Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

The Entrepreneurial Continuum: A New Prescription for Future Studies

Academic journal article Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal

The Entrepreneurial Continuum: A New Prescription for Future Studies

Article excerpt


In this paper, we present an extension of several studies that have attempted to provide definitions of types of small businesses (Jackson, Watts & Wright, 1993; Carland & Carland, 1982 and 1997; Jackson & Gaulden, 2001; and Carland, Carland & Ensley, 2001). While each of these previous studies had the purpose of improving entrepreneurial research, each left gaps that would continue to create future research dilemmas. This extension suggests that there are four broad categories of small business owners--each of which exists along a continuum from differentiation to low-cost. The purpose of the categorical perspective is not to explore the characteristics of the entrepreneur, but rather to suggest a framework for study. While the model highlights small business strategies as the arguments of study, it does so with the belief that strategy selection will be driven by a personal focus of the individual. Specifically, the small business owner will have either an entrepreneurial differentiation focus, a mixed entrepreneurial focus (either differentiation/low-cost or low-cost/differentiation), or a low-cost entrepreneurial focus. This focus will drive their strategy choice.


Attempts to differentiate entrepreneurs from small business owners or to categorize business owners in any fashion present an incomplete picture of the entrepreneur. A full portrait must recognize that entrepreneurship is a continuum and new words may be required to help researchers differentiate individuals under study along that continuum (Carland, Carland & Ensley, 2001, p. 52).

In spite of the effort of numerous researchers in the field of entrepreneurship there remains an absence of a consensus of what the term means. In fact, the state of thinking on the entrepreneur, in general, remains "up-in-the-air". No theoretical consensus has been developed. We all say we will know one when we see it. We know, in fact, that we have seen them. But, the eyewitness accounts vary significantly dependent largely on the point of view of the observer. This lack of a universally agreed upon definition and subsequent framework of study has gained considerable attention since the early 80s (Carland, Hoy, Boulton & Carland, 1984; Wortman, 1987; MacMillan & Katz, 1992; Herron, 1992; Jackson, Gaulden & Gaster, 2001; and Carland, Carland & Ensley, 2001).

Even a limited review of the literature over the past thirty years will reveal that part of the problem lies in operationalizing "Entrepreneurship" consistently across individuals. This remains bitterly obvious from a review of special entrepreneurial issues in Journal of Management, Entrepreneurship T&P, and Strategic Management Journal. A deeper problem, however, exists in entrepreneurship data in general. A number of empirical studies and analytical models contribute to understanding the elements of entrepreneurship. For the most part, however, the extant research lacks empirical specifications for the full spectrum of this phenomenon. This prior research has another common attribute: the studies all lack evidence of the factors that drive entrepreneurial activity across all types of small businesses.

In a recent article, Carland, Carland and Ensley (2001) attacked the persistent problem of unfocused research in the field of entrepreneurship. As many have stated before them, inconsistencies in measures still represents one of the greatest limitations of the field (Herron, 1992; MacMillan & Katz, 1992; Sandberg, 1986; Gartner, 1988). The Carland study provided promising possibilities for addressing this dilemma. These authors offered a viable solution to "explain differences in the entrepreneurial behavior of individuals" (p. 51). The research model advocated by the authors included a multiple scale approach to the enigma of entrepreneurial drive. These scales included the Carland Entrepreneurial Index (CEI) (Carland, Carland & Hoy, 1992), the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (Myers & Briggs, 1962; and Myers & McCaulley, 1985), the Jackson Personality Inventory and the Jackson Research Form (Jackson, 1974; Jackson, 1976). …

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