Review - (2020) Volume 9, Issue 6
Research on resilience at an individual-level is underexplored, with even less attention on resilience in the context of entrepreneurs. The researcher explores the impact of individual resilience on entrepreneurial success and presents Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) as a well-suited theoretical framework for this topic. Method: The study is a systematic review conducted using databases (UMGC One Search, ABI/Inform, ProQuest Dissertations & Thesis Global) and the snowball method. Articles included ranged from 2003 to 2020, narrowed to scholarly articles written in English. Results: The results reveal that individual resilience positively impacts entrepreneurial success. Four themes emerged from the gestalt of the 26 articles, (a) there
is a positive relationship between individual resilience and entrepreneurial success, (b) entrepreneurial experience fosters the development of individual resilience,
(c) internal locus of control is a contributor to business success, and (d) resilience and self-efficacy reinforce one another to affect behavior and decision-making.
Conclusions: Individual resilience is a necessary skill entrepreneur’s need to overcome adversity and succeed in uncertain environments.
Limitations: Cultural differences, self-reporting measures, and not incorporating a comprehensive review of the psychometric properties used are limitations of the articles included.
Implications: The research guides entrepreneurs, educators, and policy makers who are trying to increase productive entrepreneurship in a variety of adverse environments.
Originality/Value: The researcher makes a significant contribution to the literature on individual resilience in an entrepreneurial context, helping entrepreneurs to
succeed by improving knowledge of the impact individual resilience has on entrepreneurial success.
Entrepreneur • Resilience • Entrepreneurial success
Entrepreneurship is of key importance in facilitating economic recovery and growth. Entrepreneurs around the world create job opportunities and wealth in both developing and developed economies by creating new products, concepts, and processes that keep economies functioning . There are numerous views on the definition of entrepreneurship, and they arise from differing perspectives including economic, social, cognitive, and behavioral. For the purposes of this study, an entrepreneur is defined as someone who develops a new idea, invests resources into making the idea a reality, and accepts the risks and rewards that come with that idea . When done right, entrepreneurship can have such a positive economic impact on the industries and countries in which they operate . Due to this, many may want to know the secret to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
It generally takes months or years of effort to achieve career success. Each year, thousands of new ventures are founded, yet many of these ventures do not make it beyond the first couple of years of operations. Business failures usually occur within the first five years of opening . The rate of job creation from new business establishments is on a steady decline as entrepreneurship has declined in recent years . According to Hyder and Lussier , 70 percent or more of entrepreneurs quit and the path to success is challenging, due to high stress, multiple obstacles, and uncertainty regarding outcomes. The failure rates recorded in entrepreneurship suggest that entrepreneurship is not an easy process.
Failure, obstacles, and setbacks are daily business for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are frequently confronted with unexpected events that potentially threaten business survival, such as financial crises, technological innovations, or new competitors in the field . Therefore, it is crucial to develop an understanding of how entrepreneurs manage these challenges. The entrepreneurs’ ability to adapt to change is theoretically considered as resilience. Resilience is the ability to respond, adapt, and start again after adversity . In this study, the researcher views resilience as a learned behavior, developed over time.
There are a growing number of studies using the resilience concept in organization and management research, but resilience at an individual level in the context of entrepreneurs has received scarce attention in the literature. Although we know that entrepreneurs are essential for economic growth and societal development, research on entrepreneurial resilience is still at a preliminary stage . The researcher aims to exploit this gap by taking an important step towards an overall understanding of the influence individual resilience has on entrepreneurial success. The research question is: “How does individual resilience impact entrepreneurial success?”
There is no widely accepted definition of entrepreneurial success; therefore, it is difficult to define completely. Entrepreneurial success is a multidimensional construct that includes subjective (i.e. personal satisfaction, feeling of gratitude, preparedness, autonomy, goal achievement) and objective indicators (i.e. venture survival, employee growth, income growth, profitability, etc.) of success . Since entrepreneurial success is about achievement not only at the organizational level but also at the individual level, both are considered in this study. The findings intend to provide a better understanding of the positive impact resilience has on entrepreneurial success and encourage entrepreneurs to take action to develop and enhance their resilience. The paper starts with an introduction and includes an explanation of the business problem, theoretical framework, methodology, results, discussion, limitations, conclusions, and implications for practice.
