My research is focused on how young and small firms can overcome the disadvantages of being new and small and survive to become older and larger. One line of research has investigated the development of reputation in new firms, with a recent focus on how entrepreneurial firms are using social media. Another has examined how small firms successfully enter foreign markets, and how Canadian public policy can best support them. I am also involved in a project studying the financing of social ventures. Some of my recent publications are listed below.
This research has received Best Paper Awards from the Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management, the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, the International Council for Small Business, the Canadian Council for Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and the Canadian Bankers Association.
Publications on entrepreneurs’ use of social media
Social Interaction Via New Social Media: (How) Can Interactions on Twitter Affect Effectual Thinking and Behavior? Journal of Business Venturing 26 (1), 1-18. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
Social interaction plays a central role in effectuation processes, yet we know little about the implications for effectuation when an entrepreneur interacts via particular channels such as social media. To address this gap, our paper uses an inductive, theory-building methodology to develop propositions regarding how effectuation processes are impacted when entrepreneurs adopt Twitter. Twitter is a microblogging platform that can facilitate a marked increase in interaction. We posit that Twitter-based interaction can trigger effectual cognitions, but that high levels of interaction via this medium can lead to effectual churn. We also posit that there is one factor, perceived time affordability, that predicts the level of social interaction in which an entrepreneur engages via Twitter. Further, we propose two factors that moderate the consequences of social interaction through Twitter. These factors are community orientation and community norm adherence. Implications for our understanding of effectuation, of social interaction, and of the impact of social media on entrepreneurial firms are discussed.
Publications on reputation development in young firms
When Nobody Knows Your Name: Country-of-Origin as a Reputational Signal for Online Businesses 2011, Corporate Reputation Review 2011, 14(1): 37-51. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
Businesses competing online frequently face crowded markets where customers have low familiarity with most firms. In such markets, does a firm’s country-of-origin constitute a reputational signal that will influence customers? We examine the question in the context of consumers making online product trial decisions on the web site Download.com. We find product risk moderates the relationship between negatively stereotyped country-of-origin signals and product trial, which is taken as a measure of customers’ reputational evaluations. These findings suggest that signals arising from negative country-of-origin stereotypes can be consequential, after controlling for other reputational signals about the firm or its products. The implication for managers is that stereotyping signals can influence customers in online markets, and they should be wary of disclosing any potentially stigmatizing information.
Organizations Behaving Badly: When Are Discreditable Actions Likely to Damage Organizational Reputation? Journal of Business Ethics 2010, 93(1): 39-50. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
Everyday there are revelations of organizations behaving in discreditable ways. Sometimes these actions result in damage to an organization’s reputation; often they do not. In this article, we examine the question of why external stakeholders may overlook disclosed discreditable actions, even those entailing ethical breaches. Drawing on stigmatization theory, we develop a model to explain the likelihood of reputational loss following revelations of discreditable actions. The model integrates four properties of actions (perceived control, perceived certainty, perceived threat and perceived deviance), stakeholder motivation and media coverage. Implications for theory and for practitioners concerned with reputation management are discussed.
Don’t Rest On Your Laurels: Reputational Change and Young Technology-Based Ventures. Journal of Business Venturing 2007, 22 (3): 363-387. (with Eileen Fischer)[click for pdf]
We combine resource-based theory and social cognition theory to investigate the factors both limiting and related to between-period reputational change of young firms in a dynamic technology-based industry. An analysis of computer graphics chipmakers during the period 1992–2003 provides evidence that operational signals are related to reputational change. Specifically, receiving a product award in the current period is associated with positive change and gaps in product announcements are associated with negative change. We find little support for our hypothesis that the reputations of older firms are less likely to change.
The Good, the Bad and the Unfamiliar: The Challenges of Reputation Formation Facing New Firms. Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice 2007, 31 (1): 53-75. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
How do new firms first develop reputations among their stakeholders? Past studies offer insights on positive signals that a new firm can send, but say little about how stakeholder group members process such signals and come to share beliefs that a new firm possesses a desirable set of attributes. This process is particularly important to understand given that both negative and positive signals are often received about new firms. Our article draws on social cognition theories to develop insights regarding the process by which stakeholder groups develop reputational beliefs about new firms and to identify factors that facilitate or impede the development of reputations.
The Company You Keep: How Young Firms in Different Competitive Contexts Signal Reputation Through Their Customers. Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice 2005, 29 (1): 57-78. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
This article explores how young firms, across different competitive contexts, signal reputation through their customers. Four distinct competitive contexts were differentiated based on whether the complexity of the customer’s purchase process was high or low and whether the product/service was customized or standardized. CEOs of young firms operating in each of the four contexts were interviewed to discern patterns, both within and across contexts, in the reputational signals conferred by customers. Analysis of the interview data yields suggestions for how current theory on the exchange partners of young firms can be refined and extended, as well as propositions related to customer-derived reputation in different competitive contexts.
Publications on international entrepreneurship
International Entrepreneurship in Internet-enabled Markets. Journal of Business Venturing 2011, 26 (6): 660-679. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
Despite the increasing numbers of businesses that are already using the internet to pursue international opportunities, and the latent potential for such activity from rising internet adoption levels, the international entrepreneurship literature has paid limited attention to the phenomenon. To address this gap, we review past research in international entrepreneurship, as well as the broader fields of entrepreneurship, international business, marketing, management and management information systems, to identify firm-level resources that are associated with the successful pursuit of international opportunities in internet-enabled markets. We identify three such internet-related firm-level resources: online reputation, online technological capabilities, and online brand communities. We develop a propositional inventory of the expected relationships, identify measures expected to be useful to future scholars in this area, and present the implications of our review for future international entrepreneurship research.
