A study of entrepreneurs confirms that the personal factor is more important than the cultural factor in achieving success
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Ainhoa Sorrosal

The study, led by the UOC DigiBiz research group, has analysed the experiences of nine successful entrepreneurs from three different cultures. The researchers conclude that to understand the phenomenon of entrepreneurship, the cultural framework and also the background of the individual must be considered. They argue that cultural aspects are relevant but the most significant factors are the unique qualities of entrepreneurs ‒ bright, a tireless worker, exceptional, brilliant, etc. ‒ and the presence of support networks, which are essential for their success.

Entrepreneurs have inherent qualities regardless of the culture of origin. The researchers emphasise this point: «The careers of entrepreneurs have common qualities despite the cultural difference. They are exceptional people, very bright and tireless workers. We have found that this is a common discourse in the entrepreneurs' narratives», notes the researcher and professor at the UOC Faculty of Economics and Business Inma Rodrguez-Ardura, one of the authors of the study "A narrative perspective on international entrepreneurship: comparing stories from the United States, Spain, and China". Rodrguez-Ardura adds that there are many elements of the entrepreneurs' personal stories that reinforce this idea.

Cultural differences

The researchers argue that, although it is not decisive, the cultural factor is relevant in understanding the phenomenon of entrepreneurship.

Chinese entrepreneurs choose to start up a business because, with the economic opening-up of their country, they see this option as the only way to prosper. In fact, as Rodrguez-Ardura points out, until quite recently it was not favourably regarded, as proven by the fact that these entrepreneurs do not want their sons and daughters to follow in their footsteps. What they most often want is for them to study in a university in the United States and become successful professionals. The objective of Chinese entrepreneurs is to make their mark and go down in history leaving a positive legacy for future generations.

At the other extreme are the American entrepreneurs, obsessed with short-term results. In contrast to the Spanish case, it is a society that actively helps entrepreneurs and in which their success stories often continue to adjust to what we know as the American dream.

Catalans and Spaniards would be in an intermediate position. They do not seek short-term results but independence and to leave a financial legacy to their sons and daughters. In this case, entrepreneurs have a very high education level and do not come from humble families but rather from environments in which work and effort are the prevailing values.

The difficulties of starting up a business in Spain

It is not surprising, but once again the study confirms that in Spain it is still much more difficult to start up a business than in other countries. Specifically, explains Rodrguez-Ardura, «Spanish entrepreneurs have many difficulties getting help from the network», and this differs from Chinese or American culture.

In general, in all the stories of successful entrepreneurs there are individuals or institutions that help them and become fundamental on the road to success. Contacts and the network are, therefore, essential.

«In the cases of Spanish entrepreneurs the networks have helped them but, at the same time, they have often been at the root of problems: jealousies, misunderstandings, disagreements... This is a major disadvantage», the researcher complains.


«A narrative perspective on international entrepreneurship: comparing stories from the United States, Spain, and China» is a study led by the UOC DigiBiz research group, which had the participation of the researchers Sean D. Williams (Clemson University, USA), Gisela Ammetller (UOC), Xiaoli Li (University of Dayton, USA) and Inma Rodrguez-Ardura (UOC).

It analyses the profiles of nine successful entrepreneurs: three Spaniards, three Americans and three Chinese people. The researchers used the narrative method; in other words, letting them explain their personal entrepreneurship experience with minimum intervention.

One of the particularities of the study is not only that it analyses the cultural context of entrepreneurship but attaches the same importance to the personal narratives of the individuals who are the subject of study. It is a very uncommon formula in studies on entrepreneurship.

Another peculiarity concerning the method is that they have chosen researchers from different cultures to avoid the interpretative biases inherent in cultural familiarity. The objective, in this respect, is to distance themselves from the traditional Anglo-Saxon approach.


Photograph of Inma Rodrguez-Ardura

Inma Rodrguez-Ardura

Expert in: Digital marketing; e-commerce; online consumer behaviour; marketing/e-learning interface.

Knowledge area: Marketing and market research.

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