Entrepreneurs as Trust’s Builders: An Integrated Model


Given trust is essential in the context of developing effective new venture, we investigate how entrepreneurs can develop a proactive role as trust builders in early stages. We review the evidences of prior studies examining the association between entrepreneur’s behaviors, attitudes and characteristics and trust. By 471 empirical findings identified, we provide a wide inventory of behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that entrepreneurs could use to display their trustworthiness across stakeholders. Our conceptual model reconsiders and extends these factors and their antecedents from the model of Mayer et al., 1995, emphasizing differences across stakeholder groups and opening research venues.

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Virues, C. , Velez, M. and Sanchez, J. (2019) Entrepreneurs as Trust’s Builders: An Integrated Model. Open Journal of Business and Management, 7, 1298-1337. doi: 10.4236/ojbm.2019.73091.

1. Introduction

Most entrepreneurs need to interact with several stakeholders in early stages, in order to gain access to a variety of resources held by these stakeholders, overcoming their liabilities of newness [1]. When she1 has to be involved and collaborate with diverse stakeholders, trust is a key ingredient for reaching stable social relationships [2]. However, relatively little is known about how entrepreneurs could achieve this trust in order to get success [3].

Mayer et al., 1995 [4] provide one of the most used conceptualization of trust, defining it as “the willingness of a party (trustee) to be vulnerable to the actions of another party (trustor) based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor and control that other party” (p. 712). This definition applies particularly to this context because it recognizes a new venture’s inherent risk characteristic for both, entrepreneur and stakeholders [5]. The article of Mayer et al., 1995 provides the foundation for evaluating how the trustee can create the level of trust needed with trustor, developing a model to represent the building of trust relationship, where decreased perceived risks by the parties would lead to more risk taking. Similarly to Lewis and Weigert, 1985 [6] whom argument that trust is based on good reasons’ constituting evidence of trustworthiness, Mayer et al., 1995 clarify it and separate trust from its factors of perceived trustworthiness, such as ability, benevolence and integrity.

Most researchers have argued that trust grows gradually overtime, through joint experiences and continuous interactions [7]. From this point of view, the trustee is seen as a passive actor who can reach the status of high trust based on past personal or business relationships [8]. Traditionally, it is widely acknowledged that trust changes as people interact and gain knowledge about each other; however, early imprints have been found to have significant consequences as trustors observe the trustee and seek signs that confirm their first perception [9]. Swärd, 2016 [9] also argued that imprints are conditions or perceptions that are created during short, critical periods and remain stable over time. In this regard, trustors cognitively choose whom they will trust, basing on “good reasons” that constitute evidence of trustworthiness [10]. In early stages that can be characterized as the initial sensitive period where uncertainty is high, the trustee has to be proactive in building trust with her trustors through signaling critical characteristics in order to demonstrate her factors [11].

Translating the association between trust and factors of perceived trustworthiness into an entrepreneurial setting, there are two specific parties: a trusting party (stakeholders) and a party to be trusted (entrepreneur). Especially the entrepreneur, as intermediary assembler, needs to induce the trust of several stakeholders, and the traditional point of view seems overlook the possibility that she can actively develop trust at the inception of their relationship [11]. Consequently, the entrepreneur could build trust through certain attitudes [12] , characteristics [13] and behaviors [14] that will affect the assessment of her factors of perceived trustworthiness [15]. In this regard, there are many calls to improve our understanding about how entrepreneurs can build intentionally stakeholders’ trust [16] [17]. Pollack et al., 2017 [3] have corroborated that trust within this context is largely unexplored, specifically models of trust applied to the domain of entrepreneurship are uncommon and the dearth of studies related to trust in new ventures creation owing to multiple stakeholder types. These authors also noted that we know very little about what affects stakeholders’ evaluation of entrepreneurs’ factors. There may be relatively high degree of consensus among scholars when conceptualizing the phenomenon focus on trust output as positive factor in overcoming the risk and uncertainty among others, but there is much higher fragmentation when it comes to operational antecedents of trust used in empirical work due to less attention has been paid to it [17]. Consequently, our research question depicts these arguments, such as how could an entrepreneur build trust towards her from different stakeholders?