Signaling reputation in international online markets, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal 3 (4), December 2009: 369-386. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
Although online technology enables young and small firms to gain access to buyers in foreign markets efficiently, it does not overcome the liability of being an unknown seller among a sea of largely unknown firms. In order to internationalize effectively through online markets, such firms need to establish an online reputation within a context where there are a large number of competitors, most of (or all of which) are relatively unfamiliar to customers. The purpose of this article is to explore how they might do so. Drawing on economics-based signaling theory as well as past research in the areas of strategic management, marketing, and MIS, we hypothesize that firm-controlled reputation signals with credible commitments—price, advertising, and umbrella branding—will impact reputational performance and moderate the impact of user-generated reputation signals. We test the hypotheses using data collected about software products sold on the web site Download.com. Our results show that signaling by advertising and umbrella branding affects reputational performance. The article provides insights about signaling in online markets for managers developing reputation-building strategies, as well as for international entrepreneurship researchers.
Survival of the Fittest: Which SMEs Internationalize Most Extensively and Effectively? Publication 08-338, International Trade and Investment Centre, Conference Board of Canada, December 2008. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for online access]
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have become increasingly integral to the Canadian economy, and are well on their way to becoming the drivers of job creation, innovation, and productivity. SMEs account for 35 per cent of the total value of Canadian exports, and many are now successfully operating in foreign markets. But not all Canadian SMEs are equally poised to succeed in the global economy. Most internationalized SMEs fail to derive significant revenues from foreign sales. The challenges and costs associated with internationalization have forced many SMEs into dire straits and some into bankruptcy. The purpose of this literature review is twofold. First, it identifies and provides insights into the factors that are most significant to the successful internationalization of Canadian SMEs. Second, it recommends that public policy support be targeted only to those Canadian SMEs most likely to benefit from internationalization.
Targeting Export Support for SMEs: Owners’ International Experience as a Segmentation Basis, Journal of Small Business Economics 2003, 20 (1): 69-82. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
This paper addresses the issue of how export support programs can be effectively targeted to SMEs. This paper argues that the normally low awareness and usage of export support programs among SME owners can be countered by segmentation based on their level of export experience. The paper develops a theoretical rationale for this segmentation basis and develops hypotheses related to it. The hypotheses are tested, and largely supported, using data from Canadian SME exporters and pre-exporters. Results indicate that segmentation based on owners= level of export experience can be an effective supplement to current segmentation bases. Implications of the results for providers of export support services are discussed in the concluding section.
Foreign Sales and Small Firm Growth: The moderating role of the management team. Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice 2002, 27 (1): 29-46. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
The premise of this paper is that the management team of a small firm plays a key role in internationalization outcomes. Specifically, it is hypothesized that a greater degree of behavioral integration within a small firm’s management team enables it to manage the complexity of foreign sales growth more effectively, leading to greater overall firm growth. Findings, based on data collected from two different industries (software products, food processing), support the hypothesis and indicate that the behavioral integration of the management team moderates the relationship between foreign sales growth and overall firm growth.
Beyond Borders: Canadian Businesswomen in International Trade. Ottawa: Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade Canada, 1999. (with Barb Orser, Eileen Fischer, Sue Hooper and Allan Riding) [click for online access]
This report addresses the issues that confront Canadian women business owners who are actively exporting or planning to engage in global trade.
The Influence of the Management Team’s International Experience on the Internationalization Behaviors of SMEs. Journal of International Business Studies 1997, 28 (4): 807-825. (with Eileen Fischer) [click for pdf]
Why are some small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more successful in selling outside their domestic markets than are other SMEs in the same industry? Although the traditional explanation is that firms can gain valuable knowledge and resources as they become older and larger, small and young firms are not necessarily disadvantaged if they develop other mechanisms to acquire the requisite knowledge and resources. We examine the role of the management team=s international experience as such a mechanism, for the internationalization of Canadian software product firms. We show that internationally-experienced management teams have a greater propensity to develop foreign strategic partners and to delay less in obtaining foreign sales after start-up, and that these behaviors are associated with a higher degree of internationalization.
Research Grants (funded since 2000)
Insight Development Grant, SSHRC, Building Brand and Organizational Legitimacy in Digital Markets (with E. Fischer). 2013-15.
Insight Development Grant, SSHRC. An Investigation of Social Venture Funds and Hybrid Social Ventures, 2011-2013.
Michael Lee-Chin Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Rotman School of Management, Hybrid Social Venture Funds. 2011-2012.
AIC Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Rotman School of Management. Factors Influencing the Financing of Social Ventures by Commercial Venture Funds. 2010-2011
Standard Research Grant, SSHRC. An Investigation of the Benefits of Internationalization for Young Firms & Small Firms in Canada (with E. Fischer). 2009-2012.
Standard Research Grant, SSHRC. The Dynamics of Reputation in Young Firms. (with E. Fischer). 2009-2012.
Strategic Knowledge Cluster Grant, SSHRC. International Entrepreneurship Strategic Knowledge Cluster. (Principal investigator is R. McNaughton, University of Waterloo). 2008-2012.
SSHRC Public Outreach Grant. Measuring the Impact of Doing Good (with A. Armstrong). 2008-2011.
AIC Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Rotman School of Management. Social Venture Funds (with E. Kirzner). 2008-2009.
Research Grant, SSHRC. The Development of Reputation in Young Firms (with E. Fischer). 2006-2009.
Multi-Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI) Grant, SSHRC. Entrepreneurship Research Alliance II: A Collaborative Effort to Create and Disseminate Knowledge about Firm Growth in North America. (Principal investigator is J. Brander, University of British Columbia). 1999-2006.