Resilience generally indicates how well a person bounces back from, recovers, and grows through setbacks and challenges. Resilience is not an individual attribute; instead, resilience is a developmental process that can be learned and shifts relative to changes in cognition, emotion, and the social environment . The researcher agrees with Rutter’s  view that resilience is not related to the individual’s psychological traits, rather it is the ability to adapt when given the right resources. The entrepreneur is at the heart of his/her organization, and therefore, this paper is concerned with the individual resilience of entrepreneurs and contributes to the literature that focuses on the entrepreneur as an individual.
If an individual strives to be a successful entrepreneur in today’s world, there are skills they need to learn and develop to succeed, and they must be able to adapt these skills to the environment. Skills are generally thought to cover the talents, abilities, and expertise to perform a task proficiently and are not solely dependent on the basic inborn abilities of a person . Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), developed by Albert Bandura  is a learning theory that provides a framework for understanding how people actively shape and is shaped by their environment. The key constructs of SCT relevant to resilience are (a) reciprocal determinism, (b) observational learning, (c) self-efficacy, and (d) self-regulation. Reciprocal determinism means that a person is not just influenced by their environment, but they also influence the environment around them. In other words, a person can be both an agent for change and a responder to change . SCT suggests that human behavior is a continuous reciprocal interaction between environmental factors, personal factors, and behavioral factors that ultimately determines human behavior . The concept of reciprocal determinism is shown in Figure 1. A basic premise of SCT is that people learn not only through their own experiences but also by observing the actions of others and the results of those actions, which is referred to as observational learning. This concept aligns with the view that resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed by observing others.
Self-Regulation is the consistent and appropriate application of self-control skills to new situations . Someone with good emotional self-regulation can control their emotions and resist impulsive behaviors that might make their situation worse. Self-Efficacy is the confidence or belief in one's ability to perform a given behavior. Prior research Benight and Bandura  has shown that a person’s self-efficacy contributes to his or her resilience. A belief in one’s ability to exercise some measure of control over the entrepreneurial process in the face of adversity goes hand in hand with resilience . Self-efficacy allows entrepreneurs to believe in their ability to cope with stressful environments. Therefore, entrepreneurs who believe in their ability to take the appropriate actions necessary for business success in challenging contexts will be better able to build their resilience.
SCT guides the pursuit of understanding the success as well as the failure of an organization from the substantial involvement of the entrepreneur, because he/she is the decision-maker and strategist, even though he/she has collaboration and support from others in the business management process . The researcher presents this theory as a well-suited framework for the current study. The assumptions from SCT that pertain to resilience include: (a) human behavior is a continuous interaction between personal, behavioral, and environmental factors and this behavior is self-regulatory, (b) the individual can select, organize, and transform stressors that affect them to obtain mastery and competence, and (c) perceived self-efficacy impacts coping efforts and the stronger the self-efficacy, the more active the efforts .
The researcher aimed to provide a rigorous assessment of the literature on how individual resilience impacts entrepreneurial success. Empirical research was conducted in response to the study's research question. The Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, and Context (PICOC) guide from the Center for Evidence Based Management (CEBMa) was used to support the research question  the PICOC (see Figure 2) will help to determine whether the findings are generalizable and applicable to the entrepreneurial context.
Systematic reviews have become fundamental to evidence-based practice and represent a key methodology for locating, appraising, synthesizing, and reporting best evidence . Five stages fundamental for a rigorous and complete systematic review were applied: (a) formulation of the research question, (b) relevant literature materials were located and identified, (c) the retrieved studies were sorted, assessed, and confirmed for inclusion in the review as per the set criteria, (d) relevant data and information were extracted from the studies along with thematic synthesis, and (e) recommendations and implications were provided based on the evidence. Systematic reviews differ from traditional narrative reviews in using a replicable, scientific, and transparent process that aims to minimize bias through exhaustive literature searches .
