Defragmenting the terms self-employed, entrepreneur and business owner

Best, Simon, Ribeiro, Mike and Alahmadi, Abrar (2016) Defragmenting the terms self-employed, entrepreneur and business owner. ISBE Conference 2016 conference proceedings. In: ISBE 2016: 39th Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference, 27-28 Oct 2016, Paris, France. ISBN 9781900862295. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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There is a growing belief from a range of sources that the only way forward economically is through the support and growth of entrepreneurial behaviour (Olaison, & Sørensen, 2014). Consequently, governments have been developing policies to facilitate entrepreneurship, universities have set up programmes to encourage entrepreneurship and organisations exist to support entrepreneurship (Rae and Woodier-Harris N, 2012; Anderson et al, 2014).

Unfortunately, it is not clear exactly what entrepreneurial behaviour is and is not (Hunter, 2012). There are multiple theories on the nature of entrepreneurial behaviour (Shook, Priem, & McGee, 2003; Davidson, 2004; O’Gorman, 2015). This lack of clarity and disagreement causes confusion about the roles and actions of people who engage in entrepreneurial behaviour (Lyons, Lynn, & Bhaird, 2015). Part of the confusion lies in the way people who own operate businesses are defined. Traditionally people who work for themselves are seen as either self-employed, entrepreneurs or business owners. However, despite having different meanings, the terms are often used interchangeably (Parker, 2004; Hartog et al., 2010; Van Solinge, 2015), primarily for the purpose of convenience or simplicity.

The interchangeable use of the terms in an environment, in which entrepreneurial behaviour is the favoured phenomenon, is likely to suppress important debates around the nature of entrepreneurial behaviour. This suppression is likely to divert the attention of policy makers and supporters away from important issues concerning the different roles, functions and needs of the self-employed, entrepreneurs or business owners. As a result, support that focuses on entrepreneurship could be at the expense of the other roles.

Therefore, there is a need for academic research to seek clarity concerning the use of different terms used to describe people who work for themselves. The authors intend to present a discussion paper that aims to generate some clarity around what the terms self-employed, entrepreneur and business owner actually mean. The purpose of this study is to consolidate a number of notions, theories and concepts found in the literature concerning the definition, conceptualisation and characterisation of self-employed, entrepreneur and business owner. The intention is to identify both similarities or overlaps and distinct differences, in order construct a model that embraces self-employed, entrepreneur and business owner in a single structure.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 23494
Notes on copyright: © The Author. Permission granted on 06/02/18, by the ISBE ( to make the full text of the conference paper available in this repository (
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Depositing User: Simon Best
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2018 16:09
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 21:30

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