Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Personality Characteristics of the Small Business Entrepreneur

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Personality Characteristics of the Small Business Entrepreneur

Article excerpt


This research uses the DISC Assessment to measure the primary behavioral patterns of small business entrepreneurs and an open-ended survey to list the reasons why small business entrepreneurs started their business. The assessment categorizes the entrepreneur into four behavioral patterns that reflect of a person's preferred behavior pattern. Although all four categories are represented in the sample, two categories had a higher propensity to start a business.


Over ten years ago, many magazines and newspapers articles profiled the most important characteristics of the entrepreneur and/or small business owner. From the interest generated by these articles, intensive academic attention has been given to understanding entrepreneurial activity and behavior. Despite the interest in the entrepreneur, not much has emerged to identify the personal attributes that differentiate small business owners, entrepreneurs, and non-entrepreneurs (ByGrave, 1994). However, a step toward distinguishing entrepreneurs from small business owners was reported by Carland and Carland (1996), who concluded that the entrepreneur is a risk taker, high achiever, innovator, and problem solver.

Although the Carlands' work provides a contingency framework for entrepreneurial activity, the purpose of the present research is to identify primary entrepreneurial tendencies of small business entrepreneurs and to ascertain why these entrepreneurs decided to start a business. In addition, this paper reviews the literature about pertinent personality characteristics.

In this study, the owners of small businesses were given the DISC Assessment, which identifies four personality patterns: dominant, influential, steady-relationship, and compliant. An open-ended survey asked small business owners to list the reasons why they started their business. From the survey and the assessment, several questions arise: First, what behavioral characteristics does the assessment identify. Second, how do the reasons for beginning a business relate to behavioral characteristics of the assessment. Third, what type of businesses are represented and is mere any behavior pattern that correlates with the type of business.


The review of the literature focuses on the definition of entrepreneurship and on why people start businesses. The review also explains some personality instruments used to identify specific traits.

The review of the literature reveals many different definitions for entrepreneurship, but several definitions for entrepreneurship stand out. For example, Joseph Schumpeter noticed that entrepreneurs created new ideas and created different combinations of resources that spur economic activity (Ronstadt, 1984). Peter Drucker had a different perspective, which focused on defining entrepreneurship from a corporate and bureaucratic viewpoint, where resources are allocated to opportunities nrther man problems (Drucker, 1964). Drucker noted that "an entrepreneur has to redirect resources from areas of diminishing results, to areas of high or increasing results. The entrepreneur has to 'slough off yesterday and to render absolute what already exists and is already known. The entrepreneur has to create tomorrow" (Drucker, 1974). These definitions emphasize Drucker's theme that certain individuals play critical roles in changing stagnant bureaucracies into adaptive and creative organizations.

Although these entrepreneurial definitions are noteworthy, they do not explain the reasons for starting a small business, nor do they classify small businesses and the personality characteristics of their owners. In fact, most of the literature on entrepreneurship emphasizes success stories such as J.C. Penney's, Apple Computer, the Marriott Corporation, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Ford, and others. However, these successes have spearheaded some research into those attributes an entrepreneur possesses, such as self-confidence, creativity, initiative, optimism, and knowledge of the market (Hornaday, 1988). …

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