Towards a Theory of Entrepreneurial Resilience: A Case Study Analysis of New Zealand SME Owner Operators

Herb De Vries, Christchurch College of Education
Michelle Shields, Christchurch College of Education

Abstract: In this article, the concept of resilience is used in the study of entrepreneurial sustainability. This case study enquiry contends that resilience is presented as a ‘set of qualities’ and as such, an entrepreneurial resilience construct can be thought of as an amalgamation of behavioural patterns. Propositions that have been identified in the resilience construct are: ‘flexibility’ displayed through a high tolerance for ambiguity and adaptability; ‘motivation’ reflected in self-efficacy and a need for achievement and autonomy; ‘perseverance’ as in being very accepting of situations, determined and responding well to problems or adversity; and ‘optimism’ demonstrated by a positive outlook and viewing failure differently. To explore the nature of the entrepreneurial resilience construct, working entrepreneurs (owner-operators of small to medium-sized enterprises or SMEs) were interviewed about their experiences in building a sustainable enterprise. Results identified strong resilience factors among study participants predominantly in respects to ‘Holistic Positivism’ (a re-categorisation of the optimism proposition), ‘Motivation’ and ‘Perseverance’ and to a lesser extent in ‘Flexibility’; and within each category specific behavioural properties were determined.