DOING IT FOR YOURSELF: CAREER ATTRIBUTIONS OF NASCENT ENTREPRENEURS

William B. Gartner, University of Southern California
Kelly G. Shaver, College of William & Mary, and ESBRI (Stockholm)
Elizabeth J. Gatewood, Indiana University

CHAPTER MENU

ABSTRACT
INTRODUCTION
LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES
METHOD
ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
CONTACT
REFERENCES
TABLE 1
TABLE 2

ABSTRACT

This paper explores the attributional characteristics of the reasons that nascent entrepreneurs offer for their work and career choices and compares them to a group of non-entrepreneurs. Four separate factors accounted for 57.2% of the variance: Innovation Achievement (internal/variable), Financial Success (external/variable), Personal Growth (internal/stable) and Public Recognition (external/variable). These factors were differentially important: all respondents (entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs) rated financial success and personal growth higher than innovation achievement and public recognition. Sex differences in motivations also emerged, with females (both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs) rating personal growth higher than did males, who, in turn rated financial success higher than did females. Finally, nascent entrepreneurs rated reasons concerning public recognition lower than non-entrepreneurs in making their career choices.

INTRODUCTION

Why do some individuals decide to start companies rather than pursue other kinds of career opportunities?

Research and theory on what factors influence whether individuals choose entrepreneurial activity has a long history of specifying various personal characteristics, motivations, cognitions, and social conditions (Aldrich, 1999; Gartner, 1988, 1989; Gartner, Bird & Starr, 1992; Katz, 1992; Kolvereid, 1996a, 1996b; Shaver & Scott, 1991; Simon, Houghton & Aquino, 2000). This article focuses on the cognitive orientation of individuals considering entrepreneurship. A significant concern about the validity of research on the motivations and cognitions of entrepreneurs has hinged on the problem of interviewing entrepreneurs long after they are already in business (Gartner, 1989; Shaver & Scott, 1991). To address this concern we examined the reasons that individuals offer for choosing independent business startup while they are in the initial stages of starting a business. These nascent entrepreneurs offer prospective accounts for their choice of entrepreneurship, rather than retrospective reminiscences. In addition, our research compares these nascent entrepreneurs with a representative comparison sample of individuals who are not actively engaged in independent business creation.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES

As outlined in Kolvereid (1996a), the reasons that potential entrepreneurs offer for getting into business should have a significant influence on whether they actually engage in entrepreneurial activity. Using the logic of Ajzen (1991), as subsequently developed by Krueger and his colleagues (Krueger & Carsrud, 1993; Krueger & Brazeal, 1994), Kolvereid (1996a) posits that the intentions of individuals to choose a career (self-employment versus organizational employment) should likely influence their subsequent behaviors. Reasons for getting into business (or not), therefore, matter, because reasons are traditionally considered to be the basis of intentions (Anscombe, 1956).

The theoretical lens used to explore the reasons that potential entrepreneurs offer for deciding to pursue independent business startup is attribution theory (Heider, 1958; Kelley, 1972; 1973; Weiner, 1985). Attribution theory attempts to offer a scientific account of the way in which people explain their own actions and the actions of others (Shaver, 1985). When the event to be explained is the successful performance of a task, Heider (1958) argued that people observing the event would concentrate on four primary explanatory factors: the individual’s ability and effort, as well as the difficulty of the task and the presence of luck. As noted by Weiner (1985), these four explanations can be arrayed in a fourfold table in which the dimensions are the locus of causality (internal versus external) and the stability of the causes (stable versus variable). In Heider’s terms, a person “can” perform a task successfully if the person’s ability exceeds the task difficulty. Whether the person will perform the task successfully also depends on exertion of the requisite effort, or perhaps on the presence of good luck (or the absence of bad luck). In addition, attribution theory takes into account the degree to which the actor intended to produce an outcome and whether the actor has control over the circumstance enough to make the outcome happen (Weiner, 1985).

New businesses are not created by accident. There is enough in the way of the process involved in business startup to suggest that these actions are clearly intentional. In fact, Gatewood, Shaver & Gartner (1995) found 29 separate activities that need to be undertaken in the creation of a business venture. When obstacles arise in connection with any of these activities, entrepreneurs must find ways to overcome them in order to ensure what Heider (1958) called “equifinality” of the outcome. Therefore, in theoretical terms, new venture creation is an intentional act that involves repeated attempts to exercise control over the process, in order to achieve the desired outcome.

