METHOD

Participants

Participants in the research were 116 adults, ranging in age from 20 to 67 years, with a mean age of 38.35 years (two individuals failed to return their materials). The sample included 40 minority individuals (one Asian, 32 Black, 3 Hispanic, and 4 Multiracial) and 76 Caucasian individuals. Of the 40 minorities, 19 were females, 21 were males; of the whites 41 were female and 35 were male. Not all participants completed all of the dependent variables, so these cell sizes were reduced to 16, 20, 39, and 32 for the psychological scales and further reduced to 15, 19, 38, and 32 for the attribution items.

The demographic distribution of the sample mirrored the county’s demographics, both in terms of sex and in terms of race. In the sample, 51.7% of the respondents were women; in the county, 52.1% of the residents are women. In the sample, 34.5% of the respondents were minorities; in the county 41.5% of the residents are minorities.

Six of the 116 questionnaires were completed by a couple who planned to go into business together. These protocols were reviewed by the research assistants and SBDC counselor who had been present at the sessions, and by the senior author, to determine which member of the couple had completed the materials. In all six cases we were able to identify whether the demographic information and questions had been answered by a male or by a female, so all six "couple" questionnaires were included in the final sample, coded according to the sex of the person who had completed the survey.

Geographic Area

The study was conducted in a small city in the southeastern United States. The county (which includes the city) had a population in 1990 of over two hundred thousand people. The median age of the county residents has been estimated at 32.3 years (including children), which makes our sample quite representative of the average age of the adult population.

The county has two companies that employ over 3,000 people per company. In addition, there is a large military installation within 30 miles. Outside of these two companies and the military, the majority of jobs in the county are provided by firms that employ fewer than 50 people apiece. Tourism is a large employer in the county. The local economy is described as "strong," with a 1.4% increase in overall employment from the third quarter of 1994 to the third quarter of 1995.

Recruitment of Participants

As noted earlier, the research was conducted at the beginning of an evening workshop, offered by the SBDC, on "Getting Started in Your Own Business." This workshop takes place twice a month and covers business start-up basics including personal considerations, developing the business idea, marketing, financing, business structure, and business planning. The workshop is a prerequisite for individual meetings with SBDC counselors. Workshops are promoted through public service announcements in the local print and electronic media, and are advertised in local library branches, banks, Chambers of Commerce, development organizations, licensing bureaus, Congressional offices, and military installations. The attendance averages 20 individuals per workshop, and the data were collected during the seven sessions from September 7, 1995 through December 7, 1995.

Scale Construction

Although participants were completing the research materials at the beginning of a three-hour class (the time scheduled was actually three and a half hours, to allow half an hour for the data collection), there was still insufficient time to administer the complete version of any more than one psychological scale. To broaden the number of characteristics covered, we chose to select items from four different scales previously used in entrepreneurship research. The four scales from which items were selected were the Kirton (1976) adapter-innovator measure of creativity, the Paulhus (1983) Spheres of Control (SOC) scale, the Robinson, Stimpson, Huefner, & Hunt (1991) Entrepreneurial Attitude Orientation (EAO) Scale, and risk items based on research by Shaver, Williams, & Scott (1991). Where scales had been factor analyzed, we selected at least the four highest-loading items from any subscale we included. This produced a complete questionnaire that contained 12 items from the Kirton scale (four items for each of three subscales), 12 items from the Paulhus scale (four items each from three subscales), 16 items from the Robinson, et al. scale (eight items each from two categories, one dealing with achievement and one dealing with innovation), and 5 items dealing with various sorts of business and personal risk (based on research by Shaver, Williams, & Scott).

Following a page of biographical information, the questionnaire began with the two open-ended questions, "What business are you considering starting?" and "Why do you want to start this business?" Respondents were also asked when they anticipated beginning the business. After these questions, the Kirton items appeared, under the general heading "work preferences;" the EAO items appeared next, under a general heading of "business attitudes;" the control and risk items appeared last, mixed together under the general heading "planning and leverage." All items were presented in a Likert format, as statements with which respondents were to disagree or agree (six response alternatives, representing slight, moderate, or strong disagreement or agreement, scored as 7-point scales).

Procedure

Upon arrival at the workshop participants were told about the research. The were told that completion of the biographical information was mandatory (because this was also to be used by the SBDC to keep its own records for the class) but that completion of the remainder of the questionnaire was strictly voluntary. Each participant was told at the registration table that the SBDC was taking part in a larger program of research on entrepreneurial ventures involving investigators from four states. The stated purpose of the research was to "help understand the factors that enable new businesses to begin a business under the best possible circumstances."

At the beginning of the 30 minutes devoted to the research, a business consultant described the study and stressed the need for participants to write down their first impressions in response to both the open-ended (attributional) questions and the closed-ended (scales) items. Participants were told that there were no right or wrong answers, that the research was specifically concerned with their honest impressions. At the conclusion of the 30 minutes, the consultant thanked the participants for their help, picked up the completed surveys, and indicated that people who were not quite finished could complete their surveys at the end of the class session (nearly all participants finished prior to the beginning of the class session).

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Last Updated 4/5/97 by Cheryl Ann Lopez

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