A comparative study of entrepreneurial competencies of small business' owners in the upper peninsula of Michigan, USA and companies winning the top prize in Brazil.

Author:Boas, Ana Alice Vilas


The globalization effects in the economy require a new productivity conception. "Nowadays, the companies, mainly the large ones, will not survive in this period of fast changes and innovation unless they acquire entrepreneurial competences" (Drucker, 2005: 200). Such a conception tends to assume the significance of global performance; thus, in the whole world, the interest in entrepreneurship has grown up. The entrepreneurs show themselves as the main creators of working positions, which generate wealth. An understanding of behaviors related to entrepreneurial competences is critical.

For (Benicio de Melo et al., 2006) in the organizational studies field, including training and vocational development, it has been the global ambit with emphasis on the ability of improvement requirements and capabilities that generates reflections about professional practices.

According to (Baron and Shane, 2007), the entrepreneur has always been around, and they have always received attention in their societies; nevertheless, remarkable evidence points out that people are more and more seeking or taking on this role. For these authors many factors are involved. First of all, media is full of enthusiastic reports of successful entrepreneurs. Secondly, there was a fundamental change in what is called "employment bound contract," that is, in the past, since the individuals performed their functions well, they would go on working; today, in a era in which the companies have restructured themselves, this type of agreement was discontinued. Thirdly, there was change in the basic values. Research reveals that youth, in particular, prefer a more independent life-style offering choices.

In Brazil, the studies started to take shape in the 1990's when entities such as SEBRAE (Servigo Brasileiro de Apoio as Micro e Pequenas Empresas) and SOFTEX (Sociedade Brasileirapara Exportagao de Software) were launched (Dornelas, 2001).

"The word 'entrepreneur' has its origin in France and defines the one that takes risks and starts something new, different, to change the current situation and seek, in a constant way, new business opportunity, having as focus the innovation and the creation of value" (Dutra, 2003:35). Kirzner mentioned in (Dornelas, 2001: 31), "The entrepreneur is the one who creates a balance, finding a clear and positive position in an environment of chaos and turbulence, that is, identify opportunities in the current order."

Schumpeter (1934) describes the entrepreneur as the one who causes the existing economic order to unbalance through the introduction of new products and services by creating new ways of organization or by exploring new resources and materials.

Nowadays there is no consensus about the definition of entrepreneurship as an area of business or as an activity in which people are involved. It is a process that moves itself in distinct phases but closely related to each other: recognition of an opportunity; deciding to go on and put together the initial resources; launching a new enterprise; building up the success and collecting the rewards (Baron and Shane, 2007).

In literature revisions about small-size and medium-size companies' competitiveness, (Man et al., 1999) recognizes three key-aspects that affect these companies' competitiveness: internal factors, external environment and the entrepreneurial influence. These factors bring impact to the company's performance in particular the entrepreneurial influence as for the competence in the behavioral perspective or process. The entrepreneur's demographic, psychological and behavioral characteristics as well as his or her managerial skills and technical know-how are often cited as the most influential factors related to the performance of a small and medium sized enterprise (SME) (Man, Lau and Chan, 1998).

Provided that entrepreneurial competences are considered important and consequently may be seen as the entrepreneur's total ability to conduct company development with success, this research aims to identify the entrepreneurial competences profile of those who own the Brazilian Business TOP Prize (TOP Empresarial, 2006) and to establish the relationship between these competencies and their competitiveness strategies. It will also compare these to entrepreneurs in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan (MI).


According to (Dutra, 2004), some authors, most of them north-Americans as (McClelland, 1973; Boyatzis, 1982 and Spencer Jr. and Spencer, 1993), state that competence means the set of qualifications that one has to execute a work with a superior level of performance. During the 80s and 90s, many authors contested this definition of competence associated to the knowledge stored and people abilities, and they seek to associate the concept in their realizations and those things provided, produced and/or delivered by them. The fact of a person keeping the required qualifications for a work does not guarantee that he will deliver what is demanded from him/her. For (Le Boterf, 2003: 48), and other European authors state, "The competence requires an instrumentalization in knowing and capabilities, however it is not reduced to this instrumentalization." Yet according to the author, there is no competence unless it is put into action; the competence can only be competence in a specific situation. It is contingent. The know-how to act does not consist only in knowing to deal with an incident, but, equally, in knowing how to anticipate it. Nowadays, authors seek to think of competence as a summing up of these two thoughts.

Other authors approach the question of competence associated to the person acting in professional comfort areas, applying its strong points and having greater possibilities of realization and happiness (Schein, 1990; Derr, 1988). In this way, the person grows by mental capability, experience, knowledge and understanding and world comprehension and superior mental resistance and allows for adding value to the subordinate workers (Dutra, 2004).

Thus it is perceived there is a large diversity of concepts about competences. For this study, competence shall be defined as: a set of characteristics involving different personality traits, abilities and knowledge that are influenced by experience, capacity, education, family values and other demographic variables of the entrepreneur (Man and Lau, 2000).

Successful Entrepreneur

In studies about entrepreneurs there is a consensus about a set of attitudes present in the subject entrepreneur. There are variables, of individual levels (techniques, motivations and characteristics of the entrepreneur); of interpersonal levels of grouping (ideas, information from other people, clients, potential employees, effectiveness in the interactions with risk capitalists) and, of social levels (governmental political, economical conditions, technology) that permeate all phases of the enterprising process (Baron and Shane, 2007).

To conduct a new enterprise in a satisfactory way, the entrepreneur needs to count on a broad variety of social abilities. These refer to a set of competences (isolated abilities) that allow the individuals to interact with each other.

Studies of Nahapiet and Ghoshal, mentioned in (Baron and Shane, 2007), identified five social abilities: Social perception--precision to understand others, including the correct understanding of their reasons, characteristics and intentions; Expressivities--ability to express their own emotions in such a way that they can be readily perceived by the others; Image administration--proficiency in the usage of techniques to induce positive reactions in the others when people meet for the first time; Persuasion and influence--ability to use several techniques to change attitude or behavior of others into the desired directions and, social adaptability ability to adapt to a broad variety of social situations and to feel comfortable with individuals that are living so diversely.

"The entrepreneurs are differentiated people, who have a singular motivation, are passionate for what they do and don't feel satisfied just by being another one in the multitude; they want to leave a legacy" (Dornelas, 2001: 19). Thus, the successful entrepreneur has extra characteristics, besides administrator attributes.

For (Dutra, 2003: 18), "The difference from the entrepreneur to the common administrator is that the entrepreneur goes beyond the normal tasks related to the administrators; they have a more broad view and are not happy just doing what has to be done." They are provided with some personal attributes that, summed up, are sociologic and environmental characteristics that allow the blossoming of a new company. They are individuals that make a difference.

According to (Salim et al., 2004: 5-6), the ten commandments of successful contractors that are important qualities and common to a great part of this group of entrepreneurs are:

Take risks--to consciously take risk, having courage to face challenges, of trying a new enterprise, of seeking, by himself the best ways, to have auto-determination

Identify opportunities--to be alert, and perceive, in the right moment, the opportunities that the market offers and unite the proper conditions for the realization of a good business, be aware of information

Knowledge--the greater the domain of a contractor in the business field, the greater is the chance for success. This knowledge may come from practical experience, information obtained in specialized publications, in educational centers or even from tips from people in similar enterprises.

Organization--to have the capability to use human resources, materials--financial and technological--in a rational way

Take decision--take correct decisions is a process that demands an information survey, a cold analysis of the situation, evaluation of the alternatives and the selection of the most adequate solution; the real entrepreneur is capable of taking the right...

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