This study aims to identify what entrepreneur can do or highlight in order to foster stakeholders’ trust on her. This scenario generates three interesting questions, including: 1) what are the entrepreneur’s factors of perceived trustworthiness? 2) what are specific entrepreneur’s characteristics, attitudes and behaviors that improve her stakeholders’ valuation, in terms of trustworthiness antecedents?; and 3) is there differences across diverse kinds of stakeholders? To do this, we undertook a systematic review of the literature on entrepreneurship in order to formulate 1) a conceptual model as a set of factors of perceived trustworthiness and their antecedents that serve as tool for entrepreneurs to develop their stakeholders’ trust, and 2) specific models by each stakeholder group.

Our study makes several main contributions to the literature of entrepreneurship and trust. First, the main contribution is seeking truth from facts. This review gathers a broad inventory of the entrepreneur’s characteristics, behaviors or attitudes that, according with previous empirical studies, could be considered by different stakeholders as signs or signals of the entrepreneur’s trustworthiness antecedents. Second, departing from model of Mayer et al., 1995 and depicting different calls for new and more detailed models adapted to different contexts [18] , we translate it towards the specific characteristics of the entrepreneurial context, suggesting a model that 1) widens the factors of perceived trustworthiness, 2) details the nature and prevalence of behaviors and characteristics that induce the positive evaluation of these factors, and 3) identifies other variables that according with the empirical literature influences in this stakeholder’s evaluations. Third, considering all the potential stakeholders, highlighting communalities and differences by stakeholders, given most empirical research on trust is focused on only type of stakeholder in new venture context. It permits us both to know the trustworthiness and develop specific behavioral schemas by each stakeholder groups. In this regard, our deep analysis seems to indicate that there is a common schema of factors and trustworthiness antecedents but that different stakeholders also evaluate differently them with distinctive relevance. Finally, our model suggests managerial implications. For instance, these conceptual models provide a powerful tool for understanding the nature on creation of the trust, which become the basis for developing effective relationship with stakeholders. A key message for entrepreneurs, then, is this: if you need to build trust with several stakeholders around of you, you should signal specific behaviors, characteristics and attitudes in order to show your factors of perceived trustworthiness.

This research proceeds as follows. In the next section, we examine the relevant literature on trust, entrepreneurship and stakeholder theory. Next, we describe the systematic literature review procedures as well as analyze a set of findings using a suit coding guideline. We then present the results, followed by an interpretation of them. Finally, we consider the implications of this study followed by suggestions for possible future research directions.

2. Background

Starting a new venture is a challenge, mostly in a poorly structured environment and where entrepreneurs may have few resources. Thus, she has to face up to marshal a wide range of resources that need in order to create and/or discover and exploit new opportunities [19]. In this regard, entrepreneurs spend significant amount of time on identifying the new contacts that will provide these critical resources to begin the venture, particularly in the first stage [1].

In this vein, increasingly the entrepreneur is recognized to be a social individual, operating and engaging with and in the social, to be both part and process of the social milieu [20]. The entrepreneur works at ecosystems, in communities and spaces to learn, work, and do economic and non-economic interchanges with stakeholders around them. The term of stakeholder refers to “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firm’s objectives” [21]. By establishing viable business relation with diverse stakeholders, she mobilizes resources, gets support and help, and creates legitimacy that allow for having in successfully launching a new venture [22]. According to the stakeholder theory, the long-term performance of a new venture depends on the effectiveness and sustainability of its relationship with these stakeholders [23]. Specially, entrepreneurs rely on several potential stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, investors, among others [24].

