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Individual Paper: Towards growth-independent and post-growth-oriented entrepreneurship in the SME sector

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For a long time the postulate that quantitative growth is the entrepreneurial raison d’être and an indispensable obligation for a company has remained unquestioned. Empirical studies on firm size and growth show, however, that a large fraction of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are non-growers or slow growers. These SMEs often show a more qualities-driven perspective on the growth question and a higher awareness of diseconomies of scale. Given the rather slow reception of this issue by the management literature, the knowledge about how to successfully manage a qualities-driven but non-growing company is currently limited. This deficit is problematic in its own right but also because such growth-critical companies might become relevant in the context of the degrowth movement. So far, the corresponding societal and academic discourses have, however, largely blocked out market-based actors. Against this background, the presentation of a recent paper presents findings of a structured aggregation and meta-interpretation of four qualitative studies on entrepreneurial approaches towards growth independence. The studies cover 33 companies from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the USA. The aim is to provide a starting point for the development of corresponding business practices and to show how growth-critical SMEs can potentially contribute to a transformation towards a post-growth society.

In the meta-interpretation, four central topics were identified: 1) typical decision-making situations, in which companies are faced with the growth question and discover their freedom of choice, 2) motives that drive companies to decide against further growth and to formulate criteria for a particular size or growth rate, 3) approaches to achieve greater growth independence as well as wider post-growth contributions, 4) the process of transition that companies are undergoing in their repositioning with respect to the growth issue. The presentation will outline these topics with a special emphasis on 3). It will propose a classification of the multitude of different—both radical and conventional—SME approaches and, in doing so, mark the differences between growth independence and post-growth contributions. The presentation will close with research questions to further develop growth-critical management practice and to sharpen our understanding of degrowth on the business level.


Day: 2018-08-22
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (209)
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices



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