Strategic Change: Briefings in Entrepreneurial Finance, its evolution and recent thematic issues

This post has been contributed by Dr Carlo Milana, Editor in Chief

The journal Strategic Change: Briefings in Entrepreneurial Finance (SC:BIEF), published in print and online by Wiley and Sons, Ltd., is currently in the 30th year of its existence with six bi-monthly issues. It is an international journal focused on valuable findings in scholarly research literature designed to support entrepreneurs, new businesses, and their service providers. The journal was established in 1992 under the title Strategic Change. It acquired the subtitle Briefings in Entrepreneurial Finance from January 2010 when it became sponsored by Birkbeck, University of London and based in the Centre for Management Research (CIMR).

Two significant changes occurred alongside the introduction of this subtitle. Firstly, the journal ceased to be published in regular issues by adopting, instead, the format of  thematic issues as described below. Secondly, the field of interest was widened to include entrepreneurial finance studied from both investors’ and enterprises’ points of view. The following description of the aims of the journal is on the second page of the cover:

An international journal designed to support entrepreneurs, new businesses and those who provide services to them. The journal editorial policy is interdisciplinary, bridging economics, business strategy and finance to support better decision-making and business performance.  SC:BIEF targets valuable findings published in scholarly research journals to create accessible ‘briefing articles’ that practitioners find appealing.  SC:BIEF is unique in applying vigorous research analysis to inform entrepreneurial decision making and support start-up companies with their business direction.  SC:BIEF is a highly accessible professional journal, combining academic depth with practicality, publishing clear, straightforward articles that are distinctly geared toward the business world.

With its international character, the journal aims at widening the scope of subject matter supporting the decision-making and business performance in an increasingly innovative world. Efforts have been made to ensure the maximum level of differentiation of the editorial board and authorship in areas of interest, geographical coverage, age, and gender. The editorial board has thus been reorganised to reach a wider composition of its members under all these types of criteria. The special thematic issues are invited either by direct invitation to leaders of research networks or by posting a call for papers on the journal website. The principles governing authorship were, since the beginning, those of equity, diversity, and inclusion as described in the text included in the section ‘Author guidelines’ of the journal website.

Topics and features

The journal welcomes submissions of analytical papers, case studies, directly applied – and applicable – theory articles and reviews. Suitable topics include:

• Business planning

• Capital budgeting Issues

• Investing in global markets

• Valuing entrepreneurial ventures

• Credit Analysis for Small Businesses

• Business training for entrepreneurs and small businesses

• Best practice in investing and managing revenues

• Tax planning, accounting and financial management for SME’s

• Financing entrepreneurial ventures

• Governance and ownership structures

• Information Technology (IT & Entrepreneurship)

• Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)

• Managing Beyond the Startup Phase

• Team management and HR

• Creating valuable partnerships and business collaborations

• Managing Rapid Growth

• Starting and developing a new business

• Politics, regulations and law for entrepreneurs

• Implementing feasibility studies

• Innovation

• Assessing and using Venture Capital

The “business” model of the journal

Starting from Volume 19 (2010), the journal adopts the model of thematic issues similar to that of Oxford Review of Economic Policy.  The editors tend to approach researchers with leading expertise in the chosen theme and ask them to write academic articles, rather than to wait for unsolicited submissions. Unsolicited articles are also considered for publication. Once accepted for publication through a reviewing process, they wait for the respective thematic issues to be completed before being published.

The thematic model’s benefit is in reaching a broader view of the subject matter compared to the “regular” model with heterogeneous papers collected with little apparent systematic logic. The thematic journal is more demanding in terms of editorial management and organisation than the “regular” journal. The thematic issues involve stimulation, organisation and direction of network groups by encouraging ex-ante mutual inspiration and refereeing, increasing coherence and fostering research ethics. The contribution of networking is key to this crucial aspect of academic publishing. By contrast, the model of “regular” journals based on checking the submitted manuscripts exclusively ex-post by simple peer-reviewing (often with the mandate of deciding on the publication) is insufficient to prevent downgrading performance.