A number of studies have been attempted to explore the kinds of reasons that entrepreneurs offer for explaining their intentions for self-employment. In a report on an 11 country study of 1,402 individuals who had previously started businesses, Scheinberg and MacMillan (1988) found six broad factors (based on a factor analysis of 38 items) of reasons for business creation: need for approval, perceived instrumentality of wealth, communitarianism, need for personal development, need for independence, and need for escape. In comparing entrepreneurs by country, they found that the reasons for business creation varied. For example, U.S. and Australian entrepreneurs scored highest on the “need for independence” factor, whereas entrepreneurs from Italy, Portugal, and China scored highest on “communitarianism.” Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark had entrepreneurs who offered low scores on the instrumentality of wealth factor. In a follow-up study, (Shane, Kolvereid, & Westhead, 1991) in a factor analysis of 23 items from a survey of 597 owner-managers in Great Britain, New Zealand and Norway, identified four broad factors that explained an entrepreneur’s reasons for business creation: recognition, independence, learning, and roles. They identified a number of nationality and gender differences, and no overall main effect for any specific item. Based on these two previous explorations, Birley and Westhead (1994) developed a questionnaire of 23 reasons for starting businesses that was administered to 405 owner-managers of independent businesses in the United Kingdom. They found that the top six reasons for getting into business were: to have freedom in work, take advantage of an opportunity, control one’s own time, “it made sense at that time in my life,” provide security for one’s family, and have greater flexibility for personal life. A factor analysis of the 23 reasons produced seven factors that the authors labeled: need for approval, need for independence, need for personal development, welfare (in the contributing to the community sense) considerations, perceived instrumentality of wealth, tax reduction, and following role models. Each of these large studies involved surveys of individuals who had previously started firms.

Kolvereid (1996a), in a study of the reasons given for self-employment versus organizational employment for a group of 372 Norwegian business school graduates, designed a classification scheme that posits 11 types of reasons for choosing between self-employment versus organizational employment: security, economic opportunity, authority, autonomy, social environment, work load, challenge, self-realization, participate in the whole process, avoid responsibility, and career. He found that individuals who were self-employed were more likely to choose economic opportunity, authority, autonomy, challenge, self-realization, and participate in the whole process, compared to those choosing organizational employment. Like the three preceding studies, this research reached people years after their occupational choices had already been made.

In one of the few prospective studies of entrepreneurs conducted (Gatewood, et al., 1995), 142 pre-venture clients of a small business development center (SBDC), were asked (as an open-ended question) why they wanted to start a business. Most respondents provided no more than two distinct answers to the question. Although there were obviously differences in individual wording, six kinds of answer accounted for 93% of the first two reasons offered. In order of appearance, these were: identification of a market need (29% of the total), autonomy and independence (an additional 18%), a desire to make more money (18%), a desire to use knowledge and experience (16%), the enjoyment of self-employment (7%), and a desire to show that it could be done (5%).

From an attributional coding of the reasons for getting into business offered in these previous studies of entrepreneurs (Birley & Westhead, 1994; Gatewood, et al., 1995; Kolvereid, 1996a; Scheinberg & MacMillan, 1988; Shane et al., 1991), the four attributional categories (internal/external + variable/stable) can be identified. Need for independence, for example, is an internal/stable attribution. This reason is internal because it involves an individual’s personal ability to run a business. Independence is a stable attribution because this reason is not likely to change for an individual in the short-term. Need for achievement, is an internal/variable attribution. Achievement is a personal goal (internal) that depends on the effort of the individual. Effort is variable. Financial security, for example, is an external/variable attribution. Although financial security in entrepreneurship will be affected by the individual’s personal attributes, such as effort and ability, these rewards are ultimately determined by external forces. While an individual can control how much effort is undertaken, one cannot control how much of a financial gain will result from this effort. Customers have much of this control because they make the final decision about purchasing from a business. Because an entrepreneur does not have complete control over how well the business will do, financial security is an external attribution. Financial security is variable because it is not stable in the short-run. An expanding industry is external stable. Broad changes in an entire industry are clearly outside the individual, but in at least the medium-term those changes are relatively stable.

