Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Different but Inseparable: The Contingent Association of Instrumental and Emotional Support

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

Different but Inseparable: The Contingent Association of Instrumental and Emotional Support

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Imagine you are sitting face to face with a person who has just pitched his potential new business idea. You can see that he is obviously excited about the idea, but you are skeptical about its viability. He now asks for your advice, so what do you do? Do you go straight ahead and tell him that you do not believe in the idea? Do you give him suggestions on how to improve the idea, but say nothing about your opinion of the idea? Or do you give him some suggestions, while assuring him that the idea does have some potential after a bit more work? There is no one correct answer to this question, and people will answer in different ways. However, the example illustrates some of the complexity of supporting nascent entrepreneurs, i.e. providing instrumental and emotional support, which is the focus of this paper.

From one of the very first contributions within entrepreneurship research on social networks, the instrumental and emotional support that entrepreneurs receive from their network have been identified as important and necessary resources (Birley, 1986). Since then, a number of studies have been carried out into how entrepreneurs' instrumental and emotional support influence different parts of the entrepreneurial process. In particular, the early studies of entrepreneurs' social networks gave primary attention to instrumental support, focusing on how entrepreneurs obtain advice, assistance and finance from network contacts (Butler & Hansen, 1991; Cromie &

Birley, 1992; Davidsson & Honig, 2003; Shane & Cable, 2002; Uzzi, 1999). Many of these studies seem to simply assume that the resources needed by entrepreneurs are instrumental (Butler & Hansen, 1991). At the same time, there is also a stream of research focusing on emotional support, and this is often done through studies of entrepreneurs' close network relationships in terms of families, friends and spouses (Brüderl & Preisendörfer, 1998; Gudmunson, Danes, Werbel, & Loy, 2009; Van Auken & Werbel, 2006). However, despite the substantial number of studies focusing on entrepreneurs' instrumental and emotional support, their main focus has been on the separate effects, and not on potential associations. This paper argues that because instrumental and emotional support are often provided by the same person at the same point in time, they are therefore likely to be embedded within each other. The theoretical consequences of this is that research needs to take both instrumental and emotional support into account in future studies and hence control for them, because the interpretation of their effects requires acknowledgement of their mutual dependency. The paper builds on the argument that when instrumental support is provided to entrepreneurs, it often carries an emotional meaning (Semmer et al., 2008).

Based on this argument, the purpose of this study is to investigate to what extent, and in what manner, the provision of instrumental and emotional support to nascent entrepreneurs are embedded within each other. The paper argues that emotional support is an important component of instrumental support. Furthermore, that this association between emotional and instrumental support is dependent upon the strength of the relationship between the support provider and the nascent entrepreneur. Individuals are embedded within a social context that governs how they act in relation to other people, and they are therefore concerned with the impression that others form of them. It is argued that in weak relationships between the support provider and the nascent entrepreneur, the support provider will try to manage the impression that others form of him in order to be accepted and that this can be done by ensuring a positive relationship with the nascent entrepreneur by not only providing instrumental support, but also emotional support. The argument is built on impression management theory (Baumeister, 1982; Leary & Kowalski, 1990; Schlenker, 1980; Westphal & Zajac, 2001; Zott & Huy, 2007). …

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