Becoming entrepreneurial: gaining legitimacy in the nascent phase
Journal article, 2013
Purpose - The purpose of the article is to examine how legitimacy as ‘an entrepreneur’ is gained in relation to others during the nascent phase.
Design/methodology/approach – Two firm creating teams are studied over a 12 month incubation period. Data collected through participant observation, documentation and interviews is emploted as narratives in order to explore how nascent entrepreneurs gain legitimacy through social interaction. Positioning theory is used to explore how negotiated rights and duties are employed towards legitimacy gaining strategies.
Findings – Conforming, selecting and manipulating strategies are used to gain legitimacy during a process of firm creation through interactive dialogue with key stakeholders (role-set). Positioning facilitates a process of negotiated rights and duties that helps to define the role of 'entrepreneur' to which the nascent entrepreneurs aspire.
Research limitations/implications - The study is bounded to a specific contextual setting and thus initial findings would benefit from further investigation in comparable and control settings. Findings illustrate the ways in which nascent entrepreneurs employ legitimacy gaining strategies through interaction with key stakeholders, an area of research not well understood. This contributes to an understanding of how entrepreneurial identity is developed.
Practical implications - Designed firm creation environments can facilitate interaction with key stakeholders and support positioning of nascent entrepreneurs as they attempt to gain legitimacy in the role of 'entrepreneur', while creating a new firm. Legitimacy gaining strategies can strengthen entrepreneurial identity development, which can be applied to multiple entrepreneurial processes.
Originality/value - The article accesses individuals in the process of becoming entrepreneurs, a phenomenon most often studied in hindsight. Emphasis on stakeholder interaction as contributing to entrepreneurial development is also understudied. Legitimacy gaining strategies are explored through narratives using positioning theory, an approach which has been discussed conceptually but not readily applied empirically.