Time for Departure

This study focuses on entrepreneurship as collective action undergone by entrepreneurial groups, which can be broadly defined as a small number of people investing time, resources and effort to pursue a future-shaping project. Situating entrepreneurial groups in this manner allows studying the relation between entrepreneurial groups and organizations (i.e. businesses) as distinct social orders with their own trajectories. From this perspective, the individual exit of a group member affects the composition of the group, while collective exit of all group members constitutes a detachment process from the organization. This detachment can take the shape of disbanding the organization, a management buy-out or a sale to a competitor.

It is the objective of this study to investigate when and under what conditions entrepreneurial group detachments happen. And relatedly, how entrepreneurial group members coordinate this collective action. This project will identify relevant factors influencing the detachment process and establish a typology of such exit scenarios that considers various group compositions, the pathways leading to entrepreneurial group detachment and finally the coordination process within the group. 

The methodological design encompasses precursory interviews followed by an ethnographic study. Semi-structured and problem centered interviews with corporate lawyers, tax and business consultants as well as bankruptcy coordinators help to identify different types of exit scenarios and informs case selection for an ethnographic study. Over a period of two years, I intend to accompany four selected entrepreneurial groups in their detachment process. This can include regular informal conversations with group members, formal interviews, participation in group meetings or shadowing group members for a workweek. The observational and interview data will provide in-depth material for a detail ethnography of entrepreneurial group detachment.

This study thus contributes to an understanding of the circumstances and underlying dynamics that lead entrepreneurial groups to collectively exit from a business. The empirical material will help to identify relevant factors internal group dynamics and can explain the pathway taken. As such, this study advances our understanding of the social embeddedness of entrepreneurship. It helps drafting a theory of entrepreneurial group dynamics that can explain group strategies and capacities that can be beneficial or detrimental for business development; and that can help explain entrepreneurial career trajectories in the life courses of involved individuals. In this sense, the research project closes an analytical gap between entrepreneurial organizations and entrepreneurial individuals by profiling a new meso-level unit of analysis. 

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