Entrepreneurship and Fitness: An Examination of Rigorous Exercise and Goal Attainment among Small Business Owners*

Article excerpt

In today's society, the benefits of exercise and fitness are given much publicity. However, the relationship between exercise and the attainment of personal and professional goals for entrepreneurs has not been examined. Our study addresses the issue by examining the exercise regimens of 366 small business owners and the relationship of exercise frequency with the company's sales and the entrepreneur's personal goals. Specifically, this study examines the relationship that two types of exercise--running and weightlifting--have with sales volume, extrinsic rewards, and intrinsic rewards. Results indicate that running is related positively to all three outcome variables while weightlifting is related positively to extrinsic and intrinsic rewards but not to sales. Suggestions then are provided for future research.

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Introduction

Over the years, researchers have examined various aspects of the entrepreneurial personality, including perceptions (Cooper, Woo, and Dunkelberg 1988), intentions (Bird 1988), behavior (Shaver and Scott 1991; Bhave 1994), risk taking (Brockhaus 1980; Das and Teng 1997; Mullins and Forlani 1998), and alertness (Busenitz 1996). Most recently Kickul and Gundry (2002) examined the proactive personality in relation to small firm innovation. While these studies demonstrate the importance of the different aspects of the entrepreneurial personality, the dimension of physical fitness and its relation to the entrepreneurial outcomes has yet to be examined.

In today's society, health and fitness are given much publicity. Advertisements, magazine articles, and television shows trumpet the benefits of exercise and encourage people to undertake a fitness regimen. The importance of exercise increasingly is being stressed in entrepreneurship periodicals as well. For example, at the turn of the millennium, articles such as "To Your Health" (Spaeder 1999), "Healthy Choice" (Kooiman 2000), and "The Other Bottom Line" (Friedman 2000) were published in Inc. and Entrepreneur. Indeed, it would make sense that an exercise program may lead to a less stressful and more productive life for the entrepreneur. However, busy schedules and the challenge of maintaining a fitness regimen lead many people to quit these programs soon after starting them and to return to their more sedentary, yet stressful, lifestyles. Attaining excellent physical condition requires developing a mindset that accepts and embraces hard work. If small business owners were willing and able to grant their physical health the same respect they do their financial and professional well-being, most would be in incredible physical condition. Concomitantly, good physical condition should contribute to entrepreneurs' success in reaching their personal and financial goals. Hence, our research question is

Research Question: Are entrepreneurs who maintain a fitness regimen of rigorous exercise more effective in goal attainment as expressed by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards?

While Inc., Entrepreneur, and other small business popular periodicals have supported this view, there has been no empirical study in the academic literature to support this contention. We believe that examining the role of exercise in entrepreneurial success is important because of the extreme time constraints and conditions of stress that challenge small business owners (Bird and West 1997; Kuratko and Hodgetts 2004). With personal capital at stake in the running of a small business, there is a possible trade-off between exercise and time spent managing the company. Simply put, time spent exercising is time away from running the business. Also, larger companies--the source for the samples for other studies on exercise--are afforded the luxuries of more coverage of task responsibility, greater access to on-site fitness equipment, and more financial resources and corporate relationships for providing access to fitness club memberships. …