Several researchers have suggested that resources reaching depend on direct and indirect ties with these stakeholders, which is rooted in trust [25]. Thus, these relationships are not only about whom you are, whom you talk to, but perhaps more importantly, whom you trust [26]. Entrepreneurs need to trust others, but primarily they need to serve as trustees in order to form and growth their projects [27]. The entrepreneur could play a role as orchestrator, facilitating this process by focusing on trust that is essential for developing and maintaining business relationship because it affects the depth and richness of exchange relations [28]. Trust encourages people to support entrepreneur’s activities in a way that might not be possible if trust did not exist [29]. This is because trust has a positive role to play in reducing the complexity of business operations, in allowing business relationship with strangers, in lowing transaction cost for business, and in facilitating network activity [30].

Trusting is a social process, entails behaviors such as signaling among others, can be reframed as studies of how trustors and trustees generate and “process” (i.e., handle) information in order to produce the outcome of trust [31]. Important trust drivers are the factors of perceived trustworthiness, differing from trust per se [4]. When the perceived trustworthiness matches the requirements of a specific situation, one may expect that the trust formation process could be accelerated and the trustor reaches a trust decision sooner. The model of Mayer et al., 1995 separated trust from these factors of perceived trustworthiness, such as ability, benevolence and integrity. Ability is the group of skills, competencies, and characteristics that enable a party to have influence within some specific domain. Benevolence is the extent to which a trustee is believed to want to do good to the trustor, aside from an egocentric profit motive. Integrity is the perception that the trustee adheres to a set of principles that the trustor finds acceptable. In turn, each one of these factors will depend on several trustworthiness antecedents in terms of the entrepreneur’s characteristics, behaviors or attitudes that could be allocated attention to and interpreted by stakeholders as signs or signals to build trust [14]. Especially cognitively processed these antecedents, as signs and signals, become cues for certain trust warranting properties through her factors perceived. Likewise, there will be trustworthiness antecedents that will feed on diverse factors, like a root tree. The factors of perceived trustworthiness are widely considered to be multi-dimensional [4] , and which dimension is most relevant in a particular situation can vary as a function of the nature and depth of the interdependence in a given relationship [18]. For example, we could expect that different surrounding stakeholders will look for different entrepreneurs’ signals as trustworthiness antecedents.

In this vein, trust is an evidentiary phenomenon, where the trustor adjusts his/her trust in the trustee on the basis of observed actions and his/her interpretation [32]. Traditionally, high levels of personal trust mainly reflect repeated positive experiences made over time and longstanding relations, where person has come to know each other [33]. Similarly, Blumberg et al., 2015 emphasize its development is characterized by gradual increase, through the following proverb “it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it”. Scholars have most often described trust development as a relatively passive process of gathering data about other people’s trustworthiness by watching their behaviors in various situations, without considering the intentional actions that can build trust [34]. However, Lewicki and Brinsfield, 2015 [35] highlighted that some researchers examined trust through making a series of rapid judgments, for example, trust in romantic relationships. In this sense, Meyerson et al., 1996 [36] analyzeswift trust in temporary groups, where there is not time to engage in the usual forms of activities that contribute to the development of trust in more traditional organization. These authors thereby emphasize that to trust and to be trustworthy means that people have to wade in on trust rather to wait while experience gradually shows who can be trusted. This process not attempt to as “love at first sight” but neither to build trust gradually due to the entrepreneur has lack resource to keep over time. For example, Lewicki and Bunker 1996 [37] described a basic level of trust as calculus-based trust that is based on a relatively rational decision making process, which usually develops first in a relationship. Similarly, other authors suggest that these judgments are shaped quickly through the other party’s dress, uniform, gender, race, culture and other situations [38]. In this line, we specially look at early stages of the new venture evaluation process, which could depend on a set of cues signaled by entrepreneur that lead stakeholders to quickly deduce that they can trust her [39].

3. Method

This paper forms part of a broader project centered on entrepreneurs’ trustworthiness. As a first step, and according to Pittaway and Cope, 2007 [40] , we conducted a systematic literature review (SLR) because it is an appropriate methodological approach within the field of entrepreneurship research, and is especially useful where large volumes of evidence over long time periods are involved [41] (Table 1).

