“Entrepreneurial growth: The role of international knowledge acquisition as moderated by firm age” was written by Lucia Naldi and Per Davidsson, two accomplished researchers and Professors whose cooperation has resulted in several academic papers and books, including “Small Firm Growth” (Davidsson, Achtenhagen & Naldi, 2010). The article being analysed revolves around entrepreneurship and the dynamics of firm growth. Its title is clear and to the point and its structure consists of an Abstract, an Executive Summary, an Introduction, a Body, a Conclusion and a final section in which the authors discuss the weaknesses of their study and make suggestions for future research. The authors investigate the relationship between knowledge acquisition and firm growth by focussing on the following hypotheses:
In the introduction, the purpose of the article is presented in a clear and concise manner. From an analysis of the materials cited within the text, it emerged that the authors did not misinterpret the work of others. The “Discussion and conclusion” section is based on sound theory and uses pertinent literature to verify the initial hypotheses in light of first-hand longitudinal data obtained from numerous Swedish SMEs.
With that being said, if the authors had condensed, omitted and expanded some sections, it would have certainly been easier to follow their ideas. For example, the literature review and theory portion could have been expanded a little while the conclusion and discussion should have been condensed to some extent. Most importantly, the observations made throughout the article contribute to our understanding of entrepreneurial growth. The experimental methods employed by the authors are described effectively and are suitable for the rationale of the study. Specifically, they divided the data collection process into three phases: in 2000, they interviewed CEOs from 1633 Swedish SMEs and identified 885 firms which were eligible for their study; after a few months, they sent the aforementioned 885 firms a mail questionnaire, to which less than half of them replied; in 2006, they re-contacted the 667 firms that were still in business and invited them to participate in a phone interview in order to collect information about their entrepreneurial growth (Naldi & Davidsson, 2014, pp.691-692). For accuracy and consistency’s sake, the authors performed confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and resorted to two-factor model, variance inflation factors (VIF), control variables and moderators. They analysed data through correlations and descriptive statistics, logit link function, Durbin–Wu–Hausman test, STATA software, Bernoulli variance function (Naldi & Davidsson, 2014). The content of the article is not duplicated or repeated.
“The influence of firm age and intangible resources on the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and firm growth among Japanese SMEs” by Yoshihiro Eshima and Brian S. Anderson explores the impact of firm age on the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation (EO) and organisational growth among Japanese businesses. The article’s title is straightforward as it enabled the reader to predict what themes will be covered in it. The author based his study on three different hypotheses:
The relationship between EO and organisational growth is more positive among young firms than it is among older firms
The relationship between EO and organisational growth is more positive among firms with a significant amount of intangible resources than it is among firms lacking such resources
EO, firm age and intangible resources affect organisational growth in different ways: a) the relationship between EO and growth is very strong among younger firms possessing a significant amount of intangible resources; b) the relationship between EO and growth is relatively strong among older firms that own a significant amount of intangible resources; c) the relationship between EO and growth is relatively weak among younger firms with no intangible resources and d) the relationship between EO and growth is very weak among older firms with no intangible resources.
While the Introduction illustrates the scope of the research and identifies the main themes that are going to be covered in the following sections, its excessive length and frequent departures from the main subject require a great deal of attention and concentration not to get lost. The researchers do not seem to have distorted the work of other authors. This was determined by analysing the numerous sources cited throughout the article. Since the authors tested three rather complex hypotheses, it would have been better if their calculations, discussion and analysis had been presented in a more concise and understandable way, while the conclusion section could have been expanded to some degree. The article being analysed has a detailed appendix which explains how the authors ensured consistency and reliability during the data collection phase. The authors succeeded in depicting their exploratory approach and chosen techniques in such a way to allow the reader to appreciate the advantages of their methodology. Specifically, the authors selected eight variables, namely firm growth, EO, firm age, intangible resource advantage and four control variables. They then resorted to hierarchical linear regression analysis to test their hypotheses and clearly justified their choice by discussing the benefits of this statistical technique.
