THE ENTREPRENEUR AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP: OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS OF THEIR ROLE IN SOCIETY ROBERT B. CARTON CHARLES W. HOFER MICHAEL D. MEEKS The University of Georgia Terry College of Business ABSTRACT The role of the entrepreneur in society is difficult to establish if the concept of entrepreneurship is inadequately defined. This lack of a clear entrepreneurship paradigm poses problems for both policy makers and for academics. This paper proposes an operational definition of the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship, synthesizing past definitions into operationalizable constructs. Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of a discontinuous opportunity involving the creation of an organization (or sub-organization) with the expectation of value creation to the participants. The entrepreneur is the individual (or team) that identifies the opportunity, gathers the necessary resources, creates and is ultimately responsible for the performance of the organization. Therefore, entrepreneurship is the means by which new organizations are formed with their resultant job and wealth creation. A critical component of the proposed definition is the necessary condition that the organization created actually provides goods and/or services to society, not merely for internal consumption. Clearly this definition favors the behavioral school of thought on entrepreneurship, but it should not be taken to discount the importance of the traits and characteristics of the entrepreneur from the perspective of their propensity to act. Although growth, innovation, and tenacity to overcome hurdles are commonly cited as elements of entrepreneurship, we argue that these are consequences, not antecedents, to entrepreneurial activity. INTRODUCTION There is little question that most of the new jobs created in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s have come from firms with less than 500 employees (Cooper, 1998; Dennis, 1997). With this realization has come increasing emphasis in the governmental and education communities on developing programs to aid and train entrepreneurs. However, if one reads the academic or popular press, one will quickly discover that although entrepreneurship is recognized as "a good thing," just what it is remains unclear. Sandberg (1992) in a play on the famous quote from Justice Stewart wrote "I don't know what entrepreneurship is, but I will recognize it when I see it (p73)." Given the generally questionable "eyesight" of policy makers, one must ask if this is a desirable situation.



"Good science has to begin with good definitions (Bygrave & Hofer, 1991 p.13)." How can policymakers be expected to provide programs to encourage and support entrepreneurship if they do not know what an entrepreneur is or what types of firms are entrepreneurial? Further, as the realm of entrepreneurship continues to seek validation as a bonefide field of academic study, we as researchers must endeavor to define the boundaries of the discipline. Mackenzie & House (1978) noted that "In the absence of a paradigm, all facts are more or less relevant and this gives the appearance of randomness to those gathering the facts" (p.7). The number of definitions of entrepreneur and entrepreneurship that have been produced over the years in the literature is daunting. Gartner (1988) lists thirty-two different definitions for the purpose of showing: ... (1) that many (and often vague) definitions of the entrepreneur have been used (in many studies the entrepreneur is never defined); (2) there are few studies that employ the same definition; (3) that lack of basic agreement as to"who an entrepreneur is" has led to the selection of samples of "entrepreneurs" that are hardly homogeneous. ... (4) that a startling number of traits and characteristics have been attributed to the entrepreneur, and a "psychological profile" of the entrepreneur assembled from these studies would portray someone larger than life, full of contradictions, and, conversely, someone so full of traits that (s)he would have to be a sort of generic `Everyman.' (p. 21) Clearly, this situation does not provide any direction for either policymakers or researchers. This paper attempts to synthesize the primary concepts expressed in the prior literature into a comprehensive framework of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. The questions that we attempt to answer are: 1) What is entrepreneurship?, 2) What are the boundaries of the entrepreneurship paradigm?, and 3) Who are entrepreneurs? WHAT IS ENTREPRENEURSHIP? There are two distinctly different approaches to defining entrepreneurship. The first approach is to define what an entrepreneur is and then observe them. Based upon the observations, entrepreneurship would be defined inductively in terms of what the individuals do. The second approach is to propose an a priori definition of entrepreneurship and its related behaviors, and thereby define entrepreneurs as those who engage in entrepreneurial activity. Bygrave & Hofer (1991) proposed that the focus of the field of entrepreneurship change from the focus on the characteristics of the entrepreneur to the characteristics of the entrepreneurial process. By focusing on the process, entrepreneurs are identified by their participation in the process, not by a unique set of characteristics. The focus on the entrepreneurial process supports an a priori definition of entrepreneurship. This is the approach adopted in this paper. The term entrepreneurship is derived from the French verb "entreprendre" and the