This SLR involves several steps namely: identifying relevant works, summarizing the evidences and interpreting findings [41]. To ensure reasonably complete coverage of the entrepreneurship literature, we included all journals that are considered the premier outlets within entrepreneurship scholarship according to the Academic Journal Guide 2015 published by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS). To gain a sense of an update and comprehensive views of majority trustworthiness antecedents, we conducted a review that covered the period between 2000 and 2015. In fact, there is a notable growth in the number of publications focused on entrepreneurship from 2000 to 2015 (source ABI/info data base).

Table 1. Stages in the review and analyses process.

Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice; Journal of Business Venturing; Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal; Entrepreneurship and Regional Development; Family Business Review; International Small Business Journal; Journal of Small Business Management; Small Business Economics; International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research; International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Journal of Family Business Strategy; Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development; Venture capital: an international journal of entrepreneurial finance; International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal; Journal of Enterprising Culture; Journal of Entrepreneurship; Journal of International Entrepreneurship; Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Social Enterprise; World Review of Entrepreneurship Management and Sustainable Development.

Using the electronic databases such as ABI/Inform, EBSCOhost, Elsevier Science Direct, Google Scholar, JSTOR and PsycInfo among others, a manual search was conducted for each journal considered. In particular, we have conducted “within-journal” searches using “trustworth*” as only keyword, yielding a total of 587 articles (see Table 2). In these articles, a scrutiny was done based on its abstract, searching also in the full text. Each article was reviewed by the research team to ensure the inclusion of the relevant articles that met three criteria: 1) only empirical articles; 2) studies that examine the interpersonal and inter-organizational trust in an entrepreneurial context in early stages; and 3) studies that operationalized entrepreneur as the trustee. Thus, our preliminary data set included 139 articles meeting all of our selection criteria.

In these articles, we sought entrepreneur’s behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that increase the stakeholders’ trust on her, looking at the evidences, like survey measures and empirical findings. According to Henry and Foss, 2014, we constructed a thematic reading guide and devise an appropriate system to summarize the main content of these relevant papers (see Annex 1). This guide includes author, year, journal, theory, trust definition, method, sample, empirical findings, finding’s source, country, type of stakeholder involved in the study and comments about each article. Consistent with these authors, we early decided on the literature review process to use a manual coding system because not all of the variables explored were “explicit”, and thus required reading, re-reading and additional reflection on the part of the team research. Two researchers of the team assessed each paper independently at the same time as A (should be in shortlist), B (doubt), or C (should not be in shortlist). B listed papers were further discussed and then sorted as A or C listed papers. Consistent with Dawson and Mussolino, 2014 [42] , to categorize these articles, the two members examined and reviewed the entire article, using the exclusion criteria in a conservative fashion favoring inclusion rather than exclusion. Consequently, 84 articles were omitted. After that, a final list comprising 55 papers were re-analyzed in detail to identify the empirical evidences offer by them about entrepreneurs’ behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that make them trustworthy. This process was developed at the same time by all the members of the team to avoid potential subjective angle from each one. To achieve a consensus on the finding identified by each member, the empirical findings were discussed for the whole team, paying special attention when a disagreement arose. Thereby this resulted in 471 empirical findings.

By searching for a parsimonious set of entrepreneurial behaviors, we created a coding guideline (see Annex 2) doing several steps. First, we listed and defined the trustworthiness antecedents drawing extensively on Maxwell and Lévesque’s (2014) behavioral trust schema and Butler’s (1991) trust inventory. Likewise, nine “bases” of trust of Gabarro, 1978 and conditions of trust Jenning, 1971, which were included into the article of Butler, 1991, were also considered. Second, these antecedents were related with factors of perceived trustworthiness,

Table 2. Articles published in each journal from 2000 to 2015

ability, benevolence or integrity, using the definitions, synonyms, and examples from the conceptual article of Mayer et al., 1995. Third, using this guide we associate former 471 empirical findings in each antecedent and factor. To avoid the potential ambiguity of this categorization process and in order to improve coding reliability, three researchers together categorized all findings with their knowledge, experience, point of view, and without losing sight of the context where was discovered each finding and measurement. This process involved several iterations seemed the process that was described before, including meetings, discussions, rethinking and putting together all views. Due to their meanings were very similar each other, with some level of overlapping, we had to set out sense of each one of us to avoid misunderstandings. Differences were discusses until agreement was made on any aspects, revisiting previously coded paper again in the light of these discussions.