Are the reasons (and attributions) offered by potential entrepreneurs for getting into business significantly different from the reasons (and attributions) offered by a similar comparison group of individuals considering other career choices? Such reasons as: to lead, to achieve something, to earn income, to grow and learn, to challenge oneself, to be respected, to attain a higher position for oneself, would likely be the kinds of reasons that any one might offer for choosing any kind of job. In this way, the differences among entrepreneurs may be as great as the differences among non-entrepreneurs (Gartner, 1988). Despite the possible similarities in overall sets of motivations for career choice, past research suggests that the relative importance of particular reasons might differ. Specifically, for example, Kolvereid’s (1996a) work would lead us to expect that:

Hypothesis 1: Explanations having to do with economic potential and personal autonomy will be more important to nascent entrepreneurs than to non-entrepreneurs.

In their study of prospective entrepreneurs, Gatewood, et al. (1995) found that women who actually started businesses had, a year earlier, given primarily internal explanations for their choice to start. By contrast, men who actually started businesses had, a year earlier, given primarily external explanations for their choice to enter business. On this basis we would also expect that:

Hypothesis 2: Explanations generally representing internal factors will predominate among women, whereas explanations generally representing external factors will predominate among men.

METHOD

Description of the Sample

The data for this research were obtained from the ERC’s National Panel Study of Business Start-Ups. Detailed descriptions of the methods and sampling can be found in Reynolds (in press). The data involve three different samples of individuals, all of whom were initially identified through a random digit dialing (RDD) telephone survey procedure conducted in two phases. In the first phase, households were called by the Market Facts corporation in their TeleNation surveys, which involve a minimum of 1,000 interviews (500 female, 500 male) completed with adults 18 years of age or older over a three-day period. Up to three attempts were made on each selected telephone number. In the second phase of the research, respondents who met the inclusion criteria were called by the University of Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory (UWSRL) and were interviewed extensively by telephone. At the conclusion of these telephone interviews, participants were sent a detailed mail questionnaire.

The initial sample for RDD calls was a total of 31,261 individuals (15,662 females and 15,599 males). Two questions in the telephone screening were designed to identify people who might be starting businesses (either as autonomous start-ups or as something being done in cooperation with a current employer). A respondent could answer “no” or “yes” to either question, thereby placing him- or herself into one of four categories (no start-up activity, start-up activity in conjunction with an employer, autonomous start-up activity, or both kinds of start-up activity). For purposes of this research, only individuals falling into the autonomous start-up category are considered eligible for the designation “nascent entrepreneur.”

Two additional questions asked in the telephone screening were used to separate those people actively involved in autonomous start-up from those who were perhaps thinking about it, but not actively involved. These questions inquired as to whether (a) the respondent anticipated becoming an “owner” (in whole or in part) of the business being developed, and (b) there had been any ongoing business organizing activity during the immediately preceding 12 months. In the ERC study as a whole, affirmative answers to both questions were necessary for individuals to be considered “nascent entrepreneurs,” and we have adopted this convention. The result is a total of 1,494 nascent entrepreneurs (561 females, 933 males) eligible for the longer telephone interviews to be conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory. One of the early questions in this telephone interview asked whether the business being organized had achieved sufficient cash flow for three months to pay expenses and the owner-manager’s salary. If the answer was affirmative, as it was for some 27% of the people contacted (Reynolds, in press) then the activity was considered an “infant business” no longer in the organization stage and the respondent was dropped from the overall telephone interview sample.

At this point, however, the financial realities of the overall project came into play. The original ERC data collection was financed by a consortium of (mostly academic) institutions, the total of whose contributions was somewhat over $600,000. Additional financial support was later obtained from the National Science Foundation (NSF) but these funds were earmarked for specific purposes (telephone oversampling of women and minorities). (Note: As the funds for oversampling of minorities arrived well into the research process, the only oversampling included in the present data set was the oversampling for women.) The 1,494 eligible nascent entrepreneurs (NEs) noted above consequently fell into the four categories formed by the intersection of respondent gender with source of support (ERC or NSF). The ERC funds were used to collect information from both female and male respondents, whereas the NSF funds were used to collect telephone information only from females. Interviews were completed with 161 ERC females (42.59% of the original group of eligible NE females), 247 ERC males (40.29% of the originally eligible NE males), 162 NSF females (47.09% of the originally eligible NE females), but none of the 550 NE originally eligible NSF males. The three groups completing the telephone interview were further reduced by our requirement that respondent gender as recorded by the UWSRL be identical to respondent gender as recorded by Market Facts (on the reasonable assumption that if the genders were discrepant it was likely that two different people provided the screening information and telephone interview responses). Thus for our purposes, the three groups of telephone interview responses consisted of 150 (ERC female), 245 (ERC male), and 149 (NSF female) “pure” nascent entrepreneurs.

