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The impact of personal attitudes on the growth ambitions of small business owners.

Braidford, P. and Drummond, I. and Stone, I.E. (2017) 'The impact of personal attitudes on the growth ambitions of small business owners.', Journal of small business and enterprise development., 24 (4). pp. 850-862.


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide an empirical evidence in support of widespread calls for new approaches to understanding small business growth, by exploring the use of non-positivist methods (e.g. critical realism) to analyse how owners’ innate dispositions shape growth in practice. Design/methodology/approach In 2014, a telephone survey was used to inform two focus groups and 29 in-depth interviews with small business owners throughout England, covering attitudes towards growth, the use of particular strategies and perceived barriers. Discourse analysis was used to develop a multi-layered explanatory model incorporating key ideas from critical realism and the work of Bourdieu. Findings Bourdieusian analysis reveals the existence of orientations among small business owners towards or against business growth. Such attitudes tend to impact upon their response to perceived barriers. Growth-inclined owners were willing to strategise for long-term benefit, in return for lower returns in the short term. Growth-resistant owners were more likely to view obstacles as absolute, stating that they cannot grow their firms as a result. Practical implications Removing or reducing obstacles may not encourage growth if motivations and attitudes of owners do not change to embrace more growth-oriented positions. Banks’ lending practices, for example, were seen by many as problematic, but growth-oriented owners were more willing to seek and use alternatives to raise funds for growth. Originality/value The authors suggest that entrepreneurship researchers should look beyond positivist research to epistemologies that provide more multi-layered modes of explanation.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Date accepted:02 May 2017
Date deposited:09 May 2017
Date of first online publication:29 June 2017
Date first made open access:29 June 2017

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