In the next section we describe the model about entrepreneur’s trustworthiness obtained from our review. This model clearly differentiates factors from trustworthiness antecedents that contribute to them, and it also differentiates trust from its antecedents such as factors.

4. Results

Our literature review reveals a comprehensive inventory of behaviors, attitudes and personal characteristics of the entrepreneur, building stakeholders’ trust on her. Tables 3-5 show these findings gathered by antecedents of trustworthiness factor from the model of Mayer et al., 1995 trustworthiness factors, illustrating, in this way, specific aspects that, according to the empirical finding of previous literature, have led stakeholders to perceive the entrepreneur’s ability, benevolence and integrity.

Table 3. Ability.

Table 4. Benevolence.

Table 5. Integrity.

Regarding ability, Table 3 shows 107 empirical findings, gathered by 30 articles. According to the evidences revised, functional/specific competence is the antecedent most proved. Numerous studies reported the significant effect of possessing competence, having knowledge, and displaying skills. Also, there are several empirical findings supporting the importance of showing experience as a relevant aspect to perceive entrepreneur’s ability. Although a little less reported, previous literature also shows business sense as key antecedent of the entrepreneur’s ability. In this sense, “to have widow about how a business works” is signaled in different articles by demonstrating professionalism, understanding on everything hang together, being able to develop a business plan, or managing the needed resources and changing conditions of market, among others. Likewise, entrepreneur interpersonal competence is slightly evidenced as an ability antecedent, being able to develop gestural language or a process of convincement, among others. Finally, an article found that to make accurate and objective decisions by the entrepreneur contributed to her ability valuation.

We have found 145 empirical findings, gathered by 39 articles, related with an inclusive trustworthiness antecedent of benevolence, as Table 4 shows. In this case, several studies reported significant effect of “doing well by doing good” on benevolence. Entrepreneur’s motive, as the most frequently revealed antecedent, has been deduced by different stakeholders from developing good actions, and having a set of intentions, positive attitudes and courtesy in different ways. Likewise, there is large evidence about how accuracy is a key antecedent of benevolence. In this regard, exchanging high-quality information, and providing accurate, fine-grained, completeness and adequate communication have been perceived as a signal of benevolence in some empirical studies. Also such a lot articles show the importance of trying to prove loyalty to be perceived as trustworthy, highlighting aspects as providing guarantees for payment and delivery and not taking advantage of even if the opportunity arose. With some less frequency, empirical findings corroborate the importance of demonstrate availability or disclosure as antecedent of benevolence. The finding about availability remarks the relevance of promoting proximity whereas disclosure has been showed by sharing personal and confidential information among others. Other key aspect signaled by previous studies with abundant findings is to exchange ideas. This is regarding to openness in, openness out and receptivity, such being open to new ideas, communicating them or both. Although reliance is showed only in three articles, they offer significant effect of the willingness to be vulnerable through delegation of task on the generation of trust. To end with the antecedent proposed by previous literature, only an article details how explaining details and consequence of information provided by the entrepreneur contributed to her benevolence valuation. Complementing former list of benevolence antecedents, identified in prior studies, we found that other empirical findings, such as strong tie, friendship and close relation developed by entrepreneurs that created trust, could be associated around the concept of kinship emerging as a relevant in this entrepreneurial context. This new trustworthiness antecedent, evidenced in 16 articles, underlines keeping deeply embedded relations, making her acquaintance, using of family and friend ties, or developing strong ties.

