Entrepreneurial Competencies of SME Owners: A Comparative Exploratory Analysis Between Iran and Italy

  • Afsaneh BagheriEmail author
Part of the Contributions to Management Science book series (MANAGEMENT SC.)


This chapter explores competencies of business owners in Iran and Italy. It presents the findings of an exploratory analysis of the entrepreneurial competencies that qualify and motivate business owners to successfully manage their businesses and overcome the challenges and complexities of leading a small and medium sized enterprise (SME) in the business environment of Iran as a developing country and Italy as a developed nation. The participants were 143 SME owners; 83 from Iran and 60 from Italy. The findings demonstrated differences between entrepreneurial competencies of SME owners in the business context of the two countries. More specifically, SME owners in Iran had higher orientation toward learning and were more independent while their Italian counterparts had higher insight into the market and ability to persuade. The findings are discussed in light of their implications for research and practice in both countries.


Entrepreneurial competencies SME owners Cross-country analysis 


  1. Ahmadpour Daryani M, Salehi M, Khosravi Z (2009) A comparative study of entrepreneurs’ and non-entrepreneurs’ need for achievement in Tehran Industry. J Entrep Dev 2(6):57–72Google Scholar
  2. Alem Tabriz A, Motahari Farimani N, Yazdani HR (2010) Evaluation of implementation strategy ERP plan for small and medium enterprises. J Strateg Manag Stud 1(3):15–31Google Scholar
  3. Alimirzaei E, Asadi A, Tahmasbi M (2011) Development barriers of rural entrepreneurial SMEs in Khzestan Province (Case study: of the date complementary industries). J Entrep Dev 4(12):165–184Google Scholar
  4. Alvani SM, Rahmati MH (2008) Business opportunities in the industry of decorative plants and flowers in Qom Province. J Entrep Dev 1(1):11–50Google Scholar
  5. Amiri M, Zali MR, Majd M (2009) Limitations of emergent businesses. J Entrep Dev 2(3):81–102Google Scholar
  6. Arabiun A, Abdollahzadeh G, Sharifzadeh A, Mohseni A (2010) Identifying and prioritizing the components of business entrepreneurship. J Entrep Dev 3(8):65–97Google Scholar
  7. Ardichvili A, Cardozob R, Ray S (2003) A theory of entrepreneurial opportunity identification and development. J Bus Ventur 18:105–123Google Scholar
  8. Azar A, Sadeghi A, Kordnaeij A (2012) Prioritizing the factors affecting high-tech SME’s success – a fuzzy analytic network process (ANP) approach. J Entrep Dev 5(16):165–184Google Scholar
  9. Barbosa SD, Gerhardt MW, Kickul JR (2007) The role of cognitive style and risk preference on entrepreneurial self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intentions. J Leadersh Org Stud 13(4):86–104Google Scholar
  10. Barkham RJ (1994) Entrepreneurial characteristics and the size of the new firm: a model and an econometric test. Small Bus Econ 6(2):117–125Google Scholar
  11. Baron RA (2004) The cognitive perspective: a valuable tool for analysing entrepreneurship’s basic «Why» questions. J Bus Ventur 19(2):221–239Google Scholar
  12. Baron R (2006) Opportunity recognition as pattern recognition: how entrepreneurs ‘connect the dots’ to identify new business opportunities. Acad Manag Perspect 20(1):104–119Google Scholar
  13. Baron RA (2008) The role of affect in the entrepreneurial process. Acad Manag Rev 33(2):328–340Google Scholar
  14. Baron R, Ensley M (2006) Opportunity recognition as the detection of meaningful patterns: evidence from comparisons of novice and experienced entrepreneurs. Manag Sci 52(9):1331–1344Google Scholar
  15. Baron RA, Markham GD (2003) Beyond social capital: the role of entrepreneur’s social competence in their financial success. J Bus Ventur 18:41–60Google Scholar
  16. Bianchi M, Bianco M, Giacomelli S, Pacces AM, Trento S (2005) Proprieta’ E Controllo Delle Imprese in Italia. Bologna, Il MulinoGoogle Scholar
  17. Bonaccorsi A, Giannangeli S (2010) One or more growth processes? Evidence from new Italian firms. Small Bus Econ 35(2):137–152Google Scholar
  18. Boyatzis RE (1982) The competent manager: a model for effective performance. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Brinckmann J (2008) Competence of Top Management Teams and the success of new technology based firms. A theoretical and empirical analysis concerning competencies of entrepreneurial teams and the development of their ventures. Gabler, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  20. Camuffo A, Comacchio A (2004) The competent middle manager: framing individual knowledge in north-east Italian SMEs. Int J Innov Learn 1(4):330–350Google Scholar
