The development of micro-enterprises.
This thesis examines micro-enterprises (firms with under ten employees) pursuing
some degree of gradual growth. While very little research specifically targets the
growth of micro-enterprises, there was a host of possible influencing factors
suggested by the rather broader small business literature. Less literature was
found on how the complex interaction of these factors might stimulate a firm's
development. A framework was derived which suggested how the factors
identified might interact with four key growth drivers, namely; management
expertise for growth, owner's growth motivation, resource access and demand.
The framework contributed a clear agenda for analyzing a firm's growth, while
allowing the specific issues of any particular firm to be investigated within its
Sixteen case studies were investigated to allow sufficient comparison across a
number of firms for some generalisations to be made with a degree of conviction,
while retaining adequate quality in the detailed analysis of each firm to allow the
intricate configuration of factors to be understood. Two dimensions of comparison
were followed. Firstly, comparison between firms that achieved different levels of
growth (no attempted growth, attempted but not achieved growth and achieved
growth) and secondly comparison between different sectors (retailing, service,
wholesale and manufacturing).
Patterns were discovered in the interaction of these factors which allowed the
original framework to be empirically authenticated and improved. The quality of the
data encouraged deep consideration of the process by which factors influence the
growth of the firm. The analysis suggests that for a firm to grow through the
micro-enterprise phase, the combined influence of factors on all four sets of growth
drivers proposed in the framework needs to be positive. The possibility of a number
of different factors influencing any particular set of growth drivers suggests that
no factor, however strongly motivating, will itself be essential to the growth of the
firm. The framework provides a useful structure to help micro-enterprise ownermanagers
and their advisors formulate growth strategies by highlighting areas
which require attention. It may also afford some degree of qualitative prediction of
the likelihood of a firm achieving successful growth. These results reinforce the
need for researchers to accept the complexity of growth factors and not to search
for simplistic solutions.