Table 5 shows integrity as the next factor that subsumes alignment, consistency, discreetness, fairness, honesty and moral character, with 133 empirical findings, gathered by 36 articles. Related with this entrepreneur’s trustworthiness factor, the numerous articles and the difference with the evidences of the others antecedents confirm that alignment is the most prominent antecedent. Findings show that adopting informal agreements, common goals and shared value, value congruence, and membership act as cues of alignment to be perceived. Regarding the last aspect, membership was not gathered into our coding guide and because its meaning is to belong a group with particular characteristics that other people could identify you as part of it, it was added into alignment. Also, our revision shows consistency, signaling by promise fulfillment or reliability, is a recurrent antecedent assessed by the stakeholders to deduce entrepreneur benevolence. Finally, although with minor evidences compared with respect the two former, an important number of articles support the rest of antecedents previously identified in the literature. These articles prove that maintained confidentiality; to be honest, following ethical principles and to show credibility make the entrepreneur trustworthy.

In this way, our results confirm the model proposed by Mayer et al., 1995, enriching it with a list of behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that illustrate how the entrepreneur is perceived as trustworthy in the early stages of her venture. Additionally, our review comes out other elements that influence in the entrepreneur stakeholders’ valuation and their trust on her that we were not able to locate into the ABI model. According to Schoorman et al., 2007 suggestion, we use our finding to expand the model of Mayer et al., 1995 including a new factor of perceived trustworthiness, entrepreneur social interactions. As Table 6 exhibits, this factor is supported by 35 empirical findings, gathered by 17 articles. In our review, some empirical findings noticed that most entrepreneurs and stakeholders spent considerable time, engaged in informal get-togethers and informal talks and meetings, and these are key for trust building. In the entrepreneurial context, social interactions help to build the foundation for the development of trust, as an important aspect to understand why some entrepreneurs are more trusted than others. In fact, several studies evidence that when stakeholders meet entrepreneur having a good time and knowing each other through informal talks and informal social activities, stakeholders valuate it. Social interactions are entrepreneur’s actions valuated by stakeholders that lead her to be more (or less) trusted. Consequently, we propose it as another trustworthy factor, it means that social interactions can be valued as another trustee’s attribute by stakeholders to build their trust based on three antecedents, such as informal meeting, networking and network.

Table 6. Social interaction.

Furthermore, the strength or closeness of social relationships as contacts between parties [61] is a mean to positively influence on trustworthiness valuations. According to Ariño et al., 2001 [86] , we also propose that entrepreneurs’ social interactions help stakeholders to facilitate the identification process and trustworthiness evaluation. Consequently, because entrepreneur’s interactions with stakeholders allow professional or social contacts, we depict in our model that it could facilitate not only her trustworthiness valuation but also interact with former ABI factors, as Figure 1 exhibits.

In addition, from the empirical evidence of past research we have detected other elements, such as previous experiences, reputation and/or third parties sources of information, influencing in trust building process. Prior trust research reveals that trust, as an outcome of initial cognitive cues and first impression, may also stem from third-party referrals and second-hand information about the trustee [88]. This idea could consider what other factors could influence the weighting of any one of the hypothesized antecedents on trust at early stages of a new venture. As Table 7 shows, prior experiences play an important role in terms of sharing pre-established personal relationships, having knowledge of beforehand by pre-established networks and living specific situations together. Previous personal relationships are prominent, emphasizing that they knew each other from earlier relationships, which significantly influences stakeholders’ entrepreneur valuation.

Likewise, Table 8 exhibits that to have a good reputation through being subject to formal mechanism, displaying reputation of her customers or suppliers, setting external validation, using the country brand and image of the profession is significant in establishing a trusting relationship. In new entrepreneur-stakeholders relationships, third parties is a source of information used by stakeholders who want to know about the entrepreneur and which affect the development of trust on her. In particular, gossips, recommendations, introduction and endorsement by other people who know her could affect the entrepreneur’s valuation. All together, these empirical findings suggest the possibility that these elements, prior experiences and reputation/third parties moderate stakeholders’ valuation about entrepreneur trustworthiness.

Figure 1. Conceptual model.