The search strategy for this study included an extensive and exhaustive search for literature on the subject matter. Badampudi et al.  noted that two main approaches for conducting literature searches are snowballing and database searches. The researcher searched for relevant studies using databases available through the University of Maryland Global Campuses library, including UMGC One Search, ABI/In form, and ProQuest Dissertations & Thesis Global. The researcher also used Google Scholar. Also, the backward snowball method was used, which involved pursuing relevant references cited in the retrieved literature and adding them to search results . Snowballing represents an alternative approach to identify additional evidence that was not retrieved through conventional search and the effectiveness makes it a best practice in systematic reviews . Databases were selected based on their capacity for empirical evidence centered around topic-related keywords: “entrepreneur”, “resilience”, and “entrepreneurial success.” Two search strings were applied to the databases:
• (entrepreneur* OR start-up*) AND (grit* OR resilien* OR “mental skills” OR “mental toughness”) n5 (entrepreneur* success), and
• ((entrepreneur* OR start-up*) AND (grit* OR resilien*) AND (entrepreneur* success))
The following sections present the process for inclusion and exclusion criteria, study selection, data extraction, and critical appraisal.
To be included in this systematic review, articles had to be relevant to the research question. Given the focus of this study is on the impact individual resilience has on entrepreneurial success, the research of interest had to include resilience and entrepreneurial success in a work setting. The author performed a first selection by reading the title, abstract, and keywords of the studies and selected them according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria defined below.
1. Date and location: published in the 21st century, articles inside and outside of the U.S
2. Language: English only
3. Study type: secondary studies qualitative, quantitative, and empirical studies
4. Study design: reviews, case studies, cross-sectional, and descriptive studies
5. Measurement: studies in which individual resilience and entrepreneurial success were measured
6. Outcome: the impact resilience has on entrepreneurial success
7. Context: entrepreneurial
1. Articles not relevant to the research question
2. Articles without a clear description, merely mention resilience and entrepreneurial success
3. Articles focused on resilience that was not in an entrepreneurial context
4. Articles that focused on macro-level(organizational) resilience Study selection
The study selection involved screening and appraisal before final selection and was based on title relevance and abstracting. In total, 675 studies were identified after the initial screening. A second screening was carried out to assess the identified studies on their significance and quality, the contextvalidity, and appropriateness of their research designs to answer the research question. Excluded articles did not meet any of the requirements in the abstract, results, or discussion sections. The Prisma flow chart provided in Appendix A offers additional details and a visual of the selection process. After an exhaustive study selection process, 26 articles were found relevant and included for synthesis. These articles are designated in the reference section by an asterisk.
Data extraction is the process of turning unstructured or semi-structured data into structured data, allowing the researcher to extract meaningful information hidden inside. The data extracted for this study includes the title of the article, author(s), and date of publication, research design, sector population, sample size, effect size, outcome measures, limitations, level of trustworthiness, and a narrative on the main findings. The 26 data extraction tables are displayed in Appendix B.
There are no one-size-fits-all formulas for assessing the quality of studies in any given area. According to Berands et al.  a researcher can usually find a study to support or refute any theory or claim. An important component of the methodology is to determine the relevance and rigor of each piece of evidence included . TAPUPAS was developed by Pawson et al.  to define different types of quality and knowledge. In this study, the Transparency, Accuracy, Purposivity, Utility, Propriety, Accessibility, and Specificity (TAPUPAS) tool developed by Pawson et al.  and described by Gough et al.  was selected to ensure an acceptable level of relevance and rigor were met (see Appendix C). To properly appraise quality, each article included in this study was put through the seven screening criteria of TAPUPAS, receiving a score of 1-4 for each of the criteria that are outlined: 1 = low quality, 2 = average quality, 3 = good quality, 4 = excellent quality.
The results reveal that individual resilience positively impacts and predicts entrepreneurial success. Awotoye and Singh  explored the concept of entrepreneurial resilience and its role in firm survival and success and found that the concept of entrepreneurial resilience accounts for why some entrepreneurs quit in the face of challenges while others press on in the face of uncertainty. Individuals lacking resilience were found to be less capable of engaging in the necessary entrepreneurial activities and behaviors, choosing rather to respond to the uncertainties with caution and fear . During the research process conducted by d’Andria et al.  the entrepreneur faced many negative thoughts and feelings, such as frustration, distress, and discouragement. Instead of abandoning the project, the entrepreneur developed a resilient behavior that allowed a refocus until a satisfactory outcome was achieved. Chadwick and Raver  conducted a longitudinal study that highlighted how resilience helps nascent entrepreneurs become less vulnerable to their stressful circumstances. These findings show that individual resilience is needed to help entrepreneurs overcome adversity and succeed in uncertain environments.
