Successful U.S. Entrepreneurs: Identifying Ethical Decision-making and Social Responsibility Behaviors

Journal of Business Ethics 65 (3):203-217 (2006)
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Abstract

This two-part study analyzed some of the ethical choices made by founding entrepreneurs during the creation and development of their ventures in order to identify the areas in which founding entrepreneurs must make decisions related to ethics or social responsibility during venture creation and development. Content analysis was used to identify decisions with ethical components and/or implications from in-depth interviews with 10 successful business founders. The research for part one of the study was guided by the following research question: In what areas must entrepreneurs make decisions with ethical and/or social responsibility implications during new venture creation and development? The authors identified four distinct categories of decisions where ethical or social responsibility components exist: (1) individual entrepreneurial values-related decisions, (2) organizational culture/employee well-being decisions, (3) customer satisfaction and quality decisions, and (4) external accountability decisions. In the second part of the study, the decisions identified in part one were analyzed using a framework derived from prior research in ethics. This framework was developed from the work of Kant (1964) who theorized about human morals and Rawls (1971) who developed theories about justice. Part two of the study was guided by the following research questions: Do entrepreneurs have values and ethics similar to those held by society in general? If they don’t, how do their values and ethics differ? The comparison revealed that the ethics and/or values that the entrepreneurs either explicitly or implicitly acknowledged were in fact similar to those of society in general.

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