Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

The Influence of the Entrepreneur's Education Level on Strategic Decision Making

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

The Influence of the Entrepreneur's Education Level on Strategic Decision Making

Article excerpt


Since the 1970s, as the study of entrepreneurship has developed, many researchers have focused upon the antecedents of entrepreneurial behavior and performance. W hat external variables are related to, and perhaps impact, entrepreneurs and their business endeavors - strategies, performance, etc.? One category of these variables or antecedents has been the background and experiences of the entrepreneur (Brush & Hisrich, 1991; Gibson, 2011; Griese et al., 2012; Harris et al.; Hult et al., 2004; Klein & Maher, 1966; Menon et al., 1999).

More specifically, some of this earlier research focused upon education as an antecedent variable. For example, Vesper (1990) found the education level of the new venture entrepreneur strongly related to the venture's performance. C ooper et al. (1988), studying business survival factors, found that survivors were more often college graduates than were non-survivors. On the other hand, Lorrain and Dussault (1988) found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur's education level and the performance of new technology firms. In a study of "deliberate practice" (individualized self-regulated and effortful entrepreneurial activities aimed at improving performance), Unger et al. (2009) identified education level as an antecedent of such behavior. Boeker (1987), focusing specifically upon education and strategy, found a significant relationship between the level of formal education and the degree to which the entrepreneur followed a "f irst mover" marketing strategy.

Focusing specifically on women entrepreneurs, Pathak et al. (2013) found that education level was a statistically significant predictor of becoming an entrepreneur. Yet Cope and Watts (2000) found education less important as an antecedent to entrepreneurship than were entrepreneurially-related "critical incidents" in one's past experience.

However, most of the studies that considered "education" as a p ossible antecedent to entrepreneurial behavior and performance looked specifically at a narrow subset of education: namely entrepreneurial workshops, courses, and similar training pedagogies, rather than formal education at the broader level - university degrees, etc. and the overall level of educational attainment. For example, Hansemark (1998), Jack and Anderson (1999), Mazzarol et al. (1999), Schayek and Dvir (2012), and Wilbanks (2013) each focused on government-sponsored entrepreneurial skills training programs or university-based student field-work programs (often their own programs), concluding that such programs are of benefit in fostering self- employment, small business, and entrepreneurship in the economy. As Jack and Anderson concluded, "the intended outcomes [of their program] are reflective practitioners, fit for an entrepreneurial career."

Yet these prior studies are generally limited in focus or in clear conclusions, and some are quite dated. Only a few of these prior investigations of antecedents to entrepreneurial activity focused on formal and broad education as an antecedent, and in more recent years, research focuses on antecedents have been targeted largely in other directions rather than education. Thus, the existing body of literature is insufficient to allow for a general consensus, let alone for the development of entrepreneurship theory. T hus, there is a need for and a value in the current study.


As previously noted, this study of 184 small businesses specifically tests the relationship between two variables: 1) the owner/manager's level of formal education and 2) his or her choice of entrepreneurial strategies for the business. T he Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix (Lussier et al., 2001; Sonfield & Lussier, 1997; Sonfield & Lussier, 2000; Sonfield et al., 2001) was utilized as the basis for this current study. This matrix is a situational model, which suggests appropriate entrepreneurial strategies for both new and ongoing ventures, in response to the identification of different levels of venture innovation and venture risk. …

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