In the entrepreneurial context, high resilience aids the entrepreneur to overcome hardships and succeed. de Lima et al.  interviewed 21 entrepreneurs and resilience was highlighted as an ability to overcome obstacles. For instance, Salisu et al.  examined the effect of entrepreneurial career resilience on entrepreneurial career success. They found resilience predicted all three facets of career success conducted by Lau et al. . Ayala & Manzano  found three variables of personality (need for achievement, internal locus of control, and resilience) to have a direct positive impact on venture growth, with resilience having the greatest impact on venture performance.
Santoro et al.  found that perceived resilience of entrepreneurs is positively associated with their perception of success, confirming results conducted by Hayward et al. . Ayala and Manzano  conducted a longitudinal study to examine the predictive validity of resilience in entrepreneurship. They found that the three dimensions of resilience adopted in their study (hardiness, resourcefulness, and optimism) helped in predicting entrepreneurial success. These results back up the findings of previous studies [31,33-35] and add to the empirical evidence that resilience has a positive influence on the explanation of entrepreneurial growth and is a major factor underlying success in entrepreneurial settings. Based on the results from these studies, resilience is a positive predictor of entrepreneurial success and is a key ingredient in the pursuit of successful entrepreneurship.
Analytical memoing provided an avenue for the researcher to examine the data at a greater level of abstraction and explore hypotheses, relationships, and explanations contained within the data. The researcher then conducted two-cycle manual coding:
• First cycle coding was used to identify single words and phrases that might expose deeper meaning.
• Second cycle coding was used to identify the most frequent codes and sorted into categories.
The emerging themes identified from the gestalt of the 26 articles were: (a) there is a positive relationship between individual resilience and entrepreneurial success, (b) entrepreneurial experience fosters the development of individual resilience, (c) internal locus of control is a contributor to business success, and (d) resilience and self-efficacy reinforce one another to affect behavior and decision-making. The dataset articles by theme are displayed in Appendix D. A synthesis of the findings provides insight into understanding the themes that emerged from this study.
There is a positive and significant relationship between individual resilience and entrepreneurial success
Multiple articles found a positive and/or significant relationship between individual resilience and entrepreneurial success. Fatoki  investigated the relationship between entrepreneurial resilience and the success of small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa and found that there is a significant positive relationship between entrepreneurial resilience in both individual and organizational success. Jafaar et al.  examined small-scale business entrepreneurs, who were initially stricken by poverty, and provided supporting evidence that a positive relationship between entrepreneurial resilience and success exists. Owens et al.  investigated personality traits concerning business success and found that resilience was positively and significantly related to business success. The regression models conducted by Salisu et al.  and Santoro et al.  confirm the findings of Fisher et al. , who found a positive relationship between resilience and entrepreneurial success.
A few studies examined the relationship between Psychological Capital (PsyCap) and entrepreneurial success. Coming from positive psychology, PsyCap consists of four dimensions: self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and resilience . The results of Bockorny’s  (2015) dissertation revealed that PsyCap is a predictor of employee growth, satisfaction with life, and income growth. The multiple regression results of the relationship between PsyCap and entrepreneurial success conducted by Paul V  show that namely self-efficacy, optimism, and resilience positively influence entrepreneurial success. Paul V  found that resilience is positively correlated with financial wealth, entrepreneurial satisfaction, and feeling of gratitude. These results show that individual resilience has a positive relationship with objective and subjective indicators of entrepreneurial success.