Table 7. Prior experience.

Table 8. Reputation/third parties.

Our literature review and the previous analysis of each factor and antecedent give a unique insight into the current status regarding research on trust between entrepreneur and different stakeholders. According to former findings, Figure 1 displays four factors, such as ability, benevolence, integrity and social interaction (ABISI), joined a set of trustworthiness antecedents, together with two moderator elements found. The trustor’s propensity to trust is not considered, because it is identified as a trustor’s characteristic, relatively stable, and due to it is not possible to manage by the trustee.

From our previous analysis, we have found that prior research in entrepreneurship has studied empirically, with different intensity, this topic regarding different kind of stakeholders. In fact, the ecosystem or network (18 articles), partners (12 articles), investors (11 articles), customers (11 articles) are the most studied trustors. Whereas the interest for other such bank (5 articles), or other entrepreneurs (5 articles) has been minor, or relatively scarce as the case of public sector (2 articles) and employees (1 article). To determine whether there is common trustworthiness schema for all them, we develop a comparison across stakeholders. In terms of appearance or frequency, our analysis shows that some antecedents are common for most of them affecting each stakeholder’s valuation, some are more prominent than others to aspecific stakeholder or simply do not appears to influence in their valuation, when we take into consideration the factors by stakeholders groups. As Table 9 gathers, functional/specific competence and capable experience appear as the prominent antecedents for ability valuation for practically all stakeholders. Similarly, motives and kinship are the flagrant antecedents for the benevolence assessment. Likewise, most of the stakeholders take into consideration alignment and consistency to assess the entrepreneur integrity and finally and interestingly, most stakeholder bases entrepreneur’s trust on social interactions, but there is not a common antecedent for all of them(see Table 9).

If this table of frecuency (see Table 9) is analysed by colums, we can obtain an especific ABISI model and identify key antecedents for each stakeholder, allowing us to develop customized models. Thus according with the empirical findings obtained by previous literature:

- Integrity and concretelly his antecedent, allignment, is clearly the aspect more prominent to be trusted by the entrepreneur’s network or ecosystem. Aditionally her ecosystem prominently evalues her ability considering her functional and specific competences, and her benevolence by her accuracy. There is not empirical findings about other relevant antecedents, e.g., business sense.

- In the case of customers, the prominnecy of the three factors of Mayer et al., 1995 is balanced. Customers asses ability also mainly by functional and specific competences, benevolence has been evaluated primarily by motives and integrity taken into consideration alignment and consitency. Other relevant antecedents, e.g., accuracy, openness (in, out and receptivity) and networking, do not present empirical evidence.

- Investors, that gather stackeholders like business angels, venture capital, institutional investors or even microlenders, have trusted in stakholders mainly judging her capable experience, functional competences, accuracy, motives, openness out, alignment and consitency. Interpersonal competence does not have founded as antecedent.

Table 9. Antecedents’ appearance and frequency by stakeholder type.

All cells with the border are the most prominent.

- In her relations with partners, clearily kinship, alignment, network act as prominent antecedents. Similarly, interpersonal competence does not have founded.

- Although the empirical findings are lower, our analysis highlights business sense and functional competence as antecedents for ability, and motives for benevolence in her relationships with banks. In this case, aspects as interpersonal competence, loyalty, openness (in, out, and receptivity), informal meetings and network appear as no relevant.

- Similarly, regarding her relations with other entrepreneurs, alignment presents its importance as antecedent.

- With only an article focused on it, interpersonal competence appears as a relevant antecedent regarding her relations with employees.

- Finally, kinship and loyalty are founded as antecedents regarding the public sector. Although in the same way of the former, this only represents the finding of one article.

5. Conclusions

This paper proposes a further understanding of how the entrepreneur can build intentionally stakeholders’ trust. Based on an extensive empirical literature review, some answers were found to the following questions 1) what are the entrepreneur’s factors of perceived trustworthiness? 2) What are specific entrepreneur’s characteristics, attitudes and behaviors that improve her stakeholders’ valuation? And 3) is there differences across diverse stakeholders? In this way our proposed model updates, adapts and details the ABI schema to the entrepreneurial setting.