German word "unternehmen," both of which translate to "undertake" (Cunningham & Lischeron, 1991). In the early 1700's, Cantillon described an entrepreneur as bearing risk by buying at certain prices and selling at uncertain prices. Following Cantillon, Jean Baptiste Say broadened the definition to include the concept of combining factors of production, also noting that the entrepreneur must have special personal qualities (Cole, 1946; Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990). The modern concept of entrepreneurship was introduced by Schumpeter (1934) who defined entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as follows: The carrying out of new combinations we call "enterprise"; the individuals whose function it is to carry them out we call "entrepreneurs." These concepts are at once broader and narrower than the usual. Broader, because in the first place we call entrepreneurs not only those "independent" businessmen in an exchange economy who are usually so designated, but all who actually fulfill the function by which we define the concept, even if they are, as is becoming the rule, "dependent" employees of a company, like managers, members of boards of directors, and so forth, or even if their actual power to perform the entrepreneurial function has any other foundations, such as the control of a majority of shares. As it is the carrying out of new combinations that constitutes the entrepreneur, it is not necessary that he should be permanently connected with an individual firm; many "financiers," "promotors," and so forth are not, and still may be entrepreneurs in our sense. On the other hand, our concept is narrower than the traditional one that it does not include allheads of firms or managers of industrialists, who merely may operate an established business, but only those who actually perform that function. ... But whatever the type, everyone is an entrepreneur only when he actually "carries out new combinations," and loses that character as soon as he has built up his business, when he settles down to running it as other people run their businesses (p.74). Schumpeter defined what he meant by entrepreneurship ("enterprise") and then concluded that those who perform the functions of entrepreneurship are "entrepreneurs." His definition captured several key elements that separate entrepreneurship from general management. First, and foremost, entrepreneurship involves the creation of an organization to pursue a discontinuous opportunity. Second, Schumpter did not limit this pursuit to new ventures, he also allowed for entrepreneurship to exist within established organizations. Third, Schumpeter alluded to the fact that one becomes an entrepreneur when they act. Finally, entrepreneurship is defined by the nature of the actions performed, and a transition occurs at some point from entrepreneurship to general management as the nature of the organization and the actions of the individual change. In a Delphi study, Gartner (1990) found eight themes expressed by the participants that constituted the nature or entrepreneurship. They were, the entrepreneur, innovation, organization creation, creating value, profit or nonprofit, growth, uniqueness, and the owner-manager. Many of these themes are consistent with Schumpeter's



conceptualization. In particular, organization creation, innovation in the form of the pursuit of a discontinuous opportunity, value creation, uniqueness, growth (to a point), and the entrepreneur. In keeping with Schumpter, Bygrave & Hofer (1991) defined the entrepreneurial process as involving "all the functions, activities, and actions associated with the perceiving of opportunities and the creation of organizations to pursue them (p.14)." Bygrave (1995) further restricted the definition to only include new independent organizations, excluding intrapreneurship. The basis for this limitation was most likely his personal experience as a "practitioner-cum-scholar." The difference between the two perspective is in the assumption that the entrepreneur "risks all his personal cash-flow, some or all of his personal capital, and his career in starting a new venture, that would not be viable without him." An intrapreneur is assumed to have not risked personal cash-flow or personal capital, nor placed their career at risk. While Bygrave makes a valid point that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are certainly different, it does not follow that they are not part of the same paradigm. In actuality, when an entrepreneur uses borrowed or "silent partner" funds, they may or may not risk personal financial capital in starting a new venture. Does sweat equity count as financial capital? Risking personal financial capital is the role of an investor, not necessarily an entrepreneur (Scherer & Ravenscraft, 1984; Schumpeter, 1934; Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990). Certainly there is a difference in the means by which intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs accumulate resources to undertake a new opportunity. However, this necessary function is still performed by both. Similarly, intrapreneurs do risk personal capital in the form of their reputations and as well as their current cash-flow stream by placing their jobs at risk should the venture they promote fail. What is common among the prior definitions of entrepreneurship is the creation of a new organization, either as a new venture or as a new venture within an existing organization (a sub-organization) (Bygrave & Hofer, 1991; Cooper, 1979; Gartner, 1988; Gartner, 1990; (Vesper, 1982). It is this distinction that sets entrepreneurship apart from the routine management tasks of allocating resources to existing opportunities. Some would argue that entrepreneurship deals with high-potential companies with the prospect for substantial growth because these are the organizations that have the potential to make significant contributions of employment and wealth to society (Bygrave, 1995). However, lower-potential organizations should be included in entrepreneurship because by their sheer numbers they too make substantial contributions to employment and wealth creation. Both types of ventures undertake essentially the same tasks to form a new organization, accumulate and allocate resources, and build networks. Another characteristic that distinguishes entrepreneurship from the ongoing management of an organization is the pursuit of a discontinuous opportunity (Schumpeter, 1934). This does not include incremental changes that routinely occur in organizations. Entrepreneurship deals with quantum changes (Bygrave, 1995; Bygrave



