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Chapter 7. Concluding discussion

7.1 Study’s conclusions and contributions

The conditions, behaviors, and outcomes may be best understood at the intersection of bootstrapping research and relational contracting theory. Earlier in Chapter 6, I presented my findings, thereby empirically contributing to understanding the research questions. Figure 13 presents the conceptual model for understanding the study’s research questions. The model is analytically transferable to studying the same or similar phenomena in a variety of contexts, whether by means of quantitative or qualitative research inquiries. Following the figure, I will descriptively present my conceptual contributions.

Figure 13 Study’s conceptual framework

I emphasize that both Figure 12 and 13 address my study’s purpose and research questions. While the former presents the study’s empirical findings, the latter presents the conceptual model and serves the purpose of theory building. Essentially, both parts deliver the two core contributions:

1. I develop understanding of conditions for bootstrapping behaviors using the contractual norms, thus answering research question #1.

2. Based on conditions for bootstrapping behaviors, I develop understanding of nuanced, fine-grained outcomes as they emerge and develop over time, thus answering research question #2.

Conditions of resource acquisition and management behaviors require the explicit or implicit presentation of stakeholders’ roles, intentions, expectations, consent, solidarity, and so on. In bootstrapping exchanges, norms and conditions for behaviors are seldom explicit. Nevertheless, the roles, intentions, expectations, etc. are individually perceived by the parties as clear and mutually agreeable – or else the exchange relationship would not be possible. The asymmetric perceptions of such roles, intentions, expectations, etc.

arise during the cooperation, and, in absence of discrete agreements, implicit contractual norms assist the parties in reconciling asymmetries. Conditions of bootstrapping behaviors at the cooperation’s formation and early stages are informed by contractual norms of harmonization with social matrix, stakeholders’ role integrity, and contractual solidarity – or purely relational norms. In bootstrapping exchanges at this stage, the entrepreneur relies on relationship-oriented behaviors that assist legitimizing and accessing the common resource pool within the network. As the cooperation matures, bootstrapping behaviors are directed at ensuring resource scalability and overcoming the challenges in prioritizing activities for sustainable resource inflow. The contractual norms ensuring the favorable conditions for bootstrapping behaviors at this stage are flexibility, implementation of planning, propriety of means, and effectuation of consent. These are largely discrete-like norms, in relational contracting theory, and thus the need to formalize the exchange relationship arises, should the pursuit for resource scalability be satisfied. The entrepreneur negotiates, collaborates, outsources, and in other ways works to minimize future costs and expenditures by building in-house expertise. At the late stages of the cooperation, conditions for bootstrapping behaviors are enabled by contractual norms of reciprocity, creation and restrain of power, and linking norms – restitution, reliance, and expectations interests. The more independent the entrepreneur is by the final stage of the cooperation – for instance, through the ability to accumulate and utilize in-house human and social resources – the more power the entrepreneur has to continue or terminate the cooperation on their own terms. Bootstrapping behaviors at this stage are thus directed at addressing dependency, power, control, and reciprocity challenges.

In my analysis leading to a developed conceptual framework, I find that contractual norms in bootstrapping exchanges not only increase or decrease in significance over time, or change in the nature between more relational-like and more discreate-like, but they also inform the emergence and development of nuanced outcomes over time, as well as behaviors towards addressing these outcomes. I define the outcomes as conditions being produced as a consequence of resource needs being addressed through bootstrapping behaviors, and, in this role, some outcomes of past bootstrapping exchanges may serve as conditions for upcoming bootstrapping behaviors that may, in turn, lead to subsequent outcomes. Existing research presented perspectives on long-term implications of bootstrapping – for instance, on a firm’s growth, survival, investment readiness, and so on. I demonstrate how such implications may build up from early, intermediate, and late outcomes of single bootstrapping exchanges that, provided there is understanding of interlinkages between conditions, bootstrapping behaviors and outcomes, can be efficiently managed with the aid of contractual norms.

7.1.2 Contributions beyond the research questions

As the study progressed, the possibilities of contributing beyond the original study’s purposes emerged. For instance, as demonstrated in Chapter 5, relational contracting theory was applied in legal, financial, and organizational management disciplines, while the study of entrepreneurial behavior through relational contracting prism is novel. I demonstrate the methodological possibility of studying the conditions for individual behaviors through contractual norms, manifested longitudinally. This might broaden the perspective on the theory’s application in other fields of research.

Another contribution is the demonstrated approach to literature study, combining the systematic review and bibliometric analysis – for bootstrapping research (Chapter 2) and relational contracting theory (Chapter 5). This review design is uncommon and novel within the respective fields of knowledge. Gabrielsson et al. (2020) point out the role of such a review methodology in knowledge development. Based on this article, I am able to conclude on my study’s contribution to understanding the knowledge landscapes. Namely, I contribute to the understanding of knowledge accumulation in prior research in a highly specific fashion. My review is focused on the problematic issues in bootstrapping research, which differentiates it from other, broader reviews and bibliometric analyses. The selected articles are limited to only the topic under study, thus allowing for particular analytical depth and tracing of the historical development of the research theme over time. Similarly, my review of relational contracting literature is focused specifically on the operationalization of contractual norms. Thus, my bibliometric analysis accumulates the perspectives on contractual norms only, and, in this respect, it is different from broader bibliometric studies that include large numbers

of studies not specific to the issue in question. I therefore see my approach of combining systematic review with bibliometric analysis as both theoretically and methodologically contributing to upcoming studies.

My longitudinal, cases-within-a-case study design in itself is also methodologically contributing for upcoming entrepreneurship research. This method may be applied for studying entrepreneurial phenomena in-depth, while not relying on particularly large, diverse case samples. Instead, the method presents the possibility of assuming one firm as the macro-context, and insightful instances of studied phenomena as the unit of analysis. Practically, this method can be seen as a focused, in-depth multiple-case study.