Contextual influences on the corporate entrepreneurship-performance relationship: A longitudinal analysis

Shaker A. Zahra, Jeffrey G. Covin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1254 Scopus citations


Over the past several years corporate entrepreneurship has been widely touted by executives and researchers alike as an effective means for revitalizing companies and improving their financial performance. For the most part, the call for greater entrepreneurial behavior on the part of established companies has been accepted on faith as an inherently desirable objective. The implicit logic behind the pervasive belief in the value of corporate entrepreneurship seems to be that risk taking, innovation, and aggressive competitive action-the key elements of entrepreneurial corporations-will help in identifying and pursuing lucrative product/market opportunities and in providing new bases for achieving superior competitive positions. But what do we really know about the financial consequences of corporate entrepreneurship? Most of the evidence that corporate entrepreneurship "pays off" is anecdotal in nature or based on cross-sectional studies that focus on the short-term implications of entrepreneurial behaviors. As such, in a definitive sense, we know very little about the financial consequences of corporate entrepreneurship. In an attempt to improve our understanding of this issue, this article describes a study of corporate entrepreneurship and its impact on company financial performance. Data were collected from three different samples over a seven-year period to assess the longitudinal impact of corporate entrepreneurship on firm performance. These samples consist of 24 medium-sized manufacturing firms representing 14 industry segments, 39 chemical companies, and 45 Fortune 500 industrial firms representing five industry segments. Data were gathered on each sample using both primary and secondary sources. Regression analysis was then used to analyze the data. The results suggest that corporate entrepreneurship has a positive impact on financial measures of company performance. This effect on performance, which tends to be modest over the first few years, increases over time, suggesting that corporate entrepreneurship may, indeed, be a generally effective means for improving long-term company financial performance. Moreover, the results indicate that corporate entrepreneurship is a particularly effective practice among companies operating in hostile environments (as opposed to benign environments). The study has three principal implications for practicing managers. First, the study documents the general financial viability of engaging in corporate entrepreneurship. This is not to suggest that corporate entrepreneurship is a panacea for improving financial performance. However, entrepreneurial behavior, when considered on the whole (i.e., across firms and industries), is associated with superior financial performance. Second, the study suggests a need to use a long-term time horizon in order to adequately judge the financial consequences of corporate entrepreneurship. The use of a shorter evaluation period may not allow sufficient time for entrepreneurial actions to have their full market and corresponding financial impact. Finally, the study identifies the context-specific character of effective entrepreneurial practice. Specifically, corporate entrepreneurship appears to be a particularly effective strategic practice among firms operating in hostile business settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-58
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Venturing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995


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