Entrepreneurial experience fosters the development of individual resilience
Negative and positive experience should be regarded as an opportunity to learn and develop the skill of resilience to operate in uncertain and challenging business environments. Duchek  analyzed biographies of eight highly resilient entrepreneurs, which revealed that the entrepreneurs’ big success did not come suddenly. It was preceded by a long period of learning and gaining experience. This aligns with Lafuente et al.  study on serial and novice entrepreneurs, which revealed that practical experience is an essential prerequisite for entrepreneurial learning. Duchek’s  findings show that sustained entrepreneurial action is a function of early life experience that fosters the development of entrepreneurial resilience. In exploring the link between resilience and entrepreneurship, Sun et al.  found that entrepreneurs with experience have higher resilience scores than those who did not have entrepreneurial experience. Thus, entrepreneurial learning and experience seem to be relevant to entrepreneurial resilience.
This corresponds with studies that experience leads to business performance [4,29]. Ayala and Manzano  found that the entrepreneur’s experience is the variable having the greatest impact on the explanation of venture growth. Smith  explored the relationship between psychological resilience and small business owner success and identified entrepreneurial experience as a contributor to business success, among other factors. Therefore, previous entrepreneurship experience is vital to business performance and success.
Internal locus of control is a contributor to business success
An entrepreneur desires to be independent and have control of the work environment and is comfortable taking responsibility for the outcome of the venture. This trait corresponds with internal locus of control, which means an entrepreneur believes they have control over their own destiny by the actions and decisions they make. Sun et al.  discussed the impact of locus of control in relation to entrepreneurial success as a secondary aim of their study and found a significant relationship between locus of control and resilience.
Bockorny  found that internal locus of control is a psychological antecedent of entrepreneurial success. Hadi and Adbullah  explored the relationship between entrepreneur traits and business performance and found that internal locus of control has a direct positive and significant influence on business performance. Owens et al.  found ten traits that correlated with business success, and Smith  identified three top contributors to business success, internal locus of control being one of the top personality predictors of success in both studies. Ayala and Manzano  also found that internal locus of control had a direct impact on venture growth.
Resilience and self-efficacy reinforce one another to affect behavior and decision-making
During adverse times, personal factors matter greatly for the pursuit of entrepreneurship. Bullough and Renko  and Bullough et al.  found that two specific personal factors enable entrepreneurs to persevere in the wake of adversity: self-efficacy and resilience. Self-efficacy, which is an entrepreneur’s belief in his or her ability to effectively influence entrepreneurial processes and manage the effects of challenges and stressors, can impact his or her resilience to those very stressors. Paul V  explored PsyCap and its influence on entrepreneurial success and found that resilience is positively correlated with self-efficacy. In addition, Paul V  found that self-efficacy and resilience positively and significantly influence entrepreneurial success.
Findings show that self-efficacy helps in the creation of strategies and actions that lead to business success. Markman and Baron  found that high self-efficacy is an important determinant of successful entrepreneurial behaviors. de Lima et al.  confirmed that self-efficacy aids in developing strategies and pathways to success, and resilience drives entrepreneurs to overcome difficulties. Findings on entrepreneurship in adverse conditions indicate that entrepreneurs rely heavily on their perceived self-efficacy and their sense of resilience in the face of adversity [9,43]. Entrepreneurs who possess a high sense of self-efficacy and resilience are better able to adopt strategies and courses of action designed to overcome adverse situations.
The study had a few limitations that are worth noting. The articles reviewed contained data collected from entrepreneurs in different countries, which have their own cultural differences. According to Jorgensen and Seedat [43,44] the resilience of an entrepreneur (one dimension of entrepreneur skills) can be affected by cultural differences. Since the core of entrepreneurship is usually culturally sensitive, future investigations should examine the definitions and elements of career success deeper in different cultures.
Self-reporting measures can give different results as they are based on an individual’s emotional state. Most of the knowledge used in this study is based on self-supported measures reported by entrepreneurs. Therefore, the researcher assumes that all self-supported information provided is truthful. Future studies could attempt to learn more about entrepreneurs’ goals for growth. In the articles included, it may be that some entrepreneurs were satisfied by reaching a certain level of financial performance and may not have had a desire to expand the business further. Research in this area could look at measures of success that are aligned with entrepreneurs’ personal goals. This study did not incorporate a comprehensive review of the psychometric properties of the tests, surveys, scales, and questionnaires used, which a limitation is regarding the critical appraisal of the studies included. The current study concentrated on the success of entrepreneurs, but the success of entrepreneurs is only one side of a coin. Future studies can explore the other side of the coin by relating resilience to negative entrepreneurial outcomes such as failure and exit.
