The United States Small Business Administration found that 2014 housed a mind-blowing 29.6 million small businesses, defined by the bureau as an “independent business having fewer than 500 employees,” across the United States. This statistic opposes the 19,000 large businesses, or those with at least 500 employees, across the United States. Although more than half of all privately-employed workers were bankrolled by major business entities, small businesses still collectively employed some 58 million Americans, making up 47.8 percent of the private sector’s employment.

Today, the United States of America is still viewed as the fertile land of opportunity it’s been viewed as for countless decades. However, not every business idea is an opportunity.

How can one tell the difference between an idea and an opportunity? Aren’t they the same thing?

Definition

In any discussion involving one or more terms that people might not agree on with 100-percent certainty – and that doesn’t happen often – defining terms is absolutely essential to yielding progress. Without such definition, arguments can pipe on in perpetuity, with all involved parties learning nothing but new ways to be frustrated.

The gold-standard Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “opportunity” as a good chance for advancement or progress.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary further defines “idea” as “a plan for action,” among other possible definitions, the most appropriate of which for this circumstance is chosen above.

In other words, an idea could be an entrepreneurial endeavor that may not have a clear path to success – not even a smidgen of light in the pitch-black tunnel that leads to success. An opportunity, on the other hand, could be a clear-cut chance for an idea to thrive, even if the path to that success isn’t very long or defined past its initial stages of development.

Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, must be a duck, right?

An idea doesn’t always have characteristics that facilitate its success in the real, modern world. That idea may have worked 100 years ago, or might only work 5 years from now; either way, an idea doesn’t always have to be defined by sure-as-anything pathways to success.

Opportunities, on the other hand, fit strategically into the markets they hope to penetrate. An idea, conversely, could include a layout of its run at a potential market penetration, though it likely isn’t probable to succeed.