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February 11, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Predicting success as an entrepreneur

People who leave employment because they disagree with their company’s organization and operation are overwhelmingly likely to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Being a little unhappy just might be a good sign that an aspiring entrepreneur is probably going to be successful.

That’s the conclusion that Hyeonsuh Lee, a West Virginia University Assistant Professor of Management, drew after studying the success rates of 21 male entrepreneurs who, between 1977 and 1997, started their own businesses after resigning jobs during the early stages of the rigid disk drive industry, which makes computer data storage devices.

When people quit their jobs to launch their own companies, the reasons that motivated them to become entrepreneurs can be major predictors of success, according to Lee. Her research revealed when someone leaves employment because they disagree with their company’s organization and operation, like bureaucracy or ethics, they are overwhelmingly likely to thoughtfully organize their own business and succeed as an entrepreneur. Lee also discovered when someone’s first start-up does fail, taking personal ownership of that failure is key to success down the road.

The Strategic Management Journal published Lee and her coauthors’ analysis of the interviews they conducted.

“Start-up founders who left firms due to ‘organizational misalignment’ motives tended to launch successful initial ventures, but founders who left for other reasons rarely did,” Lee said. “Organizational misalignment motives include strategic disagreements, frustrations caused by bureaucracy, interpersonal and ethical frictions, or concerns about fairness.”


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