Professionals are knowledge experts who create customized solutions for clients. Many professionals practice in the context of strong professional institutions that prescribe intense socialization and codes and norms. While some professionals work as employees, many start their own firms in order to practice. Firm start-up for professionals is more prevalent than for most other occupations. While professional institutions often constraint their activities, firm start-up for professional service entrepreneurs (PSEs) involves similar entrepreneurial activities as other entrepreneurs, creating an interesting paradox worth investigating. This paper explores the uniqueness of PSEs and the firms they start, and the distinctiveness and value of research in the context of PSEs and professional service firms.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abbott, A. D. (1988). The system of professions : An essay on the division of expert labor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Benveniste, G. (1987). Professionalizing the organization : reducing bureaucracy to enhance effectiveness (1st ed., The Jossey-Bass management series). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bird, B. J. (1988). Implementing entrepreneurial ideas: the case for intention. The Academy of Management Review, 13(3), 442–453.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011). Occupational outlook handbook, 2010-11 edition. In U.S. Department of Labor (Ed.).
Cardon, M. S., Wincent, J., Singh, J., & Drnovsek, M. (2009). The nature and experience of entrepreneurial passion. [article]. Academy of Management Review, 34(3), 511–532.
Carlos, W. C. (2013). From surgeries to startups: How instititutions shape entrepreneurial activity in the field of healthcare. Ithaca: Cornell University.
Carpenter, M. A., Geletkanycz, M. A., & Sanders, W. G. (2004). Upper echelons research revisited: antecedents, elements, and consequences of top management team composition. [feature]. Journal of Management, 30(6), 749–778.
Chreim, S., Williams, B. E., & Hinings, C. R. (2007). Interlevel influences on the reconstruction of professional role identity. [article]. Academy of Management Journal, 50(6), 1515–1539. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2007.28226248.
Cliff, J. E., Jennings, P. D., & Greenwood, R. (2006). New to the game and questioning the rules: the experiences and beliefs of founders who start imitative versus innovative firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 21(5), 633–663. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2005.02.010.
Cohen, L., & Musson, G. (2000). Entrepreneurial identities: reflections from two case studies. Organization, 7(1), 31–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/135050840071003.
Conner-Simmons, A. (2017). Using artificial intelligence to improve early breast cancer detection. http://news.mit.edu/2017/artificial-intelligence-early-breast-cancer-detection-1017. Accessed 27 October 2017.
Cooper, D. J., Hinings, B., Greenwood, R., Brown, J. L., Cooper, D. J., Hinings, B., Greenwood, R., & Brown, J. L. (1996). Sedimentation and transformation in organizational change: the case of Canadian law firms. Organization Studies, 17(4), 623–647.
Covin, J. G., & Slevin, D. P. (1988). The influence of organization structure on the utility of an entrepreneurial top management style. [article]. Journal of Management Studies, 25(3), 217–234.
Covin, J. G., & Slevin, D. P. (1989). Strategic management of small firms in hostile and benign environments. Strategic Management Journal, 10(1), 75–87.
Cycyota, C. S., & Harrison, D. A. (2006). What (not) to expect when surveying executives: a meta-analysis of top manager response rates and techniques over time. Organizational Research Methods, 9(2), 133–160.
Empson, L., Muzio, D., Broschak, J., & Hinings, B. (Eds.). (2015a). The Oxford handbook of professional service firms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Empson, L., Muzio, D., Broschak, J., & Hinings, B. (2015b). Researching professional service firms: An introduction and overview. In L. Empson, D. Muzio, J. Broschak, & B. Hinings (Eds.), Oxford handbook of professional service firms (pp. 4–8): Oxford University Press.
Fauchart, E., & Gruber, M. (2011). Darwinians, communitarians, and missionaries: the role of founder identity in entrepreneurship. [article]. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 935–957. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2009.0211.
Flanigan, T., McFarlane, E., & Cook, S. (2008). Conducting survey research among physicians and other medical professionals—A review of the literature. Section of survey research methods. American Association for Public Opinion Research. Paper presented at the American Academy of public opinion research 2008, New Orleans.
Forbes, D. P., Borchert, P. S., Zellmer-Bruhn, M. E., & Sapienza, H. J. (2006). Entrepreneurial team formation: an exploration of new member addition. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 30(2), 225–248.
Glynn, M. A. (2008). Beyond constraint: How institutions enable identities. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin, & R. Suddaby (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizational institutionalism (pp. 413–430). Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd.
Goodrick, E., & Reay, T. (2010). Florence nightingale endures: legitimizing a new professional role identity. Journal of Management Studies, 47(1), 55–84.
Greenwood, R., & Suddaby, R. (2006). Institutional entrepreneurship in mature fields: the big five accounting firms. [article]. Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 27–48.
Greenwood, R., Hinings, C. R., & Brown, J. (1990). “P2-form” strategic management: corporate practices in professional partnerships. Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), 725–755.
Greenwood, R., Hinings, C. R., & Suddaby, R. (2002). Theorizing change: the role of professional associations in the transformation of institutionalized fields. [article]. Academy of Management Journal, 45(1), 58–80.
Greenwood, R., Li, S. X., Prakash, R., & Deephouse, D. L. (2005). Reputation, diversification, and organizational explanations of performance in professional service firms. Organization Science, 16(6), 661–673.
Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. (1984). Upper echelons: the organization as a reflection of its top managers. [article]. Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 193–206.
