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4. The construction of personal control in the rhetoric of farmers involved in business diversification Control constructs (Skinner 1995): locus of control,

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Presentation on theme: "4. The construction of personal control in the rhetoric of farmers involved in business diversification Control constructs (Skinner 1995): locus of control,"— Presentation transcript:

1 4. The construction of personal control in the rhetoric of farmers involved in business diversification Control constructs (Skinner 1995): locus of control, self- efficacy, perceived behavioural control … -> personal control Personal control as a criterion and a resource for the construction of entrepreneurial self (identity, agency) Vesala & Peura 2005: how farm business owners present themselves regarding personal control in the market arena?

2 4. The construction of personal control in the rhetoric of farmers involved in business diversification 40 interviews with farmers engaged in diversified business activities 10 statements concerning customer and marketing related means for enhancing the business (e.g. ”Salesmanship is crucial for success in business”, “It is difficult to work things out with my clients by talking”) Free comments were requested; further accounts and justifications were encouraged Stands and justifications were analysed in detail; the overall rhetoric was interpreted from the perspective of self-presention regarding personal control in the market arena The connection between self-presentations and the customer structure of each case was checked and the cases were compared to each other

3 Case1: Paavo (machine contracting) Paavo owns a crop farm, but earns over a half of his living by working under contract for a large Europe-wide forest industry group. Paavo’s machinery is capable of doing all the different procedures from thinning to felling of timber. He owns his firm with his wife and they have one employee. The limited company was started 10 years ago, but Paavo has been engaged in forest industry even longer. The interview was conducted with Paavo.

4 Case 2 Mika (tourism) Mika and his wife have been in the rural tourism business for 10 years. They have a small farm (7 hectares) on which they practice berry and apple production and processing. The income from agriculture has not been sufficient and the tourism business has become more and more important for them. They have four cottages to rent, and additional two apartments under construction. The customers come mostly from Southern Finland but also from Central Europe. Many of them come on regular basis. The interview was conducted with Mika.

5 Case1: Paavo (machine contracting) Statement 1 It is worthwhile to invest in advertising. As an immediate response to this statement, Paavo agrees on a general level. However, thereafter he denies clearly the usefulness of advertising in his own business. He justifies his stand by saying that his firm has got one key customer, and that the private forest owners do business with this key customer (the Company). He gets his contracts through the Company, and therefore – in his case – advertising is totally useless.

6 Case 2 Mika (tourism) Statement 1 – It is worthwhile to invest in advertising. Mika starts to comment the statement with a reservation that “it is possible to invest in advertising any amount of money, and that’s the purpose of advertising agencies”. After that, he takes a tentative stand for the statement: ”In the tourism industry you have to be visible, to some extent, every once in a while.” In his argumentation Mika specifies different forms of advertising and deliberates the pros and cons of them. He mentions a short ad in a nationwide newspaper, contact information in nationwide tourist guides, and the firm’s own website as such forms of advertising that he has found worthwhile and profitable in his own business. He also stresses the importance of timing and the fact that advertising must be done in several languages. All in all, in spite of the reservations, he agrees that advertising is, to a certain extent, profitable for him.

7 For Paavo: this means of influence is useless and not available for himself, because it is under the control of an external agent For Mika: usefull to some extent, under his own control; he presents himself to be able to make decisions in the issue and resist the influence of external agents

8 Case1: Paavo (machine contracting) Statement 6 It is difficult to work things out with my clients by talking. For Paavo, it is easy to agree with this statement. His immediate response : 1 Paavo: This is exactly how it is. 2 Interviewer: So this fits. 3 Paavo: It is right then (well), it is exactly, you couldn’t say it any better. 4 Interviewer: ((laughs)) 5 Paavo: They are in the dominating market position and, well… they have 6 control over how much money you get from these ( ). When you can’t 7 really influence those… just like those rates, you can’t influence them in 8 any way, you just have to listen Paavo: There is no, there is really no, yes these gentlemen well, they 13 call it negotiation but it is, I think it is entirely a matter of dictation.