As shown in Figure 1 depicting the workflow of the typical thematic journal, the reviewing process is performed by different actors — the editors,  impartial advisers, and anonymous referees — in three distinct phases of the ex-ante project: before the writing of the manuscripts; during the editorial process; and ex-post in the publishing process. The editorial role is decisive in all three phases: the definition of the project, the editorial process and the production process. In each of them, the editorial action is needed to invite the authors or the reviewers in their respective functions or to decide whether revise, accept, or reject the works based on the received comments, and supervise the proofs of the whole issue before actual publishing by checking them and suggesting final corrections.

Figure 1. Workflow of the journal

The thematic issues of 2020 and early 2021

The thematic issues of 2020 and January 2021 have focused on unresolved problems and strategic opportunities regarding organisational design products (January 2020, 29(1)), strategic alliances through mergers and acquisitions of firms (March 2020, 29(2)), financial inclusion of the poor unbanked people through microfinance (May 2020, 29(3)), the evolution of social enterprise (July 2020, 29(4)), blockchain adoption and technological innovation (September 2020, 29(5)), capitalism under pressure under recurrent financial and pandemic crises (November 2020, 29(6), and anti-consumption and brand hate (January 2021), COVID-19 and entrepreneurship.

These thematic issues can be seen under the thread of the entrepreneurial conditions and possible firm-friendly policies fostering growth-oriented entrepreneurship. The relationships between innovation, product design, and industry co-evolution remain under-theorised. The journal has contributed to the subject with a series of eleven research articles in the January 2020 issue on ‘Organizational Design Products’ clarifying product design and organisations’ mutual effects. The relation between products and organisation is known in the literature under the so-called ‘mirroring hypothesis’ of organisations reflecting their technical product design and the ‘reverse mirroring hypothesis’ whereby organisations reflect product design. Various configurations can be found between these two extremes, which have become complex phenomena across different countries where innovation is central to producing firm-level outcomes. These are in turn, affected by the type of ownership and control dimensions. Different visions held by different stakeholders might influence innovation, product and organisation design choices.

Collaborative strategic development methods and change can be found in mergers, acquisitions, and alliances between firms. This subject is the theme of the March 2020 issue on ‘Mergers, Acquisitions, and Strategic Change,hosting seven research articles. The main critical success factors are considered in association with the management of the strategic change processes. The focus is on inter-organisational collaboration in the different types of strategic change events ranging from M&A to alliances. The commonalities and the differences in the various success factors are revealed in all of the presented case studies. A distinction is made between mergers and acquisitions and these two and alliances, revealing different levels of control, resource commitment, flexibility, investment requirement and risk. The articles in this issue examine the complex relationships between multiple criteria to throw light on the different types of collaboration methods.

One of the main challenges of social inclusion is lifting the poor from poverty through financial and social inclusion, which is the ultimate target and raison d’etre of microfinance. The May 2020 issue on ‘Microfinance and Financial Inclusion: Challenges and Opportunities’ hosts fourteen research articles. As the most recent literature has recognised, microfinance institutions have economically worked well in operating microcredit, but the aim of raising the living standard of their indigent clients has not generally been met. The expected encouragement of entrepreneurship from microcredit is still not detected in the empirical data, let alone women’s social integration in working activities. The articles collected in this thematic issue bring new empirical elements to discussions pointing to many aspects of the social divides and inequalities still plaguing emerging countries.

The term ‘social’ applied to firms has become a keyword comprising a variety of enterprises operating in so many fields that so-called “social enterprises” are defined as ‘hybrids’, a prevalent term that is also used in the seven research articles of the July 2020 issue on ‘The Evolution of the Social Enterprise’. This thematic issue sets out to illuminate the intricacies of funding, managing, and sustaining social enterprises. Even their lifecycle can be difficult to discern in a general interpretative model. The richness of theoretical underpinning of the cases discussed in the hosted articles is one of this journal issue’s assets. Microfinancing is mostly important since finance is a perennial concern for almost all the social enterprises. 

