Narratives of Enterprise

Narratives of Enterprise

Crafting Entrepreneurial Self-Identity in a Small Firm

Simon Down

Simon Down’s timely ethnographic study takes a philosophically reflective and empirically detailed look at the way in which enterprising people use narrative resources to construct their identity as entrepreneurs. The book draws on a wide range of intellectual sources, from naturalistic philosophy and social-psychology to sociology and organisational theory.

Chapter 4: Generations

Simon Down

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, organisation studies

Extract

Paul and John’s decision to start their business, as they sat high in the sky on a plane to Asia, was born of immediate frustrations with their managers. Deeper, more naggingly pervasive reasons, based on a sense of inevitability that they would one day become entrepreneurs and that together they formed a strong invincible partnership, led to this moment. Frustrations with simply being employed and answering to others also permeate their narratives. If, as we have seen, the friendship narratives Paul and John use provide them with an outward mask of emotional engagement with which they can absorb and deflect potentially confusing and distracting commitments, then there are other narratives which supply the drive and desire to determine their own lives. One of these resources is provided by the sense that they were part of a generation of young and dynamic engineer-managers that were destined to wrest control from the ‘old farts’ who managed the industry they worked in. As we shall see this narrative of generational identification wasn’t used as a distant and stale founding story: a simple rhetorical prop. Their generational narrative was alive, kicking and well maintained. It continues to sustain their sense of entrepreneurialism. Why would they need this continually manicured narrative support? Hadn’t Paul and John achieved all they had wanted? Paul felt he had overcome the vindictive attempts of EuroPort to quash and stifle him. John felt finally that he controlled his own life. The atmosphere of paranoia that accompanied the faltering first steps...

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