At the end of the telephone interview, respondents were asked to volunteer their first names, then their addresses, so that they could be sent their $25 payment for taking part in the telephone interview, and the mail questionnaire. Again, even at this point, not all respondents agreed (despite the offer of a payment of an additional $25 for completion of the mail survey). And not all those who agreed to receive the mail questionnaire actually returned it. The mail sample for the present research thus consisted of “pure” nascent entrepreneurs whose Market Facts and UWSRL gender codes matched, and who returned a completed questionnaire. The category sizes were as follows: 122 ERC females (or 32.28% of the originally eligible ERC female-founder category), 166 ERC males (27.08% of the originally eligible ERC male-founder category), and 99 NSF females (or 28.78% of the originally eligible NSF female-founder category).

The comparison group included in the present research was the ERC comparison group of 91 females and 85 males (the total was 78.92% of the 223 people in the comparison group who completed a shorter version of the telephone interview.

Use of Weights

According to Reynolds (in press), the TeleNation data set comes with “post-stratification weights for each respondent based on estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The post-stratification scheme is based on gender, age, household income, and the four National Census Regions [Northeast, South, Midwest, and West]. The scheme produces a total of 144 cells for weighting adjustments” (p. 19). The weights are essential for drawing conclusions intended to generalize to the entire U.S. population. Reynolds also argues that “any analysis should be completed with a weighted sample. . . . This is a reflection of the number of procedures employed in the sampling and data collection that increased the yield and efficiency of the procedures” (p. 22).

Although we agree with this conclusion where generalization to the U.S. population is concerned, there are reasons to wonder whether it applies to the between-groups comparisons reported in this paper. First, the actual weights used in the ERC dataset were significantly modified from the original TeleNation weights. Specifically, because 144 weighting categories was too many for the size of the sample, this number was reduced to 32 (the factorial combination of 2 levels of respondent sex, 4 Census regions, 2 levels of household income, and 2 levels of respondent age). Second, the final weights were computed separately for the comparison group and for females and males within the entrepreneur groups. This was done to take into account the fact that the selection probabilities within the entrepreneur groups were different for females and males (because of the NSF-male empty interview cell). Following the same logic, however, it could be argued that yet a third weight ought to be applied to the data to take into account the fact that the number of individuals in the comparison group was at most, approximately half of the number of individuals in the entrepreneur groups. Third, the ERC weights were constructed on the basis of the total numbers of entrepreneur-respondents at each stage of the process. But as noted above, for purposes of psychological comparisons, we believe it critically important to restrict the entrepreneur sample to those “pure” entrepreneurs who are engaging in autonomous start-ups independent of their current employers. This means that if we were to use weights at all, the existing ERC weights would have to be modified still further to reflect the fact that the pure nascent entrepreneurs comprise fewer than 100% of the sample size used to create weights at each stage of the process (77% of the screened eligible respondents, 81% of the phone interview respondents, and 81% of the mail questionnaire respondents). For all of these reasons, we have elected to report only our analyses conducted on unweighted scores.

Questions Used

Eighteen items from the mail survey of the National Panel Study of U.S. Business Start-up database (items G1A-R) were selected for coding and analysis. The eighteen items are listed in Table 1. Thirteen of these items match questions from a list of 23 items that were identical in the questionnaires used in Shane, et al., (1991: 445) and Birley and Westhead (1994: 19). Five additional items were added that capture distinctions made by Kolvereid (1996a): power to influence an organization, to lead and motivate others, build great wealth/high income, build business children can inherit, to fulfill a personal vision. The eighteen items were asked in the following manner. For the nascent entrepreneurs, the items were preceded by this question: “To what extent are the following reasons important to you in establishing this new business?” For the comparison group, the items were preceded by this question: “To what extent are the following important to you in your decisions about your work and career choices?” Both groups responded to each item on a 1 to 5 scale: 1—to no extent, 2—little extent, 3—some extent, 4—great extent, 5—to a very great extent.

