The Entrepreneur in Northern Ireland: Characteristics, Problems, and Recommendations for the Future

By Hisrich, Robert D. | Journal of Small Business Management, July 1988 | Go to article overview

The Entrepreneur in Northern Ireland: Characteristics, Problems, and Recommendations for the Future


Hisrich, Robert D., Journal of Small Business Management


ABSTRACT: ENTREPRENEUR EN IRLANDE DU NORD: CARACTERIS

TIQUES, PROBLEMES, ET RECOMMANDATIONS POUR L'AVENIR

Cet article,rendantcompte des resultats d'une etude portant surles entrepreneurs d'Irlande du Nord, permet d'en donner un profil, et inclut un ensemble de recommandations visant ii promouvoir leurs activites.

Approximately 1.6 million people inhabit the 14,139 square kilometers of Northern Ireland. Underlying the volatile economic and political situation in Ireland is a culture that does not actively promote new business formation or entrepreneurship through its educational system, peers, or family structure. Attempts to broaden and strengthen the industrial base of this traditionally service-based economy have met with difficulty. This self governing state of the United Kingdom has had little success in attracting new businesses to help combat the 21 percent unemployment rate that afflicts its 581,000 workers. The number of unemployed expands by nearly 5,000 each year.

In an attempt to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in Northern Ireland, several government agencies provide financial and educational support for enterprising individuals. The United Kingdom allocates $1 billion a year to this task. One agency-the Industrial Development Board(IDS)-operates on a $140 million annual budget. The Northern Ireland Economic Council, formed in 1977, advises the government on economic policy and monitors economic planning. In spite of the available capital and assistance, many entrepreneurs remain reluctant to form new businesses in Northern Ireland because of the volatile political situation. This situation persists despite the Anglo-Irish agreement signed in November of 1985.

Apart from the political climate, several basic problems hinder efforts to improve the commercial base of Northern Ireland. For example, for the past fifty years, three industries (farming, shipbuilding, and textiles) have dominated the province; all of these are in decline. Today, more than 45 percent of the population now work in the public sector. Only one in ten workers is involved in agriculture, forestry, or fishing. In addition, the industrial infractructure does not support a steady development of new ventures.

The Northern Irish culture does little to advocate entrepreneurship as an acceptable career path. It is the general consensus that those who want to get ahead do so by going abroad, while those who remain at home accept limitations on growth and innovation. This attitude is reflected in a general unwillingness to take personal and commercial risks.

Demographic characteristics limit the market available to both new and existing private sector firms. Most of Northern Ireland's approximately 1.6 million inhabitants live around Belfast. The two closest outside marketsThe Republic of Ireland and Great Britain- are viewed as "foreign" by many Northern Ireland businessmen, who make little effort to serve these markets. Yet, without a strong "export" orientation, chances for significant growth are limited.

A final problem hindering economic growth is the perception that the area is a dangerous place to live, visit or do business. Northern Ireland rarely receives a favorable evaluation as a location for expansion by an outside firm.

To establish a method for revitalizing the economy through the formation of new businesses, it is first important to understand the characteristics of Northern Irish entrepreneurs and the problems they encounter. In the last six years, a body of research has provided a foundation for the understanding of entrepreneurs and their role in economic development, particularly in the United States. Other research has explored the new venture creation process.' The few cross-cultural studies which have been done indicate that similarities exist among entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial process in various nations, although both reflect the characteristics and aspects of the specific culture . …

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