9 Case1: Paavo (machine contracting) Excerpt shows that Paavo takes a clear stand for the statement. He justifies his view by claiming that his client is in the dominating market position: the representatives of the Company name the prices, and there is no way Paavo can affect the tariffs. According to Paavo, in the negotiations with the client the role of the contractors is to listen, and accept the decisions made. In the end the interviewer asked if there are any issues open to debate with this client. Paavo mentions some examples, but stresses that they are only minor issues in his business.

10 Case 2 Mika (tourism) Statement 6 – It is difficult to work things out with my clients by talking. Mika absolutely disagrees with the sixth statement. He justifies his stand by giving examples of managing negative feedback, which he – in his own words – rarely receives. He claims that it is a fundamental thing to work things out by talking, and emphasises the need to be flexible enough in order to prevent small problems becoming bigger ones. In his further commenting Mika gives two examples of unsatisfied customers, who have tried to get some of their money back afterwards. Both incidents happened at the time when a nation-wide marketing company was the intermediate reseller for him, and both unsatisfied customers directed their feedback and claims to the intermediate, not directly to our interviewee. Mika continues, that there have been no such difficulties after he has done the business directly with the end users, without the intermediate organization.

11 Case1: Paavo (machine contracting) Taken together, Paavo presents himself in his argumentation as an actor who does not have much personal control over his success, at least in terms of marketing and customer related means. He has no use for advertising and no need for salesmanship, he has not been able to differentiate his service, and renewing the business is difficult due to financial issues. A close customer relationship could be beneficial, but he does not mention of having any. He is not able to negotiate with his client and for him it is not possible to be selective with his customers or contracts. He is actually able to mention only one thing, with which to affect the customer. That is the quality and cost-effectiveness of his production work.

12 Case 2 Mika (tourism) Mika, on the contrary, has lots of rhetorical resources to make a presentation of an entrepreneur who has personal control in the market arena. He argues for the usefulness and availability of the various means of control that are mentioned in the statements, and he is able to justify his comments by referring to his own experiences and practices, and giving illustrative examples, too. He also considers the limitations of the different means and tells how he has learned to use them in the course of time.

13 Frustration An instance in Paavo’s commenting on the third statement: 25 Paavo: It is a little like, difficult because this is goddamn difficult to 26 interview, this forest machinery business well, these questions don’t kind 27 of don’t apply. It’s fucking difficult to answer them. Paavo grows inpatient with the statements and expresses his feelings by cursing. Even though Paavo is able to view the usefulness of the different means on a general level, he is unable to do that is his own case. Anyhow, it became evident from his comments that he wished he had more personal control. Right after the tape-recorded interview, Paavo doubted explicitly whether he should be regarded as an entrepreneur at all because in his business he is lacking the space to pursue and control his success. Mika, on the contrary, implied that he considers himself to be an entrepreneur.

14 The role of the vertical position and variety in self-presentations The lack of personal control in market arena in the case of Paavo is repeatedly attributed to the vertical position, in which there is only one buyer, and the relation between the farmer and the buyer is asymmetrical and hierarchical, the latter being a large company and the former running a small business. Even though disconnected from the intermediate marketing agency, Mika mentions it in many occasions and stresses that he keeps avoiding dependency on any one marketing firm, or on too few customers. However, not all of the cases in vertical position were identical with Paavo, and not all of the cases with several customers were identical with Mika (in their self-presentations). Furthermore, there were not-credible attempts of p.c. presentation, and there was open criticism towards the discourse in the interview statements

15 4. The construction of personal control in the rhetoric of farmers involved in business diversification: conclusions Clear differences in self-presentations The other 38 cases fell somewhere in between these two extreme cases, but the pattern that connected the vertical position to the self-presentation was not a clear-cut one Self-presentations were actively constructed by the interviewees (incl. the low-control ones) Construction was constrained/enabled by the availability of rhetorical resources provided by the perceptions and experiences of own activities and position in relation with customers Personal control in the market arena appears as a socially constructed belief, which is embedded in the immediate social transaction context

16 References 5 Vesala, K. M. and Peura, J. (2005) Presentation Of Personal Control In The Rhetoric of Farm Families Engaged In Business Diversification In Finland. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36,


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