Management strategies in small businesses: evidence from the printing and soft drinks industries
Allen, Christopher John
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This thesis is a study of management strategy in small businesses. The principal concern of the research involves an examination of the interrelationship of economic and social processes of small business management. Evidence presented in the thesis is based on in -depth observations of management behaviour in a sample of small printing firms and soft drinks manufacturers. These two industries were chosen because of their contrasting technologies and environ- ments for small firms, and they present a variety of insights into the dynamics of small company behaviour which would not have been possible through a more generalised approach to the analysis.The study involves the construction of a model of small company dynamics as the basis for examining manage- ment strategy in the sample of small printing firms and soft drinks manufacturers. The model is derived from a critical examination of various perspectives to the study of business enterprises, and their relevance to an under- standing of the dynamics of small companies. The model is examined through a series of interviews of managing directors and senior executives in small businesses. The interviews incorporated both structured and unstructured techniques, and were designed to identify management strategies for future company development and processes underlying the adoption of particular policies to achieve the desired strategic objective.The thesis presents a detailed examination of manage- ment behaviour and small company performance in the print- ing and soft drinks industries. These separate studies are then synthesised into more generalisable idealisations of company behaviour, which are related to specific con- figurations of management and company characteristics. The ideal types of small company identified by our research provide a broad framework with which to analyse small company behaviour and performance. Our evidence links the social process of ownership and executive -control in small firms to the widely varying levels of small company performance. In broad terms, our analysis suggests that older, family- managed firms tend to be the least efficient in a particular industry, and that this process is linked to the strategies adopted by managers in response to market and technological change. Our research also identifies situations of small company demise in which owner- managers sought to liquidate company assets, as opposed to demise through financial failure. The interactive nature of social processes of small business management and economic trends within a particular industry provide important insights into the functioning of the small business sector within the UK economy.The final part of the thesis broadens the discussion of current conclusions to present a more theoretical analysis of processes of small business management, and an examination of the future role of small businesses in the UK economy. This discussion refines and extends previous analyses of small company growth and decline to provide a more comprehensive model of small company dynamics. These discussions suggest several implications for Government and institutional policy, which are reviewed in the final chapter.