The organisational governance and inter-organisational transactions are predicted to be revolutionised by blockchain, distributed ledger technologies, and other technological advances. The eight research articles of the September 2020 issue on ‘Blockchain Adoption, Technological Innovation, and Strategic Management’ cover several types of technological changes that are affecting the organisation of the entrepreneurial firms. Important technological, organisational, environmental, individual, and task-related blockchain considerations are identified and discussed. The framework combines salient adoption considerations and presents cases of the most important antecedents of organisational blockchain adoption. Moreover, industry 4.0 is a relevant subject both in academia and practice. Organisations need systems for managing technologies and understanding how they can be essential for business strategy, digital transformation, and organisational transformation through digital technologies such as mobile technologies, social media, cloud, the Internet-of-things, big data analytics and artificial intelligence. 

Recurrent crises of increasing degree of severity are affecting the unmanaged globalised economic system. The thirteen research articles hosted in the November 2020 issue on ‘Capitalism under Pressure’ address some of these concerns: the factors that have led to a backlash in the global system, whether things can improve, and whether there will be a temporary slowdown or further movement toward a process of deglobalisation. The concerns of workers on how competition may lead to benefits in lower prices and choice but with their benefits not being evenly distributed between workers and owners of firms and property are discussed. There is potential loss of sovereignty from the globalisation process, and the need to follow similar standards may lead to potential loss of identity. Besides, mistakes, such as taking on high levels of debt, have proven unsustainable and have led to an over-reliance on monetary policy, which may further exacerbate income inequalities.  It has been questioned whether global markets need to be regulated to avoid huge income inequalities, financial crashes, and damage to the planet through climate change.

The nine research articles in the January 2021 issue on ‘Anti-Consumption and Brand Hate’ are focused on anti-consumption, and brand hate that environmentalist movements have triggered while advocating new green policy around the world. Although consumer ethnocentrism and consumer animosity have been explored in the literature, the origins and conceptual evolution of both concepts remain under-theorised and in need of reconsideration and further investigation. In the journal issue, it is contended that in order to implement or maintain a green supply chain that produces goods and services responsibly and sustainably, supply-chain managers must use tools that allow for the efficient identification, quantification, and mitigation of the ever-present risks. Brands should examine their ideological stance and identity perceptions closely in order to eliminate possible future brand hate situations. Ethics and moral appear to be much of concern to individuals and seem to be drivers of micro anti-consumption. However, the scandal of emission cheating by Volkswagen and other automobile producers, known as ‘Dieselgate’, demonstrates that businesses can safeguard the objectives of corporate social responsibility and prevent or repair damage from corporate social irresponsibility by involving the stakeholder ecosystem in positive value co-creation.

The ten research articles in the March 2021 issue on ‘COVID-19 and entrepreneurship’ are focused on the pandemic and public policy that are affecting entrepreneurship in various sectors of the economy. The societal shifts due to COVID-19 unveil opportunities for entrepreneurial adjustments to achieve competitiveness and growth. The challenges derived from the pandemic require an entrepreneurial way of thinking. Cooperatives reacted with resilience by concentrating on their core activities. Increased reliance on the Internet has been termed a major social change, where aspects like “working from home” and “online education” have helped remain significantly visible even when the pandemic will end. Agile methods can be used as a strategy tool by incumbents to explore and exploit market opportunities through times of unprecedented industry transformation. Despite the difficulties, entrepreneurship met the socio-economic challenges by providing rural areas with solutions and adapting healthcare entrepreneurial activities to the changing conditions. SMEs are significantly affected by the crisis as they overrepresent the hardest-hit sectors such as retail, hospitality, food service, entertainment services, and construction. The hostel market urgently needs to reinvent itself and define strategies to increase its revenue, providing safety to its guests during the pandemic. The so-called fourth sector, which is composed of “for-benefit” enterprises, can play a fundamental and positive role for the community.