An Examination of the Information Behaviour of New Entrepreneurs in the Start-Up Phase of a Business
This research set out to examine in detail how eight first-time entrepreneurs went about finding out what they felt they needed to know during the first months of their business's operation, and in particular how they constructed their problems or questions in discourse and how they went about addressing them. Based on Brenda Dervin's Sense-Making methodology and work by Pamela McKenzie, the research involved semi-structured interviews in which participants were invited to recount specific instances of problems or questions they had experienced in their business. Data analysis involved close reading of both the interview transcripts and the researcher's notes and observations in order to draw out key themes and enable analysis of the discursive practices respondents used, particularly in privileging some information sources over others. The research found that the respondents experienced questions and problems largely relating to a small number of business issues, principally around the mechanics of setting up a company, deciding what kinds of services to provide and learning about the market environment in which they were operating. Like other studies of the information behaviour of small business owners, the research found that all of the respondents reported acting on information obtained from friends, colleagues or family. Most had consulted professional advisors, and all but one talked of using the Internet as a source of information. Only one respondent had sought assistance from an enterprise agency. The objectives of this research were twofold; to gather information about the actual behaviour of new entrepreneurs, and to test the potential usefulness of the sense-making methodology to an understanding of new business owners' information needs. Both of these objectives were largely met, with the research concluding that Sense-Making offers a valid and useful model with which to investigate the information behaviour of new entrepreneurs.