in mind, builds choice.

A leanpreneur builds assets. They build to sell.

A leanpreneur can be any type of business owner. B2B/B2C. Product/Service. Full-time, side hustle. You can be well established or haven’t even started yet. The barriers to leanpreneurship are lower than any other type of entrepreneurism.

This is because we define ourselves by the simple fact that we value our time above all else.

Benefits of Being a Leanpreneur

You’ll see a lot of overlap with the benefits of solopreneurism and multipreneurism.


You have the autonomy to do what you want when you want. The caveat to this is that you must design your business to work for you, and not the other way around.


A lean business can give you flexibility as you define it. You define everything about it. This can be overwhelming (see below) but also empowering.

Low expenses

By pure definition, running lean means that you travel light when it comes to expenses. Lean businesses are not human capital intensive, so that’s a giant saving. Labour is usually the number one expense in a business.

Direct impact

There is a satisfaction in being close to your endeavours. Your business brand is intrinsically linked with your reputation. This is powerful, but it’s something you need to protect. Reputation is difficult to win and easy to lose.

Challenges of Being a Leanpreneur


Leanpreneurs will typically start out as solopreneurs and some stay there. It can be a lonely track, particularly when times are tough, or you’re in the doldrums. That’s why it’s so important to network and be part of relevant communities. There is a skill to surrounding yourself with the right people in the right doses.


When the buck stops with you, it can be easy to drill yourself into the ground. Burnout is real, and you need to design some room in the margins to stop yourself from over working.


It can be daunting to shoulder all the responsibility, even if you gain freedom and autonomy. It’s crucial to split down your priorities and plans into manageable chunks. Moreover, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Success porn is also to be avoided.


As the proprietor of a lean business, you are running the gauntlet until such a time as you create assets that work for you and have enterprise value. It’s important to do two things:

  • Transition away from time-for-money services as soon as you can.
  • Take out key person insurance just in case anything happens to you.


With a blank canvas, it can be difficult to focus. Using systems, processes, and technology to maintain your focus is crucial.

Leanpreneurs I Admire

One could argue that many famous folk are Leanpreneurs, especially if they started out as a team of one (Musk, Bezos, Branson, Rowling). What we’re looking for are examples of those who stayed lean?

People like Pieter Levels (NomadList, RemoteOK and others). His open startup page is gone now but for a while there he stated 0.75FTE and a 7-figure revenue.

Or Jason Fried and his partners at 37Signals. They work in small teams of 3, put profit first and stay intentionally lean. Have a look at their employee handbook and some of their books; ReWork is a great place to start. Furthermore, like most solopreneurs, they take distribute all profits every year rather than reinvest.

Tony Dinh, a serial creator and the builder of one of my favourite AI interfaces, TypingMind. Tony is another one-person show whose current monthly revenue tops $40,000 currently.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock on LinkedIn, then you will have seen Justin Welsh’s content. A famous solopreneur, he extols the virtues of solopreneurism, selling courses teaching his content systems. Last I checked, his revenue is $1.7m with monthly expenses of $623. Now that’s lean, and he would rather not grow a team.

I’m going to be featuring people like this soon, inviting them to talk about their lean life. Selfishly, I am eager to learn more, and I want to take you along for the ride too > subscribe at the end of this article if you’re interested.

Who is Leanpreneurism for?

By definition leanpreneurism is accessible to everyone.

You’ll see from the examples above, it doesn’t matter if you’re in tech or non-tech, have employees or don’t. It’s more about the principle of staying lean.

Anyone can be a leanpreneur.

Learn more about Leanpreneurism

Does leanpreneurism resonate with you?

Through my new commitment to writing, I’m trying to find other people like me. If you were interested in joining a community of leanpreneurs in the future, get in touch.

Image attribution: Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

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