Numerous studies show that small business and entrepreneurism are vital to the health of our nation’s economy. In fact, over the last decade, these types of ventures account for 70% of economic growth, 75% of new jobs, and represent 99% of all employers. However, there remains a high rate of failure in these ventures, with over 60% of them failing within 6 years. Studies show that one reason for this failure is that entrepreneurs fail to learn new knowledge/skills as their organizations grow.
Unfortunately, only a limited number of studies have been conducted to investigate the learning process of entrepreneurs. The purpose of this descriptive ethnography was twofold: (1) explore the learning and development challenges experienced by entrepreneurs in the various phases of organizational growth, and (2) explore how entrepreneurs recognize the need to learn and develop plans to address the challenges. Once learning and development challenges, along with corresponding knowledge and skills, are identified, then learning solutions can be developed and offered to help entrepreneurs acquire them.
This descriptive ethnography was conducted with nine entrepreneurs from Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan. Results included primary themes of learning challenges and the knowledge/skills needed to overcome them. Means of recognizing the need to learn new knowledge/skills and learning tools to acquire them were identified. Finally, participants gave nine pieces of advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
This study resulted in 14 findings regarding entrepreneurial learning. Recommendations were provided for entrepreneurs, learning solution providers, and lending institutions. Several additional recommendations for future research emerged from this study, which are noted.