Future studies should be directed towards exploring other factors that affect the relationship between resilience at an individual level and entrepreneurial success (i.e. education, experience, commitment, etc.), as well as other dimensions of entrepreneur skills (self-efficacy, control, motivation, etc.).Longitudinal research that examines who starts a business or succeeds as an entrepreneur in an adverse environment is an important direction for future research, especially given the importance of entrepreneurship for sustainable development. Further work is needed to understand how entrepreneurs’ resilience can be enhanced and/or maintained over time, especially as they maneuver through resource-depleting business situations. These limitations notwithstanding, the findings will help entrepreneurs better understand why some are able to grow rather than retreat when faced with intense obstacles.
The researcher of this study explored the impact of individual resilience on entrepreneurial success, highlighted the business problem, and provided insights by way of themes and implications that emerged from the evidence of the systematic review. Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) was selected on the premise that people actively shape and are shaped by their environment. This learning theory was found to be instrumental in understanding business success from the involvement of the entrepreneur and the view that resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed. The findings support answering the research question, revealing that individual resilience positively impacts and predicts entrepreneurial success.
The evidence also supported that there is a positive relationship between individual resilience and entrepreneurial success. The themes that emerged shed light on the importance of entrepreneurial experience, and other skills such as internal locus of control and self-efficacy as it relates to individual resilience and entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurs, as the driving force of the entrepreneurial process, ultimately make the decisions that impact their businesses. To be sustainably successful, entrepreneurs need a resilience capacity that enables them to overcome critical situations and emerge from failures and crises stronger than before. The outcome of this study sheds light on the importance of individual resilience to overcome hardships and adversities to achieve entrepreneurial success.
Risks of implementation
Even with hindsight, being prepared is incredibly challenging for entrepreneurs as they face multiple risks such as bankruptcy, financial risk, competitive risks, and environmental risks, political and economic risks. Many companies undertake some form of risk management, but mostly to understand and minimize exposure to specific, known risks. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, must deal with unidentified risks, and continually keep up with changing contingencies by adjusting their goals and strategies since the information available to entrepreneurs is often ambiguous. Resilient entrepreneurs, who adapt quickly to change and show a high degree of tolerance for ambiguity, may be better prepared to succeed. Literature shows that adversity and uncertainty are overcome by the development of resilience and allows the individual to stabilize their emotions and broaden their scope of attention. To stay psychologically healthy in the long term, entrepreneurs need to possess a resilience capacity that enables them to anticipate potential threats, cope effectively with critical situations, and adapt to changing environments to overcome failures.
Implications for practice
In the field of entrepreneurship where there is a predominantly high rate of failure and exit, a better understanding of the impact individual resilience has on entrepreneurial success has great implications for practice. Research shows that entrepreneurs can take actions to enhance their resilience since resilience is not an inherent characteristic trait, but rather an individual capability that can be developed. Business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs should seek out activities targeted specifically toward boosting their resilience, such as seminars, short-term workshops, executive education courses, and business development training. Teaching resilience and challenge mindsets early on in such programs would be beneficial to help an increased number of entrepreneurs stay in business.
A way to build resilience and encourage business development training is through mentoring and swapping stories with other entrepreneurs who have succeeded in downtimes. Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who have launched businesses and new initiatives despite negative realities are powerful motivators for potential entrepreneurs. Tying back into the theoretical framework and the concept of observational learning, aspiring entrepreneurs can learn by modeling others who have successfully navigated businesses through turbulent times.
This research can also be practically beneficial for the psychological well-being of entrepreneurs themselves. There is a possibility that the fear of failure in entrepreneurship could be minimized by highlighting the increased chance of success associated with having individual resilience. Entrepreneurs can take comfort in knowing that they have control to take action to increase their resilience, and they have alternative psychological resources they can utilize to cope with the challenges that come with entrepreneurship. This research makes a significant contribution to the literature by exploring a largely under explored individual skill that could help unlock the mysteries of successful entrepreneurship.