Ibarra, H. (1999). Provisional selves: experimenting with image and identity in professional adaptation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(4), 764–791.
Jain, S., George, G., & Maltarich, M. (2009). Academics or entrepreneurs? Investigating role identity modification of university scientists involved in commercialization activity. Research Policy, 38(6), 922–935.
Kamm, J. B., & Nurick, A. J. (1993). The stages of team venture formation: a decision-making model. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 17(2), 17–28.
Lander, M. W. (2012). Profits or professionalism? On designing professional service firms. Ph.D. thesis, Erasmus Research Institute of Management,
Lander, M. W., Heugens, P. P. M. A. R., & van Oosterhout, J. (2017). Drift or alignment? A configurational analysis of law firms’ ability to combine profitability with professionalism. Journal of Professions and Organization, 4(2), 123–148. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpo/jow011.
Larson, A., & Starr, J. A. (1993). A network model of organization formation. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 17(2), 5–16.
Lepisto, D. A., Crosina, E., & Pratt, M. G. (2015). Identity work within and beyond the professions: Toward a theoretical integration and extension. In A. M. C. deSilva & M. T. Aparicio (Eds.), International handbook of professional identities (pp. 11–37). Rosemead: Scientific & Academic Publishing.
Løwendahl, B. (2005). Strategic management of professional service firms. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press DK.
Løwendahl, B. (2012). Entrepreneurial strategies for professional service firms. In M. Reihlen & A. Werr (Eds.), Handbook of research on entrepreneurship in professional services (pp. 183–201). Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, Ltd..
Miller, D. (1983). The correlates of entrepreneurship in three types of firms. Management Science, 29(7), 770–791.
Morris, M. H., Neumeyer, X., Jang, Y., Kuratko, D. F. (2016). Distinguishing types of entrepreneurial ventures: an identity-based perspective. Journal of Small Business Management. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsbm.12272.
Murnieks, C. Y., Mosakowski, E., & Cardon, M. S. (2014). Pathways of passion: identity centrality, passion, and behavior among entrepreneurs. Journal of Management, 40(6), 1583–1606.
Nanda, A. (2002). Professional codes of ethics (Vol. 3, Vol. 64). Boston: Harvard Business School, Division of Research.
Ofek, E., & Sarvary, M. (2001). Leveraging the customer base: creating competitive advantage through knowledge management. Management Science, 47(11), 1441–1456.
Pinnington, A., & Morris, T. (2002). Transforming the architect: ownership form and archetype change. Organization Studies, 23(2), 189–210.
Pinnington, A., & Morris, T. (2003). Archetype change in professional organizations: survey evidence from large law firms. British Journal of Management, 14(1), 85–99.
Powell, E. E., & Baker, T. (2014). It's what you make of it: founder identity and enacting strategic responses to adversity. Academy of Management Journal, 57(5), 1406–1433. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2012.0454.
Pratt, M. G., Rockmann, K. W., & Kaufmann, J. B. (2006). Constructing professional identity: the role of work and identity learning cycles in the customization of identity among medical residents. [article]. Academy of Management Journal, 49(2), 235–262. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2006.20786060.
Reihlen, M., & Werr, A. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of research on entrepreneurship in professional services. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Reihlen, M., & Werr, A. (2015). Entrepreneurship and professional service firms. In L. Empson, D. Muzio, J. Broschak, & B. Hinings (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of professional service firms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Relman, A. (1986). An exchange on for-profit health care. In B. H. Gray (Ed.), For-profit enterprise in health care. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Ruef, M., Aldrich, H. E., & Carter, N. M. (2003). The structure of founding teams: homophily, strong ties, and isolation among US entrepreneurs. American Sociological Review, 68(2), 195–222.
Seo, M.-G., & Creed, W. E. D. (2002). Institutional contraditions, praxis, and institutional change: a dialectical perspective. Academy of Management Review, 27(2), 222–247.
Slay, H. S., & Smith, D. A. (2011). Professional identity construction: using narrative to understand the negotiation of professional and stigmatized cultural identities. Human Relations, 64(1), 85–107. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726710384290.
Stewart, S. A., & Hoell, R. C. (2016). Hire someone like me, or hire someone I need: entrepreneur identity and early-stage hiring in small firms. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, 28(3), 187–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/08276331.2015.1132514.
Stewart, S. A., Castrogiovanni, G. J., & Hudson, B. A. (2016). A foot in both camps: role identity and entrepreneurial orientation in professional service firms. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 22(5), 718–744. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-09-2015-0201.
Sudman, S. (1985). Mail surveys of reluctant professionals. Evaluation Review, 9(3), 349–359.
Torres, D. (1991). What, if anything is professionalism? Institutions and the problem of change. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 8, 43–68.
Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. In B. M. Staw (Ed.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 1, pp. 209–264, Vol. 1). Greenwich: JAI Press.
Von Nordenflycht, A. (2010). What is a professional service firm? Toward a theory and taxonomy of knowledge-intensive firms. Academy of Management Review, 35(1), 155–174.
Walsh, K., & Gordon, J. R. (2001). The work identity of professional service providers: Cornell University, Center for Hospitality Research.
Wry, T., & York, J. G. (2017). An identity-based approach to social enterprise. Academy of Management Review, 42(3), 437–460.
About this article
Cite this article
Stewart, S.A. Expert and entrepreneur: the unique research domain of professional service entrepreneurs. Int Entrep Manag J 14, 615–626 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-018-0516-5
- Professional service firms
- Professional service providers
- Professional identity