  21. Camuffo A, Gerli F, Gubitta P (2012) Competencies matter: modeling effective entrepreneurship in northeast of Italy small firms. Cross Cult Manag Int J 19(1):48–66Google Scholar
  22. Capaldo G (1997) Entrepreneurship in southern Italy: empirical evidence of business creation by young founders. J Small Bus Manag 35(3):86Google Scholar
  23. Capaldo G, Iandoli L, Ponsiglione C (2004, July) Entrepreneurial competencies and training needs of small firms: a methodological approach. In 14th Annual IntEnt Conference, NapoliGoogle Scholar
  24. Chen CN (2007) The relationship among social capital, entrepreneurial orientation, organizational resources and entrepreneurial performance for new ventures. Contemp Manag Res 3(3):213–232Google Scholar
  25. De Chiara A, Minguzzi A (2002) Success factors in SME’s internationalization processes: an Italian investigation. J Small Bus Manag 40(2):144Google Scholar
  26. Doroudian AA, Mozaffari AA, Tondnevis F, Kazemnejad A (2012) The relationship between personal traits and skills with venture performance of sports entrepreneurs. J Entrep Dev 5(16):107–124Google Scholar
  27. Erikson T (2002) Entrepreneurial capital: the emerging venture’s most important asset and competitive advantage. J Bus Ventur 17(3):275–290Google Scholar
  28. Faghihi A, Tajedin M, Tajedin M (2010) The internationalization of small and medium sized businesses in the food industry: a causal model. Iran Manag Sci 5(17):1–24Google Scholar
  29. Fakour B, Ansari MT (2009) Barriers to and motives for innovation in the selected Iranian small enterprises. J Entrep Dev 2(4):39–65Google Scholar
  30. Grégoire DA, Corbett AC, McMullen JS (2011) The cognitive perspective in entrepreneurship: an agenda for future research. J Manag Stud 48(6):1443–1477Google Scholar
  31. Heath KL, Reed DL (2013) Industry-Driven Support (IDS) model to build social capital and business skills of low-income entrepreneurs with disabilities. J Vocat Rehabil 38:139–148Google Scholar
  32. Hmieleski KM, Corbett AC (2008) The contrasting interaction effects of improvisational behavior with entrepreneurial self-efficacy on new venture performance and entrepreneur work satisfaction. J Bus Ventur 23:482–496Google Scholar
  33. Hwang SK, Brandon T (2015) A comparative examination of policy and models of disability in Korea and the UK. Language of public administration and qualitative research 3(1):47–64Google Scholar
  34. Jain RK (2011) Entrepreneurial competencies: a meta-analysis and comprehensive conceptualization for future research. Vision J Bus Perspect 15(2):127–152Google Scholar
  35. Jong AD, Song M, Song LZ (2013) How lead founder personality affects new venture performance: the mediating role of team conflict. J Manag 39(7):1825–1854Google Scholar
  36. Kermanshah A, Samei H (2010) The impact of initial competitive strategy on new firm’s growth: a study in Iranian software industry. J Entrep Dev 3(9):81–102Google Scholar
  37. Khanifar H, Vakili F (2008) The relationship between type of organizational/economic structure and organizational entrepreneurship in SMEs. J Entrep Dev 1(2):35–55Google Scholar
  38. Khodadad Hosseini H, Kolabi AM (2012) Verifying entrepreneurial marketing mix from Islamic-religious viewpoint of the top entrepreneurs in small and medium sized enterprises. J Entrep Dev 518(107–127)Google Scholar
  39. Khoshnodifar Z, Sookhtanloo M, Malek-Mohammadi I (2010) The impact of Agriculture Bank and Agricultural Organization performance on the success of SMEs. Agric Econ Dev 18(72):139–162Google Scholar
  40. Kotey B, Meredith GG (1997) Relationships among owner/manager personal values, business strategies, and enterprise performance. J Small Bus Manag 35(2):37–64Google Scholar
  41. Krueger NF, Michael DR, Carsrud AL (2000) Competing models of entrepreneurial intentions. J Bus Ventur 15:411–432Google Scholar
  42. Kyndt E, Baert H (2015) Entrepreneurial competencies: assessment and predictive value for entrepreneurship. J Vocat Behav 90:13–25Google Scholar
  43. Lans T, Verstegen J, Mulder M (2011) Analysing, pursuing and networking: towards a validated three-factor framework for entrepreneurial competence from a small firm perspective. Int Small Bus J 29(6):695–713Google Scholar
