Firm formalization strategy: the interaction of entrepreneurs and government officials in the enforcement of regulation

Ashenafi Biru, Pia Arenius, Garry Bruton, David Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This research investigates how entrepreneurs in an early-stage market economy decide their level of compliance with formal rules and finds the manner in which they interact with government officials to operate on a continuum of formality. Focusing on the nonmarket strategy approaches entrepreneurs employ to establish relationships with government officials, we build a model that shows how entrepreneurs adopt strategies aligned with their firm’s level of formality, spanning low to high formality practices. We draw on qualitative interview data from entrepreneurs who exhibit varying levels of compliance with state-provided rules and guidelines. We inductively theorize that deciding the firms’ level of formality involves strategic interaction approaches with government officials responsible for rule enforcement. Our findings highlight that the interaction strategies entrepreneurs use hinge on the political capital they possess, eliciting the desired response from government officials, and dissuading the officials from enforcing formal rules or imposing sanctions for informality. We offer theoretical and policy implications for future work on the nuances of firm formality and the interaction between entrepreneurs and government officials.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • business-government interaction
  • early-stage market economy
  • firm formalization
  • nonmarket strategy
  • regulatory enforcement

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