Entrepreneurs’ interpersonal communication competence in networking

  • Lotta Kokkonen Jyväskylän yliopisto
  • Jonna Koponen Itä-Suomen yliopisto


Modern international business calls for competencies that enable entrepreneurs to be creative, innovative, effective and capable of networking. Competencies in forming and developing networks are particularly valuable for organizations and companies in countries with small economies, such as Finland, that are dependent on export and profitable international business. The aim of this research is to build understanding of what kind of interpersonal communication competence (ICC) entrepreneurs need in networking.

Since the classic work of Granovetter (1982) and others (see e.g. Håkansson, 1982; Håkansson & Snehota, 2000), network theory and network analysis have become popular when trying to understand the behavior of organizations as well as of individuals in multiple contexts. The importance of networking has been recognized in international business and entrepreneurship research (e.g. Newman et al., 2006; Rauch et al., 2015).

In the field of communication, there is a long tradition of studying interpersonal communication competence. Yet little attention has been given to entrepreneurs’ interpersonal communication competence in networking. To date, networking has been mainly studied in the research field of network analysis. Thus, it makes sense to focus on previous research in these fields.

The data consist of thematic interviews (N = 14) carried out with entrepreneurs representing different companies from various industries. The data were analyzed with abductive logic by applying thematic analysis. The results show that in networking entrepreneurs’ ICC has four crucial dimensions: (1) behavioral communication competence (relational communication skills), (2) cognitive communication competence (knowledge on communication, meta-cognition), (3) affective dimension (motivation, attitude, ethical mindset), and (4) business-related competence and resources (business expertise, resources). We also discuss a way for other researchers to continue studying context-specific meanings related to interpersonal communication competence, and how the results can be applied when planning and executing entrepreneurs’ communication training.

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joulu 16, 2020