DESIGNING MANAGEMENT EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR SERVICE FIRM ENTREPRENEURS
Management education is repeatedly cited as an effective way of providing small businesses with the management expertise they require. Agencies that supply management education offer significant potential in meeting small business needs. This potential can be realized, however, only if these agencies can provide suitable training programs for this group of enterprises.
The literature on entrepreneurship education and training either devotes peripheral attention to the subject of program design or focuses on a single element of a total training program. As a result, public agencies supplying management education have little guidance regarding factors they should consider when preparing management training programs for small business owner/managers.
This article reports on the use of management education programs by small service-related enterprises. Its objective is to identify factors that account for small business participation in such programs and to offer guidance to agencies that provide training for entrepreneurs.
Service-related enterprises are an important constituency for management training programs. They form the greatest proportion of small businesses, regardless of which size criterion is used. Services also share such common features as: significant potential for absorbing young, unskilled labor, extremely high formation and dissolution rates, disproportionate representation among female entrepreneurs, and distinctive methods of operating.
Given the economic importance of service-related enterprises, it is surprising that little is known about the factors that encourage their use of management education programs. However, such enterprises appear to consider management assistance in both business planning and marketing-related areas as major areas of priority, and they tend to use accountants as the most frequent source of assistance.
Other studies on small business problems and the type of management assistance these firms use focus mainly on manufacturers. However, these studies do identify small business concerns and offer insights into factors which can influence entrepreneurial participation in management training and education programs.
The research indicates that:
* External factors are considered the major cause of business problems, with lesser importance attached to concerns that are under direct control of managers.
* Securing adequate information about key functional areas is a common concern.
* Instructional methods such as workshops and publications are preferred by firms of 50 employees or less.
* Educational and technical assistance programs conducted by academics are perceived as lacking practical relevance and a sufficiently problem-specific focus.
There is also evidence which indicates that business owner/managers make distinctions between these sponsors and their delivery agents when evaluating the usefulness of services that public agencies provide. For example, industry associations are considered the most used and most highly regarded of alternative institutional sources by small Canadian manufacturers for securing export information. In contrast, government agencies are the least used and considered the least important. In a similar vein, U.S. college institutions are regarded as potentially effective sources of managerial assistance, in spite of skepticism as to the use of academic staff in this capacity.
The above findings suggest that managerial, firm, and program characteristics are interrelated issues which affect the delivery of management education to small businesses. However, they offer little help in understanding how these interrelationships can be successfully managed by institutions so that higher participation rates in management training programs can be achieved. …