Strategic Entrepreneurship (3rd edition)

Tony Hines (Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



Hines, T. (2004), "Strategic Entrepreneurship (3rd edition)", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 298-300.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is the third edition of this text. The text has been updated and has a more extensive coverage of economic and psychological aspects of entrepreneurship. There are also new sections on researching entrepreneurship and ideas for projects and dissertations, which students and their supervisors should find of practical help. The book also has a comprehensive index, which will be of immense value to researchers. The title of the text is somewhat strange in itself since one cannot really envisage that entrepreneurship would not be strategic in nature. However, it does signal a particular managerial approach to the study of the subject.

Entrepreneurship as it has developed into mainstream business school curricula has almost universally followed an American “big business” model of development. The selection of topics included in the text follow a planning model of business activity. It is very task oriented in approach. There may be two important reasons for this: first, the author's preferred approach to the subject which he justifies and second, maybe the ideas contained within the field of entrepreneurship can only be cohesive and neatly packaged for students by adopting a prescriptive approach to the topics under investigation. One cannot help but conclude that perhaps entrepreneurship as it is currently construed in business school education is little more than a potpourri of other disciplines drawn together in a different recipe. Just like a chef puts similar ingredients in a pot to make different dishes then perhaps this is what we do as educationalists or writers when we want to establish a new wrapper for some established, tried and tested, traditional ideas. In many ways this text reminds me of management books before Mintzberg's criticisms relating to what managers really do. They planned, coordinated, controlled, motivated, organised and implemented and perhaps that is what comes across strongly in this text. Perhaps the book simply reflects the immaturity of the discipline?

What is also a niggling question at the back of my own mind when I read most books on entrepreneurship, and this book is no exception, is the ignorance of context. Is entrepreneurship a generic discipline or is entrepreneurship located within some geographical, social, cultural and economic context that makes the study more enriching than simply a course of principles of…..entrepreneurship? For example, if I were writing a text on entrepreneurship having been born in China or India would I be making similar choices about what to include in a text of this nature? However, this said where this text is an improvement on the many offerings in the market place is in its selection of case studies, which are located at the end of each chapter. The cases are well chosen and do bring the subjects studied within the chapters to life. Nevertheless, the cases are more suited to a study of business strategy than entrepreneurship per se. Which takes me back to my original concerns about the title of the text. I think what we have is a very good management planning book entitled Strategic Entrepreneurship.

The book is aimed at the growing numbers of students on degree and management courses who study entrepreneurship. One cannot help but wonder if many of these students will ever practise entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship as it is explained within the covers of this text seems to encompass within its recipe management, strategy, human resource management, financial management, organisational management and a pinch of psychology. The author takes a particular stance in claiming that entrepreneurship is about behaviour and that can be taught, presumably a shot across the bows of those entrepreneurs who say entrepreneurs are born and it cannot be taught.

In the preface to the text the author comments that the book's third edition coincides with the tenth anniversary of his experience as a teacher of entrepreneurship as a management specialism. In some ways this might explain the approach to deciding what is included within a course on entrepreneurship and what is omitted. If one views entrepreneurship as a management specialism as opposed to a subject in its own right then one might assume a managerial approach to the study of the topic. The conditions that give rise to entrepreneurial behaviour seem to be minimised in the author's justification for his choice of common themes which he says are “common processes”. He also argues that strategic management provides an appropriate language in which to talk about entrepreneurship ignoring the socio‐cultural context in which many entrepreneurial activities are spawned. Furthermore, the argument that personality is unimportant in entrepreneurial behaviour or in any study of entrepreneurship is in itself a flawed concept. This latter imbalance has been somewhat redressed in the latest edition (see Chapter 3 “The entrepreneurial personality”) but still appears to overlook a significant tranche of literature in its selective approach to the topic. Witness also the current obsession of US and UK academics with studies of leadership.

The author has structured the book to encourage active learning and claims it is about decisions and not simply knowledge, frameworks not just theories and recognises that entrepreneurs take strategic decisions not just tactical ones. The entrepreneur according to this author must be effective in marketing, finance and operations not in any functional sense but in terms of the whole organisation. The material in the book presents ideas in a logical and accessible format. Chapters are organised into four sections. Part one provides introductory concepts that the author refers to as a toolkit. It also aims to place entrepreneurs in a “proper” context which turns out to be placing the entrepreneur as “just a manager, albeit a very effective one” according to the author. Chapter 5 in the first section is a gem entitled “Researching entrepreneurship”. In this chapter the author has written a brief clear overview of developments in the field and charts developments of an academic discipline identifying main themes emerging. It is a relatively short chapter worthy of expanded consideration given its importance in defining entrepreneurship as a discipline. Part two focuses on decision‐making and is a good summary of strategic concepts following a prescriptive “business planning” model. Part three concerns itself with initiation and development of a business venture covering aspects of strategic positioning, competitiveness, identifying gaps in the market, using appropriate information sources, taking advantage of opportunities, and attracting human and financial resources to support the operation. In some ways Part three could have been Part one since it is here that the author focuses on market opportunity, opportunism, resources and competitiveness issues. The prescriptive approach continues in part four with chapters covering growth, expansion, leadership and the changing role moving from entrepreneur to manager in whatever guise, CEO, president, visionary leader, manager of business development, technical specialist, promoter or simply by moving to start up a new business now that their mature organisation offers little continuing interest for them.

Nevertheless, this text has much to commend it. The book is well researched in the topics it does include within its pages under the banner of entrepreneurship. It is a good read for students who want to develop grounding in a number of key discipline areas that underpin strategic management. In particular the prescriptive planning approaches. The book is well laid out, well structured and the publishers have done a good job on using colour to lift the key ideas on the page. Key learning outcomes stand out from the page in orange boxes. The summary of key ideas within each chapter helps the reader to identify the key learning points and reflect on what they have read. I particularly like the section in each chapter on research themes and perhaps this is where the book is at its most useful to students and tutors since they can select topics for investigation in class discussion or through project work. The further readings are comprehensive in some areas. However, one cannot help but think that some of these references would be of little use to the modern student of entrepreneurship except for establishing a historical perspective of development.

However, to be fair to the author, Philip Wickham, writing a book in such a fragmented and developing field of literature as entrepreneurship is no easy task even within 619 pages. The author has a right to make choices and justify them and clearly. Wickham is guided and influenced by his experiences teaching the subject. The text contains many thought provoking ideas and uses many different frameworks to examine the topics under study within the book. The text is well written, well structured and worth a place on any reading list where entrepreneurship, strategy or simply management are taught. The text also has a companion Web site with resources to support the text which teachers and students will find very useful.

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