Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Mathew L. A. Hayward

Second Advisor

Bret R. Fund

Third Advisor

Lee Alston

Fourth Advisor

Sharon Matusik

Fifth Advisor

Tony Tong


New and small firms constitute the vast preponderance of organizations engaged in commercial transactions anywhere in the world, and yet the dominant explanatory frameworks have struggled to deduce how and why operational performance varies so widely among these businesses. Even organizations that emanate from similar founding conditions, possess identical parental lineages, or share competitive environments display startlingly high heterogeneity with respect to strategic choices, operational performance and survival prospects. Drawing on and contributing to the theoretical work in microfoundations, capabilities, and strategic entrepreneurship, my research aims to improve the intelligibility, veridicality and usefulness of the explanatory models for new and small firms by employing complete populations, transaction-based data and multi-level analysis. In the three empirical studies comprising this dissertation, I employ a transaction-based perspective that analyzes strategy, as it exists in fact, rather than strategy as it exists rhetorically or conceptually. By examining strategy through the lens of committed transactional activity, I offer fresh perspectives on the entry and survival strategies of entrepreneurial firms.

The first essay delves into the matter of strategic coherence, offering the first comprehensive evaluation of patterned operational behavior for the entire history of an entire industry, beginning from the time of each firm’s inception. The second essay studies unexpected sources of performance variance among entry cohorts and spinoff siblings, thereby elucidating the limits to the transfer of knowledge and capabilities. Finally, the third essay focuses on the development of novel strategic approaches among entrepreneurs who face incomplete markets and persistent resource uncertainties, revealing the ongoing efforts of entrepreneurs to devise and implement survival strategies. Taken in sum, this troika of empirical investigations makes a strong case for a reconceptualization of how and why strategy is formulated and implemented in new and small firms.