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MY PERSPECTIVE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP, 1997

 Before dealing with findings, it seems only fair to share my current perspective of entrepreneurship.  I am still as devoted to the views of Schumpeter today, as I was 50 years ago.  I would still exclude, as did Schumpeter, small business and life–style "proprietorships".  They constitute a noble and useful group, but their impact and behavior patterns do not warrant them being in the entrepreneurship domain.  Most can't behave like entrepreneurs nor do they want to if they could.  Many small business people may learn entrepreneurial behaviors in–the–firm through their experiences, and move out of their class into entrepreneurship.  Significant individual performance, not aggregate performance is the key, however.

Through my life–long focus, study, and experience, I have come to understand entrepreneurial behavior far better today than I did then.  I also see a depth and breath to economic, social, and political impact that was not apparent to me 50 years ago.  Technology acceleration has shortened the time span of many founders emerging into the entrepreneurial ranks.  Their worthiness is assured by their continuing seizure of new opportunities. Their worth is proved by outstanding executive performance and lofty goals, not by the fact they were on the starting line.  Non–founder executives flourish in established corporations,  often with surprising zest and effect–-not only staving off any sign of maturation and decline, but inflecting their firms, upward, into new heights of achievement and influence.

This dynamics puts a strange twist on the entrepreneurial impact on society.  For example, the job creation of rising firms is often matched by the job reduction of the larger firms.  Both effects are due to entrepreneurial action, usually bringing increased revenue, increased margins, and increased profits to both.  The demise of large domestic industry may be caused by unintentional consequences of domestic entrepreneurial action actually aimed elsewhere, or by intentional consequences of domestic or off–shore entrepreneurs broadening their marketing arena.  Loss of domestic jobs in entrepreneurial firms may be offset by job creation in less developed off–shore lands.  These kinds of entrepreneurial actions hold true for capital displacement as well.

Larger entrepreneurial corporations or institutions catalyze technology transfer to emerging entrepreneurial firms.  Often, as the emergents blossom, they are harvested by large entrepreneurial firms, embracing and utilizing their acquired swifter and cheaper developments and their now test–proven executives and scientists.  The larger firms find economy and power in further consolidation through acquisition.  In the process, they spin off entrepreneurial divisions in an effort to optimize the consolidation and increase total value for stockholders.  This action creates new entrepreneurial opportunity for rising executives.

On occasion an entrepreneurial company falters, and another steps in to fill the void.  All these activities are aided and abetted by a very active free market exchange, entrepreneurial venture capitalists, and market in high risk bonds.

These are the haunts of "my" entrepreneurs.  They have a fairly broad range.  A large part of my research pursuits have been addressed in understanding the behavior of all these entrepreneurs. I've looked at behaviors that count—those that have an impacting effect, that give entrepreneurs their clout.  In one basic sentence, I would summarize their talents as "A basic mastery of the fundamentals and the ability to improvise from that base."  A mastery primarily obtained from industry experience.

I believe my entrepreneur to be consistent with the widely accepted Stevenson and Jarillo definition of entrepreneurship—"the process by which individuals pursue opportunities without regard to resources they currently control" (1990).  Its appeal is its to–the–point simplicity—and implying action without limits, without boundaries.  The more recent adaptation of that definition—adding the adjective "alienable" to resources, is even more to the point since it recognizes the very definite advantages of in–industry experience to the entrepreneur (Hart, Stevenson and Dial, 1995). It's an advantage obtained whether applied to new venture or to the same firm's entrepreneurial ability to achieve.

 My own adaptation to Stevenson's definition would be as follows:  The continuous process by which individuals pursue opportunities without regard to resources they currently control, with the intent of increasing value and/or advantage.  I have made the underlined additions because entrepreneurship should never be considered a single event.  It is a continuing, non–ending process in search of increasing value and ever increasing advantage.

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