Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurs' Behavior: Elucidation and Measurement

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurs' Behavior: Elucidation and Measurement

Article excerpt

Entrepreneurs' behavior is a key construct in understanding how entrepreneurs create new organizations. We define entrepreneurs' behavior as concrete and observable, and distinguish it from related concepts. In reviewing the literature in top entrepreneurship and management journals, we note that behaviors are poorly defined and the cumulative research is fragmented with often ad hoc measures lacking important validation in many studies. To better define behavior, we outline taxonomic (types of behavior) and partonomy (parts of behavior) approaches. Then, we offer a list of important exemplar behaviors based on the extant literature. Finally, we introduce the articles in the issue.


No opportunity is exploited nor does any venture come to exist, survive, or grow without entrepreneurs taking action. Axiomatic perhaps, but little understood are what constitute those actions or behaviors of entrepreneurs and if entrepreneurs' behavior is distinguishable. Herein, we attempt to refocus research attention on the human action in venture creation, survival, and early stage growth--the behaviors of opportunity exploitation, what Bhave (1994) called physical and organization creation and what Gartner, Bird, and Starr (1992) called actions toward organization emergence. Because these behaviors follow the largely cognitive processes of opportunity recognition, we would expect that the entrepreneurship literature provides ample evidence of how entrepreneurs act when creating new ventures, but we find instead important shortcomings. Thus, our purpose is to improve research about entrepreneurs' behavior through careful definition of terms, a look at the choices available for behavior "chunk" size, and from a 6-year review of existing work to offer a list of exemplar behaviors that will in some combination distinguish entrepreneurs' behavior from other economic actors. We do not propose a theory of entrepreneurs' behavior nor do we propose a specific method for assessing behavior. Instead we ask future researchers to be more precise in their conceptualizations and particularly in their operationalizations of behavior.

The academic interest in entrepreneurs' behavior focuses on the exploitation of an opportunity and the creation, development, and early growth of a new venture. The focus is on the concrete, theoretically observable actions of individuals (as solo entrepreneurs or as part of a team of entrepreneurs) in the start-up or early stages of organization creation (usually the first 6-7 years). These behaviors are the proximal outcome of traits, knowledge, skills, abilities, cognition (e.g., perceptions, thoughts, mental models, and scripts), motivation, and emotion. Behavior is also the proximal individual-centric cause of venture outcomes (e.g., existence, sales, products, survival, and growth). The major goals of research on entrepreneurs' behavior are to explain, predict, and control (shape and change) behavior at the individual and team level. We would expect that behavior would be a well-researched domain since it occupies a mediating role in the entrepreneurship process.

Practically, knowledge of entrepreneurs' behavior has value to actors--(1) to entrepreneurs as it allows them to shape and change their behaviors for better outcomes; and (2) to venture stakeholders, such as investors, local governments, and educators, as it allows them to make better investments in new ventures and to better counsel potential and nascent entrepreneurs. Over time, entrepreneurs' behavior often results in innovation, one of the public priorities of the United States (Obama, 2011). Entrepreneurs' creation of new economic activity, new markets, new jobs, and new revenue streams are also relevant for researchers in many fields of study (e.g., economics, public policy, psychology, and management).

Academics and practitioners benefit from clarification of the term entrepreneurs' behavior since using common constructs (and operationalizations) allows the field to accumulate more useful knowledge. …

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