Entrepreneurs Learn Strategies to Weather Tough Economic Times From U.Va. Darden Professor

11/11/2013

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Jared Harris told local entrepreneurs how they can build resilience into their companies. His talk, held 24 October in downtown Charlottesville, was sponsored by coordinators of the Better Business Challenge (BBC), a friendly competition for local companies integrating sustainable practices into their business strategy.Darden Professor Jared Harris

During the lunch and learn session, Harris explained a current research project that supports a three-step recipe for organizational resilience:

  • Psychological approaches — the ability to face challenges with positivity and a resourceful mindset
  • Operational approaches — structural or other organizational approaches to prepare for or respond to hardships
  • Stakeholder approaches — engagement and cooperation with stakeholders

Although all three approaches seemed to help build resilient organizations, by far the most substantial factor was the "stakeholder approach" — the way a firm engages with external stakeholders in the community. These findings are backed by research he and two co-authors conducted with more than 150 Virginia businesses across different industries. These firms managed to weather economic, geographical, environmental and social storms, and strengthened their businesses for the future.

"We found that 11 percent of the businesses we studied did all three of these strategies," said Harris, who is also a senior fellow with Darden's Olsson Center for Applied Ethics. "We saw that there was a significant positive relationship between stakeholder engagement approaches and economic growth, and there was a link between the breadth of the hardship the companies faced and the amount of resources they deployed," Harris added.

The big lesson for companies — stakeholder engagement pays off. Cooperating with stakeholders within a community and allowing those stakeholders to support the firm during difficult times reaps rewards. In addition, the research findings suggest that practice makes perfect.

"The number of strategies of resilience enacted by firms significantly suppressed the negative effects of hardship on firm profitability," Harris added.

The Darden School is a partner with the Charlottesville Area Better Business Challenge, in conjunction with the School's efforts to be a zero waste, carbon neutral organization by 2020. Other partners include the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. The next U.Va. event will be a sustainability innovation "Pitch Nite" held at the W. L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory, or i.Lab, on the grounds of Darden 23 January 2014. The BBC culminates with an awards night at The Paramount Theater in June 2014.

About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty whose research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are ready to make an impact.

For questions or information, contact Abena Foreman-Trice or a member of the Communication team.

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