Corrections for Missing Item Responses

The total number of respondents for the 18 questions varied by question, from a low of 380 (out of the 387 respondents) for the item having to do with “building a business my children can inherit,” to a high of 386 for the item having to do with “achieving something and getting recognition.” Listwise deletion of items would have left a remaining sample of 365 people. We conducted factor analyses to identify the underlying structure of the items, and the procedure we used (SPSS-PC, V. 9) permits either listwise deletion or pairwise deletion of missing values. We performed the factor analyses using both methods, with virtually identical results. Consequently, the factor analysis reported below is based on pairwise deletion of missing values, in order to retain as many respondents as possible for each comparison.

ANALYSIS AND RESULTS

The 18 items were first coded into the four attributional categories created by the conjunction of the internal/external and stable/variable dimensions. Next, all 18 items were factor analyzed, using a principal components extraction with a varimax rotation, to examine item consistency empirically. The results of this factor analysis are presented in Table 1. The analysis revealed four separate factors that accounted for 57.24% of the variance. The first factor contained items having generally to do with being in the forefront of one’s business, a factor we call “Innovation Achievement.” The second factor contained items related to financial performance, a factor we call “Financial Success.” The third factor contained items having to do with individual expression and development, a factor we call “Personal Growth.” Finally, the fourth factor contained items related to one’s standing in the larger community, a factor we call “Public Recognition.”

We used a two-stage procedure for deciding whether to retain items. Initially, items with primary factor loadings more extreme than ±.40 and cross-loadings on secondary factors that were less extreme than ±.40 were candidates for retention. This initial decision was then confirmed through reliability analysis, with the final decision on retention based on the changes in Cronbach a values for the scales (with target items either included or excluded). By the size-of-loading criteria, four items would have been deleted from the third factor (personal growth). This would have created a scale that consisted of only one item, and our preference was to retain more, rather than fewer, items. Fortunately, the Cronbach a criterion allowed us to retain these four items, as eliminating them would have reduced the overall value of alpha. The same Cronbach a criterion did lead us to eliminate one item, the “financial success” (factor 2) question having to do with building a business that one’s children could inherit. Overall, then, we retained 17 of the 18 items.

The retained items for each factor were averaged, creating four scale scores. Then we subjected the factor scores to an analysis of variance with independent variables of respondent group (Nascent vs. Comparison), respondent sex (Female vs. Male), and scale (Innovation Achievement, Financial Success, Personal Growth, and Public Recognition). The resulting 2 x 2 x 4 design had repeated measures on the last factor. The same design was subsequently performed as two analyses of covariance, with respondent age as a covariate in one of these and respondent educational attainment as a covariate in the other, but in both instances the pattern of results was unchanged. Consequently, only the results from the analysis of variance will be described here. Mean scores and standard deviations for the four scale scores are shown in Table 2, classified by the independent variables.

This analysis showed an expected main effect for scale, F (3, 1605) = 581.90, p < .0001. For all participants, regardless of respondent group or sex, Financial Success and Personal Growth were more important motivating factors than were Innovation Achievement and Public Recognition. The analysis also revealed a quite surprising main effect for respondent group, with scores among the nascent entrepreneurs being generally lower than the scores among people in the comparison group, F (1, 535) = 27.60, p < .001. This difference between nascent entrepreneurs and people in the comparison group was especially pronounced on the scale for Public Recognition, with the interaction between respondent group and scale being significant, F (3, 1605) = 48.39, p < .0001.

The results showed was no overall difference based on respondent sex, but there was an interaction between respondent sex and scale: the mean scores for females and males were essentially identical on Innovation Achievement (means, respectively, were 2.87 for females, 2.91 for males) and Public Recognition (females 2.38, males 2.39); scores for females were slightly higher than those for males on Personal Growth (4.21 vs. 4.09), but lower on Financial Success (3.76, 3.96), F (3, 1605) = 3.97, p < .01. It may be worth noting, however, that the eta-squared value for this interaction was less than .01, whereas the eta-squared value for the main effect for scale was .52.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

The primary finding of this study was that entrepreneurs are, overall, similar to non-entrepreneurs in the kinds of reasons they offer for choosing independent business startup as a career. Both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs rated Financial Success and Personal Growth factors as more important than the Innovation Achievement and Public Recognition Factors. In fact, as measured by a composite of the four factor scores, non-entrepreneurs scored higher than nascent entrepreneurs. This overall result certainly argues against considering entrepreneurs to be qualitatively different from individuals who pursue other career options. In reasons for career choice, as in what has been called “personality,” entrepreneurs do not seem to fit the stereotype held about them in the popular wisdom (Shaver, 1995).

