The other end of entrepreneurship: A narrative study of insolvency practice in Ireland

Padraig Timothy McCarthy, Chris O'Riordan, Ray Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to focus on the other end of entrepreneurship - the disassembling of enterprises by insolvency professionals. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on empirical material from major insolvency practitioners (IPs) in Ireland; the paper identifies three different narrative positions - "clinical market operators", "blame the entrepreneurs" and "professional detachment/disidentification" - that these specialists employed to story their working experiences. Findings: The paper suggests that IPs do not have a fixed narrative schema to narrate their professional identities, as they struggle to reconcile their professional acts with their personal ambitions. These findings point to a disconnection between the political rhetoric on risk taking and the acts perpetrated on entrepreneurs who fail, a central tension in the discourse on entrepreneurship policy. Research limitations/implications: The paper adds to the current debate on business failure, an area that is typically under-researched and under-theorised in entrepreneurship studies. By offering a response to calls for more multi-perspective research, this paper makes a significant contribution to extant interpretive literature on business failure. While the method of analysing stories is widely accepted in social science research, researchers seeking to replicate this study may produce different results; this is a taken for granted outcome of the method. Practical implications: The analysis suggests that the current legislative impetus to ameliorate the implications of insolvency, driven by an aspiration to encourage second-chance entrepreneurship, faces resistance from IPs as they attempt to fulfil their professional obligations. In the absence of legislative reform, the impulse, perhaps even process necessity, of IPs to dialogically position themselves against failed entrepreneurs is likely to continue. Originality/value: The paper's originality and value arise from its unique consideration of other end of entrepreneurship; offering novel insights into the difficulties IPs have in narrating their working lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-192
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Business failure
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Identity
  • Insolvency practitioners
  • Narrative
  • Policy


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