Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Business Incubators: Manager-Tenant Interaction Revisited

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Business Incubators: Manager-Tenant Interaction Revisited

Article excerpt


Building upon an earlier exploratory study, the authors have conducted a large sample, quantitative study of incubator managers and tenants. Incubator operators and tenants were polled to obtain information about their methods of operations and the relationships between them, and to find ways to characterize the players and the interactions. The survey permits additional examination of the relationships between the immediate players and external influences. The results show some interesting relationships between the interaction parameters, the characteristics of the participants, and the effectiveness of the incubator process, and provide additional depth to the literature on incubators.


In an earlier study published in this journal, "Essence of Business Incubators: The ManagerTenant Interaction" (7), we proposed that business incubators were not really understood due to a serious limitation in the literature (7, 8). Previous studies on the subject of incubators have relied almost exclusively on surveys of incubator managers and/or sponsors, or on limited case studies. The literature lacks the crucial perceptions of incubators from the perspective of the tenants of incubators, and also lacks the important insights that could be gained from examining the interaction of incubator tenants and managers. This article offers further insights based on the results of two surveys, one addressed to incubator managers and the other addressed to incubator tenants, which were designed to explore the perspective of incubator tenants as well as the interaction between these tenants and their incubator managers.


Our earlier article attempted to address this literature deficiency by publishing the results of a qualitative research study of three incubators located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Later we added a case (8) to our qualitative study. That study consisted of indepth interviews of the manager(s) and several tenants at each of the facilities. The primary purpose of the preliminary study was to explore the concept of business incubators from the perspective of the tenant entrepreneurs and to study how tenants and incubator managers interact (7, 8). The previous articles also contained an extensive review of the incubator literature which is not repeated here.

It was recognized that new entrepreneurs would only enter an incubator if they believed that some benefit would be derived from their tenancy. The precise expectations of the tenants may vary considerably from those anticipated by the incubator managers who attempt to attract them into the facility and may also vary among the owners of the embryonic businesses themselves. Tenant expectations could include various tangible benefits such as increased space, reduced rent, and shared services, but might include more intangible benefits such as a supportive atmosphere and access to local networks and markets.

Similarly, it was recognized that incubator managers would attempt to attract budding entrepreneurs to their facility by offering a variety of benefits and services to prospective tenants. Our exploration was designed, in part, to examine the expectations of both parties, and, particularly, to discover if their respective needs were compatible.

One of the difficulties encountered in analyzing the data used here is establishing the criteria for success. Success is a multilevel concept. As a minimum, an incubator must survive in order to be considered successful. In the present context, a successful incubator must fulfill its stated mission and objectives. Thus, an incubator founded to assist economic development by the creation of new jobs would be considered to be a success at any point in time when the organization was operational and was assisting new business on the basis of their employment potential. Such status would not necessarily be considered successful if the incubator's mission was to introduce new technology into a region. …

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