  44. Lans T, Galen v MA, Verstegenb JAAM, Biemans HJA, Mulder M (2014) Searching for entrepreneurs among small business owner managers in agriculture. NJAS Wageningen J Life Sci 68:41–51Google Scholar
  45. Le Deist FD, Winterton J (2005) What is competence? Hum Resour Dev Int 8(1):27–46Google Scholar
  46. Leitch CM, McMullan C, Harrison RT (2013) The development of entrepreneurial leadership: the role of human, social and institutional capital. Br J Manag 24:347–366Google Scholar
  47. Lerner M, Almor T (2002) Relationships among strategic capabilities and the performance of women-owned small ventures. J Small Bus Manag 40(2):109–125Google Scholar
  48. Ling Y, Zhao H, Baron RA (2007) Influence of founder-CEOs’ personal values on firm performance: moderating effects of firm age and size. J Manag 33:673–696Google Scholar
  49. Lipparini A, Sobrero M (1994) The glue and the pieces: entrepreneurship and innovation in small-firm networks. J Bus Ventur 9(2):125–140Google Scholar
  50. Majocchi A, Zucchella A (2003) Internationalization and performance findings from a set of Italian SMEs. Int Small Bus J 21(3):249–268Google Scholar
  51. Maleki AH, Gholipour A, Abedi Jafari H (2009) Effects of religious beliefs on tendency towards new business venture. J Entrep Dev 2(3):11–34Google Scholar
  52. Man TWY, Lau T, Chan KF (2002) The competitiveness of small and medium enterprises: a conceptualization with focus on entrepreneurial competencies. J Bus Ventur 17(2):123–142Google Scholar
  53. Man TWY, Lau T, Snape E (2008) Entrepreneurial competencies and the performance of small and medium enterprises: an investigation through a framework of competitiveness. J Small Bus Entrep 23(3):257–276Google Scholar
  54. Marcati A, Guido G, Peluso AM (2008) The role of SME entrepreneurs’ innovativeness and personality in the adoption of innovations. Res Policy 37(9):1579–1590Google Scholar
  55. Mehdivand M, Zali MR (2011) The impact of intellectual capital and entrepreneurial orientation on the performance of nano businesses. J Entrep Dev 4(14):47–67Google Scholar
  56. Ministry of the Economic Development (2010) Small business act. Le PMI e il Sistema produttivo Italiano e I più recenti dati congiunturali. Istituto per la Promozione IndustrialeGoogle Scholar
  57. Mitchelmore S, Rowley J (2010) Entrepreneurial competencies: a literature review and development agenda. Int J Entrep Behav Res 16(2):92–111Google Scholar
  58. Mitchelmore S, Rowley J (2013) Entrepreneurial competencies of women entrepreneurs pursuing business growth. J Small Bus Enterp Dev 20(1):125–142Google Scholar
  59. Mitchelmore S, Rowley J, Shiu E (2014) Competencies associated with growth of women-led SMEs. J Small Bus Enterp Dev 21(4):588–601Google Scholar
  60. Mohammadi M, Asgari GR (2011) Relationship between entrepreneurs’ charactersitic and entrepreneurial success in small and medium-sized enterprises. J Entrep Dev 4(13):129–148Google Scholar
  61. Mohammadi Elyasi G, Notash H (2011) Identifying the roots of failure among serial entrepreneurs in Iran: a narrative discrptive approach. J Entrep Dev 13:31–50Google Scholar
  62. Morris MH, Webb JW, Franklin R (2011) Understanding the manifestation of entrepreneurial orientation in the nonprofit context. Entrep Theory Pract 35(5):947–971Google Scholar
  63. Morris MH, Webb JW, Fu J, Singhal S (2013) A competency-based perspective on entrepreneurship education: conceptual and empirical insights. J Small Bus Manag 51(3):352–369Google Scholar
  64. Mortazavi S, Maharati Y (2004) Analysis of the dimensions of supports provided to small business in metal industry through an entrepreneurial approach. J Knowl Dev 15:85–110Google Scholar
  65. Namatovu R, Dawa S (2012) Entrepreneurs with disabilities in Uganda. Research report. Pagán-Rodríguez, R. Transitions to and from self-employment among older people with disabilities in Europe. J Disabil Pol Stud 23(2):82–93Google Scholar
  66. Peterson RS, Smith DB, Martorana PV, Owens PD (2003) The impact of chief executive officer personality on top management team dynamics: one mechanism by which leadership affects organizational performance. J Appl Psychol 88:795–808Google Scholar
  67. Rae D (2007) Connecting enterprise and graduate employability: challenges to the higher education culture and curriculum? Educ Train 49(8/9):605–619Google Scholar
  68. Rasmussen E, Mosey S, Wright M (2011) The evolution of entrepreneurial competencies: a longitudinal study of university spin-off venture emergence. J Manag Stud 48(6):1314–1345Google Scholar