& Hofer, 1991). For instance, the pursuit of a new customer similar to current customers is not entrepreneurial. Nor would be the development of a new product in the normal course of research and development on current product lines. Conversely, the creation of a new independent business is clearly entrepreneurship. Further, the creation of a new subsidiary to pursue a new line of business or the creation of a new division to pursue an international market would also be entrepreneurship. One further component of entrepreneurship that was identified in Gartner's 1990 Delphi study was the expectation of return by the entrepreneur(s). People form and associate with organizations because of the prospect of return (Barnard, 1938; Drucker, 1954). This return may or may not be financial. As such, both for profit and nonprofit organizations may be entrepreneurial. Both types of organizations must accumulate resources, build organizational structure and networks, develop distinctive competencies, and maintain competitive advantage to survive. However, in either circumstance, the members of the organization become and remain affiliated because of the prospect of return. Therefore, synthesizing these concepts, we propose that the essence of entrepreneurship is the pursuit of a discontinuous opportunity involving the creation of an organization (or sub-organization) with the expectation of value creation to the participants. The creation of an organization involves the accumulation and deployment of resources and the building of organizational structure to pursue an opportunity. WHAT ARE THE BOUNDARIES OF THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP PARADIGM? To answer this question, one must decide first when entrepreneurship begins, and then when entrepreneurship ends and management begins. Drucker (1985) proposed that "[entrepreneurship] is a practice." What this means is that entrepreneurship is not a state of being nor is it characterized by making plans that are not acted upon. Entrepreneurship begins with action, the creation of a new organization. This organization may or may not become self-sustaining and in fact may never earn significant revenues. But, when individuals create a new organization, they have entered the entrepreneurship paradigm. Although we propose that it takes the creation of a new venture to enter the entrepreneurship paradigm, we do not wish to imply that the antecedents to the creation of a new venture are not part of the paradigm. These antecedents include the scanning of the environment for opportunity, the identification of the opportunity to pursue, the evaluation of the feasibility of the new venture, the individual traits, characteristics, prior experience, knowledge, and education of the entrepreneur, the impact of role models, environmental munificence, and societal values. All of these factors influence new venture formation and should be included in the entrepreneurship paradigm. However, entrepreneurs do not just plan. They act. It isthis action that distinguishes them. Accordingly, without the creation of a new venture, entrepreneurship has not occurred. Having established when entrepreneurship begins, the next question is when it ends.



Gartner (1988) proposed that entrepreneurship ended when organization creation was over. This would seem to preclude growth of the organization from the paradigm although his Delphi study indicated that academics and practitioners generally believed that growth was part of the paradigm (Gartner, 1990). We would propose that entrepreneurship ends when the new venture becomes self-sustaining. The building of the organizational structure and networks, accumulation of resources, building of a customer base and the creation of competitive advantage are all necessary elements of the paradigm. Without these components, self-sustainability cannot be achieved. If a venture never becomes self-sustaining, it will eventually fail, which is the other way to exit the paradigm. A firm is entrepreneurial until such time as it becomes selfsustaining or fails.

There are two primary dimensions of the entrepreneurship paradigm as it pertains to society. They are 1) new venture formation and 2) new venture performance. New venture formation deals with the antecedents to the formation of a new venture and its creation. As mentioned earlier, new ventures have accounted for substantially all of the new job creation in the economy in recent years. Accordingly, it is in the public interest to understand those factors that are essential to fostering new venture formation, be able to identify those individuals that have the skills to seek out and recognize opportunities in the environment and that have the propensity to act. Further, understanding the behaviors necessary for new venture formation is essential. The final element of new venture formation is the trigger event, such as job displacement, that leads an entrepreneur to actually form a new venture. The second element of the paradigm is new venture performance. This includes the development and implementation of new venture strategy, the nature of the external environment munificence and industry structure, the accumulation of resources, building of an organization including developing distinctive competences, establishing strategic networks, capturing customers, and establishing a organization culture and values. While Activity Entrepreneurial Activitygrowth is not a sufficient condition to remain in the entrepreneurship paradigm, it is inherent in reaching self-sustainability.