The resources and materials presented in this article are not copied – even the information contained in the figures and tables results from the authors’ own calculations / statistical analyses. The authors carried out t-test comparisons to prevent non-response bias from contaminating their findings, and used adequate techniques to guarantee internal reliability. At the end of the study, the authors develop a new framework based on firm age, intangible resources and EO, whose main purpose is to help create new configurations for SMEs to achieve greater growth. Overall, their study reveals that both firm age and the different organisational contexts in which young and old SMEs operate influence their ability to achieve entrepreneurial growth.
What makes “The effect of small business managers’ growth motivation on firm growth: A longitudinal study” by Johan Wiklund and Frédéric Delmar particularly interesting is the fact that while most studies focus on the impact of employee motivation on organisational performance, this study investigates the relationship between managers’ motivation and firm growth.
In the Introduction, the authors point out that their chosen research topic stems from previous research demonstrating that there exists a strong relationship between growth motivation – as well as other psychological factors – and actual growth. After conducting an extensive review of previous studies concerning goal-directed behaviour, the authors identify a gap in existing research: they observe that researchers have failed to address the impact of past performance / previous growth and the stability of motives on the relationship between small business managers’ motivation and future entrepreneurial performance. All external sources are properly referenced, thus making it easy for the reader to verify their credibility and reliability. Before presenting their research questions, the authors devote a great deal of attention to previous research and motivation theories, on the basis of which they formulate four hypotheses:
As can be inferred from the above hypotheses, the authors chose to focus on two main variables, namely growth and growth motivation, whose possible interactions are portrayed in a clear and understandable manner in Figure 2 (Delmar, & Wiklund, 2008, p.441).
Two samples were obtained from a publicly-available database where all incorporated Swedish companied must disclose their financial information. Data were collected by interviewing the selected companies’ managing directors via phone; since response rates were remarkably high, the risk of non-response bias was very low. Moreover, data were collected at two different points in time for both samples, thus minimising the risk of cognitive bias.
The authors decided to measure growth in terms of sales and employment as previous research has demonstrated that these are excellent indicators of firm growth. The measurements, statistics, and results are perfectly adequate and legitimate. The authors relied on correlations, logarithmic transformation, the so-called Winsor technique, the global growth intention index, Cronbach alpha measurement, specific measures for growth motivation and control variables to test their hypotheses. Heckman-type correction models, Pearson correlations, hypothesised relationships, Cross-lagged regressions, and four diverse regression models were used to reach relevant conclusions (Delmar & Wiklund, 2008).
As a thorough, comprehensive and informative article, “The effect of small business managers’ growth motivation on firm growth: A longitudinal study” could certainly assist future researchers in investigating the relationship between firm growth and managers’ motivation in different contexts.
This section compares and contrasts the articles “The influence of firm age and intangible resources on the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and firm growth among Japanese SMEs (Anderson & Eshima, 2013)”, “The effect of small business managers’ growth motivation on firm growth: A longitudinal study (Delmar & Wiklund, 2008)” and the “Entrepreneurial growth: The role of international knowledge acquisition as moderated by firm age (Naldi & Davidsson, 2014)” in such a way to identify relevant similarities and differences.