The one difference in motivations that was found between nascent entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs was on the factor that both nascent entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs ranked lower than the other factors: public recognition. Nascent entrepreneurs ranked public recognition lower when considering choice of employment than the non-entrepreneurs. On the basis of this finding, the title of the paper was derived: Doing it for themselves. Nascent entrepreneurs offer reasons for getting into business that are less likely to account for the beliefs and values of others: the respect of friends, family traditions, the examples of others.

There were differences in reasons for career choice by gender. Males (entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs) were more likely to rank Financial Success higher than females (entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs) as a reason for choosing a career. Females were more likely to rank Personal Growth higher than males as a reason for choosing a career. This finding supports previous research by Gatewood, et al., (1995).

As a way to succinctly summarize the findings about the reasons for career choice: Nascent entrepreneurs are more similar to non-entrepreneurs, than they are different. Though, nascent entrepreneurs are less likely to consider the views of others. Males are different than females. Males are more likely to seek financial success, whereas females are more likely to seek personal growth.

If one agrees with the generalizability of this sample of nascent entrepreneurs and the comparison group, these findings may offer a definitive answer to questions about motivational differences between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. Overall, it would appear that nascent entrepreneurs offer reasons for starting businesses that are similar to the reasons offered by non-entrepreneurs for choosing jobs: financial success and personal growth. Business startup or “a job in an organization” are both pathways to meeting the same goals.

The factors that were generated from the 18 items show some consistency to factors generated from previous analyses of business startup reasons (Birley & Westhead, 1994; Kolvereid, 1996a; Shane, et al, 1991; Scheinberg & MacMillan, 1988). All four of these previous studies generated factors that had items that were similar to the three of the factors we generated: Innovation Achievement, Personal Growth, and Public Recognition. Only in Shane, et al. (1991) was the Financial Success factor not identified. The other three studies found a Financial Success factor. Given that the 18 items used in this study did not completely correspond to the 23 items used by Birley and Westhead (1994) and Shane, et al., (1991) or the 33 items used in Kolvereid (1996a), or the 21 motivational items used in Scheinberg & MacMillan (1988), it might be viewed as some triumph that there does seem to be some consistency in the kinds of factors that are generated from these business startup reasons. In should also be noted that the selection of individuals to study appears to play a significant role in generating factors. For example, although Birley and Westhead (1994) and Shane et al. (1991) used the same items for analysis, their factor results were different. Shane et al. (1991) did not find a consistent factor for entrepreneurs in their three country study on the financial success items.

A limitation of these factors as representations of the overall pattern of reasons for choosing careers (self-employment or organizational employment) is the lack of a comprehensive use of items from all the previous studies. It is unfortunate that this study did not have available items in the U.S. Panel Study of Business Startups that were used in previous studies of business startup reasons. Items from such factors as communitarianism and welfare, tax reduction, and security were missing from this study. Such factors might have surfaced if these items had been included. Nevertheless, the similarities among all of these studies of startup reasons would suggest that the four factors identified in the present research have some convergent validity.

One issue that should not be underestimated in this study is the fact that this research is based on interviews of a representative sample of individuals in the process of starting a business. The reasons offered for getting into business are prospective, rather than retrospective. These nascent entrepreneurs are offering their motivations for getting into business before the success (or failure) or their efforts are determined. Because these findings are based on prospective reasons, rather than retrospective reasons, we believe the results of this study should take precedence over any previous studies where retrospective reasons for startup have been offered. In short, the stereotype of the highly independent, financially-driven, risk-seeking entrepreneur may be nothing more than a distillation of the retrospective stories that entrepreneurs have told researchers in the past. In addition, this study systematically compares nascent entrepreneurs to a representative sample of non-entrepreneurs, a comparison that no other study, heretofore, has accomplished. So, the finding that entrepreneurs are very similar to non-entrepreneurs in their reasons for career choice, should be give pause to researchers attempted for find differences in motivations between entrepreneurs and others.

CONTACT: William B. Gartner, Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Bridge Hall One, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0801; (T) 213-740-0648; (F) 213-740-2976; wgartner@ marshall.usc.edu

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