When a company reaches self-sustainability, it exits the entrepreneurship paradigm. At that time, the organization is generally not dependent upon the founding team, risk has been reduced, sustainable competitive advantage(s) have been created, the rate of change has drastically reduced, and repetition in the functions of the organization has occurred. The venture must have also achieved financial success sufficient to fund ongoing growth. WHO ARE ENTRERENEURS? The definition of entrepreneurship proposed above is behavioral in nature. That is, entrepreneurs are those who engage in entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur is the individual or team that identifies the opportunity, gathers the necessary resources, creates and is ultimately responsible for the consequences of the organization. A person is an entrepreneur so long as they are engaged in entrepreneurial behaviors. As stated above, a person starts being an entrepreneur when they undertake to form a new venture and are no longer an entrepreneur when the process of organization building has resulted in managing a self-sustaining business. In his examination of the managerial job types, Mintzberg (1973) identifies the entrepreneur as spending a significant amount of their time seeking opportunities and implementing changes in the organization. The entrepreneur is commonly found at the helm of a small business organization, where innovation is the key to survival. He may also be found at the head of, or within, a large organization that is changing rapidly. But his tenure here is probably short-lived. A large organization can tolerate eset in. xtensive change for a short time before a period of consolidation must When it does, the entrepreneur is likely to become an insider...(p. 128) Mintzberg did not preclude the possibility of intrapreneurship, but he does question its sustainability. His definition of an entrepreneur derives from actions. Once the actions cease, the person is no longer an entrepreneur. There has been considerable attention given to the traits and characteristics that make a person act entrepreneurially. The foundations of this approach can be viewed as psychological or sociological in nature. However, it is extremely difficult to demonstrate a causal relationship between traits and characteristics and the behaviors of entrepreneurship (Brockhaus & Horwitz, 1985; Cooper, Dunkelberg & Woo, 1988). In general, prior studies have not conclusively established such a causal link. Bull & Willard (1993) conclude, after reviewing the prior literature, "apparently, there is no `typical' entrepreneur." The traits most frequently cited as being characteristic of entrepreneurs include the desire for independence (Collins & Moore, 1964), locus of control (Brockhaus, 1975; Brockhaus, 1980; Shapero, 1975), creativity (Wilken, 1979), risk taking propensity (Begley & Boyd, 1987; Brockhaus, 1980; Wilken, 1979), need for achievement (Begley & Boyd, 1987; McClelland, 1961), and credible role models (Bygrave, 1995; Shapero,



1975). These traits have not been conclusively shown to new venture performance. However, they have been suggested to have a greater influence in new venture formation (Herron, 1994; Mitchell, 1994). The characteristics that have been suggested as significant in prior literature are prior managerial experience (Chandler, 1996; Hoad & Rosko, 1964; Lant & Mezias, 1990; Roure, 1986; Roure & Maidique, 1986), prior startup experience (Lamont, 1972; MacMillan, 1986), prior management team experience (Lumpkin & Dess, 1996; MacMillan, Seigel & Narasimha, 1985; McGee, Dowling & Megginson, 1995; Roure & Maidique, 1986; Roure &Keeley, 1990; Stuart & Abetti, 1990), knowledge, skills and abilities (Bull & Willard, 1993; Chandler & Hanks, 1994; Dutton & Jackson, 1987; Mitchell, 1994), and prior experience in the line of business (Chandler, 1996; Hoad & Rosko, 1964; Roure & Maidique, 1986; Sandberg, 1986). The empirical studies of characteristics found more significant links to venture performance and successful venture formation then for entrepreneur traits. The most significant determinants of new venture performance that have been shown are venture strategy and industry structure (Kunkel, 1991; Robinson, 1995; Sandberg, 1986). While it is fairly apparent that industry structure is an exogenous factor in new venture performance, venture strategy is a construct that represents many dimensions. The entrepreneurial team determines venture strategy and this determination is based upon many factors. Although it has not been empirically tested, it is reasonable to presume that venture strategy is an endogenous variable that is influenced by the entrepreneurial team's prior experience, personal traits, knowledge, skills and abilities, and their perceptions of the environment. Therefore, while traits and characteristics do not specifically determine who is an entrepreneur, they do influence the propensity for individuals to become entrepreneurs and the choices they make that lead to their performance. Those individuals that repeatedly successfully engage in entrepreneurship we refer to as professional entrepreneurs. They are distinct from the individuals that act once. Professional entrepreneurs develop and exploit a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Mitchell, (1994) demonstrated that there is expert knowledge unique to entrepreneurs. The possession of expert entrepreneurship scripts allows professional entrepreneurs to act more quickly and effectively to exploit opportunity. Understanding the differences between professional/expert entrepreneurs and novices is still limited. This is a promising sub-field of entrepreneurship that should be receiving additional attention in the future. CONCLUSION Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of a discontinuous opportunity involving the creation of an organization (or sub-organization) with the expectation of value creation to the participants. Entrepreneurs are those who engage in entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur is the individual (or team) that identifies the opportunity, gathers the necessary resources, creates and is ultimately responsible for the consequences of the organization. Therefore, entrepreneurship is the means by which new organizations are



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