  69. Renko M, Harris SP, Caldwell K (2015) Entrepreneurial entry by people with disabilities. Int Small Bus J 34(5):1–24Google Scholar
  70. Rezaeian A, Mikaeili F, Tajik M, Ahmadizad A (2010) The relationship between generic strategies and e-business adoption levels in SMEs software producer. J Strateg Manag Stud 1(4):107–120Google Scholar
  71. Rezvani HR, Aghajani HA, Moghimi Daronkalaie SN (2009) Determination of native indicators for innovation survey in Iran using fuzzy hypothesis test (Biotechnology field). J Entrep Dev 2(4):11–37Google Scholar
  72. Sánchez J (2011) University training for entrepreneurial competencies: its impact on intention of venture creation. Int Entrep Manag J 7:239–254Google Scholar
  73. Sánchez J (2012) The influence of entrepreneurial competencies on small firm performance. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología 44(2):165–117Google Scholar
  74. Seyed Javadin SR, Ahmadi A, Khajeheian D (2011) Knowledge management in entrepreneurial firms: organizational factors influencing knowledge creation and knowledge transfer in the Iranian informatics industry. J Entrep Dev 4(11):27–46Google Scholar
  75. Sharifzadeh A, Mahboobi MR, Arabiun A (2009) Explaining components of agro-enterprises development in Golestan province. J Entrep Dev 2(4):85–112Google Scholar
  76. Sharifzadeh A, Arabiun A, Abdollahzadeh G (2010) Identifying and prioritizing supportive needs of agro-enterprise development. J Entrep Dev 3(10):71–91Google Scholar
  77. Sohrabi B, Khanlari A (2010) Factors affecting e-commerce adoption in Iranian SMEs. J Entrep Dev 3(7):11–34Google Scholar
  78. Spencer LM, Spencer SM (1993) Competence at work: models for superior performance. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  79. Stuetzera M, Obschonkac M, Davidssond P, Schmitt-Rodermund E (2013) Where do entrepreneurial skills come from? Appl Econ Lett 20(12):1183–1186Google Scholar
  80. Swiercz PM, Lydon SR (2002) Entrepreneurial leadership in high-tech firms: a field study. Leadersh Org Dev J 23:380–389Google Scholar
  81. Talebi K, Zali MR, Peyrovian B (2009) Outsourcing in SMEs. J Entrep Dev 2(5):81–107Google Scholar
  82. Talebi K, Tajeddin M, Samizade M (2010) A study of environmental factors and internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises. J Entrep Dev 3(9):55–79Google Scholar
  83. Talebi K, Sanaee Pour H, Heidari N (2011) Role of science & technology parks in the growth of the new technology-based firms. J Entrep Dev 4(11):147–166Google Scholar
  84. Talebi K, Imanipour N, Abbasi Beni S (2012) Identification and prioritization of growth strategies for SMEs in “Gaz-e-Boldaji” industrial cluster. J Entrep Dev 5(17):165–184Google Scholar
  85. Tan J (2001) Innovation and risk-taking in a transitional economy: a comparative study of Chinese managers and entrepreneurs. J Bus Ventur 16(4):359–376Google Scholar
  86. Teymori M, Ashori M (2010) Causes of entrepreneurs’ failure in Iran. J Entrep Dev 3(9):157–179Google Scholar
  87. Vafaei F, Shafei R (2010) The role of organizational factors in enhancing Entrepreneurship in small industrial enterprises. Manag Res Iran 14(4):233–257Google Scholar
  88. Winterton J (2002) Entrepreneurship: towards a competence framework for developing SME managers. USASBE Conference, 17–20, January, Reno, Nevada, USGoogle Scholar
  89. Zaefarian R, Mohammadi Elyasi G, Farokhmanesh T, Movaheddipour N (2012) The impact of network capital on a firm’s innovation capability. J Entrep Dev 5(17):7–26Google Scholar
  90. Zali MR, Shot T, Kordnaeeij A, Najafian M (2011) Impact of social networking on business performance: moderation of role models and entrepreneurial motivation. Manag Res Iran 16(2):91–111Google Scholar
  91. Zare Ahmadabadi H, Jalili P, Zare Banadkooki MR (2012) SMEs: Entrepreneurship and forcing to illegal/unethical behaviors. Ethics Sci Technol 1:1–14Google Scholar
  92. Zhao H, Seibert SE, Lumpkin GT (2010) The relationship of personality to entrepreneurial intentions and performance: a meta-analytic review. J Manag 36:381–404Google Scholar
  93. Zivdar M (2011) Prioritizing the factors facilitating starting SMEs using a fuzzy method. J Entrep Dev 11:167–186Google Scholar
  94. Zivdar M, Ghasemi AM (2011) Prioritization of SMEs establishment facilitating factors: using the synthetic value of fuzzy judgments. J Entrep Dev 4(11):167–186Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EntrepreneurshipUniversity of TehranTehranIran

Personalised recommendations