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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Growing a small firm; experiences and managing difficult processes

Tunberg, Maria; Anderson, Alistair R.

Abstract

Contrary to a simple model of small firm growth where increased inputs produce greater outputs, we consider growth is a complex and difficult process. Accordingly, the paper is concerned with how small firms grow, especially how they make sense of the growth process. We collected narratives of the experiences of small firm growth in an extended case study to draw out how growth is understood and managed. We saw how owners became entangled in the process of growing, especially where a change in one aspect led to problems in other dimensions of growth. Their narratives were about trying to make sense, and give some sense to the complexity of growth and some direction to what they should manage. We identified a repertoire of narrative forms: Growth is understood through output indicators, growth is treated as the internal development of the firm and finally, growth is taken to be inevitable - a necessity to which the firm has to conform. These illustrate how growth can be understood as processes of growing, bound up in the context, created in space and time, and contingent on how growth is understood and experienced. Far from a smooth trajectory, enacting growth reflects the experience of the moment, it is shaped by reactions rather than strategy and it is messy rather than ordered. This study contributes to the literature by complementing the functionalist and output oriented view by understanding firm growth as a social phenomenon constructed and reconstructed in the interactions between people and experiences of context.

Keywords

Firm growth; Small firms; Process; Growing; Narrative; Sensemaking

Published in

International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal
2020, volume: 16, number: 4, pages: 1445-1463
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Anderson, Alistair R.
Univ Lancaster

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

UKÄ Subject classification

Business Administration

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-020-00647-0

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/104924