Growth strategies and small business owners: a Structurationist investigation of Strategy-as-Practice in small enterprises

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

The purpose of this research study is to investigate how the strategising of growth-oriented Small Business Owners (SBOs) influences the strategy in their businesses. This thesis describes a ‘Strategy-as-Practice’ (S-as-P) investigation of ten Small Business Owners (SBOs) in Northeast England. Each SBO participated in a confidential ‘one-to-one’ strategy workshop with the author. The workshop format required each SBO to create a strategy map during the videoed session. The research design was intended to be minimally intrusive for members of the small businesses community. The theoretical underpinning in this interpretive study was informed by Structuration Theory (ST). The video data were analysed with CAQDAS software. A template analysis approach was used based upon the symbiotic relationship of agency and structure proposed by ST. Cross-cutting themes were sought across the case companies. The author found that the methodology attracted participation by growth-oriented SBOs. At the meso-level growth-oriented SBOs can be characterised as “strategically aware”, even if their strategy has remained unchanged for a considerable time. This strategic awareness is a manifestation of strategising praxes within the business. SBOs that are not actively changing strategy tend to articulate aspects of their business model which are visible in the firm, the others find difficulty in expressing their strategy in words. The “one-to-one” strategy workshop format used in this study facilitates the articulation of tacit knowledge and hence aids such discussion. This research was focused upon SBOs that had a history of organic-growth, and had been relatively unscathed by the 2008 Banking Crisis aftermath. The participation group were all based in the North East of England. This study contributes to existing S-as-P knowledge by extending the contextual boundary beyond large organisations into the small business domain. The author contrasts, and compares, the S-as-P findings in this study with the extant field that has almost exclusively been devoted to larger scale enterprise. The videoed “one-to-one” strategy workshop design is a methodological contribution that has proven efficacious in both recruiting and studying SBOs with the minimum of intervention disruption for these busy people. The author creates a synthesised model of small business strategising based on findings from this study that may assist future researchers to better engage and understand the strategising of SBOs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015

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