Entrepreneurial Values and the Ethnic Enterprise: An Examination of Six Subcultures

By Morris, Michael; Schindehutte, Minet | Journal of Small Business Management, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Entrepreneurial Values and the Ethnic Enterprise: An Examination of Six Subcultures


Morris, Michael, Schindehutte, Minet, Journal of Small Business Management


A vital question receiving only limited attention in the extant research concerns the implications of culturally based values for the successful creation and growth of entrepreneurial ventures. This study explores core values held by entrepreneurs in growth-oriented firms belonging to six subcultures based in the state of Hawaii. Thirty first-generation entrepreneurs each were interviewed from the populations of Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, and native Hawaiian firms. Evidence is provided of commonalities and differences in the value profiles of the different types of entrepreneurs. While some of the salient values are clearly traceable to the entrepreneur's native culture, it appears that entrepreneurs share certain core values regardless of cultural origin. Evidence is also provided of linkages between values and specific operational practices within the ventures studied. Implications are drawn for ongoing theory development and managerial practice.

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Entrepreneurship is increasingly recognized as the prime vehicle for economic development in both developed and underdeveloped nations (Zacharakis et al. 2002; Acs 1999). Yet there are significant differences in cultural values and norms across cultures, differences that would seem to hold implications both for the levels and for the nature of entrepreneurial activity that occur in a given country or community. Researchers have demonstrated associations between entrepreneurial behavior and culturally based values such as individualism, achievement, independence, and masculinity (Lipset 2000; Berger 1991). At the same time, many cultures have value systems predicated on values that may be less consistent with entrepreneurial activity, especially where this activity implies risk, innovation, growth, and the reinvestment of profit.

Do cultural values affect entrepreneurial behavior? If so, what is the nature of the impact? To the extent that entrepreneurship is a value-based phenomenon, are there certain universal values held by those who engage in entrepreneurial activity? If so, the cultural background of the individual may have little significance. Alternatively, it may be that entrepreneurship itself has different connotations, nuances, and manifestations in different cultural milieus. That is, not only are there no universal entrepreneurial values, but there is also no universal construct of entrepreneurship.

The role of values in entrepreneurial activity has received relatively limited attention from scholars. Yet, implicitly or explicitly, the research on entrepreneurship is often predicated on such Western values as individualism, competitiveness, material gain, and a strong work ethic (Hebert and Link 1998; Cauthorn 1989; Schumpeter 1950). These values are not pervasive in a number of cultures and ethnic communities and may have limited applicability in certain developing economies. Given this reality, understanding the implications of culturally based values for the successful creation and growth of entrepreneurial ventures becomes especially critical.

The purpose of this study is to explore relationships between values held by ethnic entrepreneurs and both the decision to pursue entrepreneurship and the manner in which entrepreneurship is pursued. The research examines the role of values as reported by entrepreneurs from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Pacific Islander ethnic groups operating under similar social, economic, and political conditions. The research assesses whether value-based differences exist among the groups of ethnic entrepreneurs, areas of commonality in terms of value orientation, and ways in which operational practices differ based on the entrepreneur's values. Implications are drawn for ongoing theory development and for managerial practice.

Literature Review

Values as a Component of Culture

Hofstede (2001, p. 5) defined a value as a broad tendency to prefer certain states of affairs to others. …

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