First of all, two of the articles being analysed were published in the Journal of Business Venturing while the third article was published in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. Both journals are peer-reviewed which means that their contents are reviewed by experts before being published. Their target audience clearly consists of students, scholars and practitioners who are familiar with entrepreneurial research, as well as management and entrepreneurship theory. In fact, anyone who does not have an economic or management background would probably find it difficult to understand the reasoning behind the authors’ methodological choices and selected approaches to the study of entrepreneurship. Anderson & Eshima (2013) and Delmar & Wiklund’s (2008) studies are quite similar from a thematic perspective as they both focus on the relationship between firm age and entrepreneurial growth. Firm age is an increasingly popular theme in entrepreneurial research as more and more researchers are starting to appreciate its impact on performance (Loderer & Waelchli, 2009). On the other hand, Delmar & Wiklund’s (2008) study revolves around a more qualitative topic, i.e. managers’ motivation. All three articles are characterised by clear research questions and hypotheses whose main goal is to address more or less serious gaps in the existing body of literature. They all have well-designed Introduction sections which illustrate the rationale of the research, as well as its significance and scope. The themes covered in these articles suggest that their authors are interested in taking entrepreneurial research to the next level by pushing existing boundaries and encouraging scholars to ask themselves more focussed questions and establish more complex relations among variables whose interaction had never been explored before.
While the authors resorted to different data collection methods and statistical techniques, their reliance on quantitative research methods suggests that they all intended to convey reliability, accuracy and certainty. Moreover, they all devoted sufficient attention to existing theories and external sources, which they analysed in a critical manner and referenced correctly. Since none of the articles being analysed explored any sociological or psychological aspects of management or entrepreneurship, the authors did not really need to list the potential ethical issues associated with their research. With that being said, since all authors obtained their data from human participants, it would have been appropriate to specify how they guaranteed confidentiality and protected their respondents from harm. Moreover, since both Delmar & Wiklund (2008) and Naldi & Davidsson (2014) relied on phone interviews to collect some of their data, it would have been interesting to know whether they simply administered fully structured questionnaire or asked a number of open or semi-open questions. On the other hand, Anderson & Eshima (2013) opted for a fully quantitative research tool, i.e. a survey, and adopted a much simpler approach to data collection, which makes it easier for the reader to understand the reasons behind their decisions and identify the main phases of their study.
What makes these journal articles equally informative is that they all assist the reader in familiarising themselves with previous interpretations and perceptions of the themes they explore. As a result, they all enable the reader to gain a better understanding of the current state of entrepreneurial research, whilst motivating them to learn more about the under researched factors that influence firm growth (besides employee satisfaction, team work, good leadership and so forth). None of the articles misleads the reader or provides false information. Their titles are engaging, clear and representative of their content (Naldi & Davidsson, 2014).
The statistical methods, techniques and measurements employed by the authors are highly effective and based on sound research which has demonstrated their scientific validity. The tables, figures, and diagrams featured in them are easy to understand and summarise otherwise complex data sets. Being scientific misconduct a significant and remarkably common issue, great attention was paid to academic honesty, credibility and reliability when comparing these three articles. As explained by Brauser (2014), researchers are constantly pressured to produce interesting findings in order to get published and advance in their careers. As a result of that, a significant percentage of researchers have admitted engaging in data falsification and fabrication to obtain recognition (Brauser, 2014).
All of the articles being reviewed illustrate their respective sampling and data collection processes very accurately, thus enabling the reader to either access the data they used or verify their credibility with relative ease. It is important to consider that Naldi & Davidsson (2014) and Delmar & Wiklund (2008) obtained their data from Swedish SMEs, whereas Anderson & Eshima (2013) focussed on Japanese SMEs. Consequently, their findings are highly contextual and more research will have to be conducted in order to reach more generalisable conclusions.
From a methodological point of view, while all the articles adopt an exploratory approach as they investigate relatively new and under researched themes, the authors speculate on the outcome of their respective studies by formulating a number of well-defined hypotheses. In other words, all of them resort to inductive reasoning to then reach a new theory or model. With regards to Naldi & Davidsson (2014) and Anderson & Eshima’s (2013) research, both studies produced encouraging and coherent results about the moderating impact of firm age on firm growth. On the other hand, Delmar & Wiklund (2008) were only able to verify one of their hypotheses, i.e. managers’ motivation has a positive impact on firm growth intended as employment growth; however, their findings did not support their hypothesis that managers’ growth motivation has a positive impact on firm growth intended as sales growth.
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