Entrepreneurial intensity: the influence of antecedents to corporate entrepreneurship in firms operating in South Africa
Scheepers, Margarietha Johanna
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The turbulent, rapidly changing knowledge economy has forced enterprises to become more entrepreneurial in order to capitalise on new opportunities and to create value. Previous research has shown the financial and non-financial benefits of corporate entrepreneurship (CE), but the implementation and management of CE remains problematic. Despite heightened awareness and interest by both scholars and practitioners in studying and better understanding entrepreneurship within large organisations, CE is still regarded as an emerging field of inquiry. Furthermore, limited research has thus far been conducted on CE and entrepreneurial intensity (EI) in the South African context. A review of the CE literature revealed a research gap that culminated in the following research question: How do the antecedents to CE influence the entrepreneurial intensity of firms active in e-business operating in South Africa? To address the research question stated above a literature review of antecedents to CE, and entrepreneurial intensity was conducted, and an empirical study was executed. The literature review emphasised five salient internal antecedents to CE: management support for CE; autonomy of employees; rewards for CE; time and resource availability; and flexible organisational boundaries. The external antecedents which influence CE were identified as munificent, opportunity-rich environments, and hostile environments filled with threats. Other factors that also play a role in influencing the level of entrepreneurship in enterprises are the type of industry, size and age of a company, managerial influence and the role of the individual in the CE process. The level of entrepreneurship was defined as entrepreneurial intensity, a function of frequency and degree of entrepreneurship. To address the research problem, empirical cross-sectional telephone surveys were conducted in two stages. The sample selected for the study was companies active in e-business operating in South Africa and aware of innovation practices. Two groups of companies were identified, namely JSE companies and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies. The key respondent targeted in JSE companies was the Information Technology (IT) Manager or the Chief Information Office (CIO), while the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Sales Manager was the key respondent in ICT companies. The population consisted of 715 companies. The response rate for first stage of the study was 44%, while the response rate was 20% for the second stage of the study. Measurement instruments were adapted, developed and revised where necessary to ensure the reliability and validity of the data. The collected data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The findings indicated that internal antecedents to CE have a significantly stronger influence on degree of entrepreneurship than munificent, external factors. This finding underlines the important role managers can play in providing a supportive climate for CE. The prominent internal antecedents in this study were management support for CE, autonomy of employees and rewards for CE. The findings also emphasised the importance of a positive, munificent business climate, as perceived by managers inside the organisations. Furthermore, the findings suggested that the more frequently enterprises act entrepreneurially, the higher their degree of entrepreneurship should be. Differences in EI, degree of entrepreneurship, internal and external antecedents were also discernable between JSE and ICT companies, with ICT companies showing higher levels of entrepreneurship than JSE companies. Moreover, the findings suggested that the size of a company did not influence EI, but the age of companies showed a negative relationship with EI, degree of entrepreneurship and the internal antecedents to CE. It appears that as companies become older, their internal environments become less supportive of entrepreneurial behaviour. The most important contribution of this study is the testing of CE-theories in the South African context. The managerial implications of the behavioural model tested in the study are that top and middle management could create a supportive environment for CE, while munificent environments encourage entrepreneurial behaviour. Measurement instruments have been developed, which may be used by managers, consultants and other researchers to measure these phenomena in future. Furthermore, the findings suggest that there are country differentials with regard to CE, while opportunities for further research were also identified.
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