Lewis and Weigert, 1985 suggested that trust is based on “good reasons’ constituting evidence of trustworthiness” and Mayer et al., 1995 clear those “good reasons” in terms of ability, benevolence, and integrity. Our analysis of previous empirical evidence supports the importance of all these three trustworthiness factors for entrepreneur to build stakeholders trust, but also it evidences the relevance of social interactions. In this regard, our model extends ABI model to include it as an entrepreneur specific trustworthiness factor developing a twofold role, and it will be considered an important factor in the assessment of trustworthiness by the stakeholders and it will affect assessments of other trustworthiness.

An interesting aspect emerges in our study, is that a variety of information has a strong impact on the assessment of trustworthiness. In particular, multiple sources of information lead up to this evaluation, including sources such as reputation/third parties and prior experiences that were deduced from the empirical articles considered. In addition, our model goes into details drawing antecedents of each trustworthiness factor offering a widen inventory of attitudes, behaviors and characteristics that entrepreneurs could signal to favor their valuations.

Furthermore, advancing on it, our analysis of frequencies offers a picture about what aspects should be exhibited to facilitate the formation of each stakeholder’s trustworthiness valuation. We detected the potentially bases of trust across different stakeholder groups (e.g. investors, partners, customers, etc.) where each stakeholder through different trustworthiness antecedents perceived the same factors. Prior research analyzed on trust in an entrepreneurial context, however, has not distinguished between the potentially varying bases of trust across stakeholders [52].

In this way, our model offers practical implications. The proposed model can be used as a reference for entrepreneurs confronting with the challenge of creating an identity as a trustworthy person across stakeholders groups in a trust requiring situation. Entrepreneurs can see our model and its antecedent inventory as a practical guide to identify cues of how to communicate trustworthiness factors effectively for each stakeholder.

Building on the results and limitations of this study, we discuss specific areas for future research. First of all, the search was restricted to articles published in the period between 2000 and 2015. Further research is needed to cover the period until today. Likewise, the search was limited to the cognitive process, involving signaling and demonstrating trustworthiness factors. However, trusting is a process that but also establishes an emotional connection [92]. The affective approach requires further development with the aim of proving an understanding of the association between affective nature of trust and factors of perceived trustworthiness and their antecedents. Thus, future research could focus on how trust-building models could include both components that affect individual’s impression formation and judgments.

Another limitation is that our conceptual model takes the perspective of active entrepreneurs building trust, considering differences from the stakeholders’ point of view, trustors. But trust also depends on the trustor’s characteristics, and specifically his/her propensity to trust others [13]. Further research could consider this variable searching for communalities among stakeholders. In this regard, because prior research is mainly centered on investors, partners and customers, more research is necessary to better know how other relevant stakeholders (e.g., employees, public sector) build trust.

Similarly, our model is just focus on the trustworthiness antecedents assuming that trust fosters stakeholders’ risk taking and has other positives effects on variables such as commitment, learning or collaboration. An interesting avenue for future research would be to test whether these stakeholders’ actions will provoke benefits for the entrepreneur, counterbalancing her signaling effort. Furthermore, Colquitt et al., 2007 results suggest that trustworthiness may be important even aside from their trust-fostering role, having unique relationships with behavioral outcomes even when trust was considered simultaneously. From this perspective, we also suggest testing this trustworthiness’ dual importance—predicting behaviors through the mechanisms of trust or analysing directly how it leads to behavioral outcomes like risk taking or commitment.

Finally, this study limits the search to the entrepreneurial literature, perhaps more evidences could be found in other journals, it is an important step to be tested empirically through qualitative and/or qualitative methods. In this line, further steps need to consider the weight of each antecedent, the contextual setting, even how the empirical model will develop from early stages on time across next stages.


1For the purpose of this paper, we use the term “entrepreneur” as “she” and “her”.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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