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DISCUSSION

    Because growth is both the essence and a key intended outcome of entrepreneurship (Sexton & Smilor, 1997), it is imperative to determine the relationships among strategies, competitive actions oriented to market timing, and financial performance in HGEFs.  In fact, Gertz and Baptista (1995) argue that no company ever shrank to greatness.  Thus, they suggest that the current fads of downsizing, restructuring, and reengineering must change.  Only through growth can firms earn above–average returns over the long term.  Moreover, it seems that many large businesses are not growing, their profits are under pressure, and shareholders’ demands are greater than they were previously (Gertz & Baptista, 1995).  Alternatively, some HGEFs are achieving significant success as reflected by financial performance.  The purpose of this research has been to enhance our understanding of the variables contributing to this noteworthy success.

    The results reported herein suggest that both the LCS and the HQS can lead to higher positive returns for HGEFs.  However, our data also suggest that not many of these firms are using a LCS; instead, most of them are employing a HQS.  Additionally, the results indicate that all new product market entry competitive actions can be successful when implemented effectively.  First mover, early second mover, and competitive parity actions all were positively related to firms’ ROS.  Because all of these competitive actions are independent, it is interesting to note that they all can be successful and are related to financial returns more strongly than the HQS.
 An interesting outcome from our research is that a TBS may be irrelevant for HGEFs.  We found no relationship between the use of this strategy and firm performance.  HGEFs tend to be small and agile.  Because other entrepreneurial firms have similar characteristics, it may be difficult for HGEFs to gain advantage over their rivals with the TBS.  Competitive entrepreneurial firms may imitate more easily the TBS (Barney, 1995).  They may be able to gain an advantage over large firms, however, because these competitors tend to move more slowly as a result of bureaucratic structures and practices.  If the TBS is largely irrelevant in HGEFs, its implementation (in terms of competitive actions used for entry to markets) is also likely to be irrelevant.  As such, it is not surprising that the interactions examined with this strategy had no significant effect on performance.

    The major surprise from this study may be the negative interaction effect between a HQS and the actions used to enter markets with new products.  This finding could suggest that the HQS is not implemented consistently through new product introductions.  Entrepreneurial firms may lack the managerial depth and robust resource base required to integrate first mover competitive actions with the HQS.

    Alternatively, Sherman and Hitt (1996) argue that TQM systems often conflict with innovation.  They suggest that many prior TQM researchers devalued innovation (e.g., Imai, 1986).  Being first to market with an innovation may require a radically new product to be successful.  However, most organizational changes that are designed primarily to improve various aspects of quality tend to be of an evolutionary or incremental nature (Sherman & Hitt, 1996).  Obviously, innovation can also be incremental.  This type of innovation fits best with a TQM system or program and a HQS.  Alternatively,  entrepreneurial firms are more likely to produce radical innovations because of their ability and focus.

    Quality and innovation can be integrated, but doing so is not easy.  Quality programs that support a HQS are linear in nature; however, many innovations, particularly radical ones, are nonlinear.  As such, these two approaches may require different managerial mindsets, managerial styles, organizational cultures, and implementation strategies.  It is important to note that our results show that both approaches, the HQS and first mover competitive actions, have independent positive effects on performance.  However, the interaction of these variables is negative.  This may be an important finding—one warranting examination in future research studies.

    High–quality products are often necessary to be competitive in domestic and global markets.  However, the technological revolution and global competition call for an emphasis on innovation.  Our research suggests the HGEFs can be innovative or can produce high–quality products; but, they find difficulty in doing both while simultaneously achieving high performance.  This may be because HGEFs have not developed the multiple core competencies that are perhaps required to implement the HQS as a first mover.  It is particularly important that future research focus on how different strategies and market entry competitive actions should be implemented in HGEFs.  However, our research suggests that HGEFs can employ a HQS or an innovation strategy that allows them to achieve competitive parity or be early or first in the market with new products and achieve strong positive financial returns.  Thus, in summary, our study provides important implications for both future entrepreneurship research and for managerial practices in HGEFs.

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