What do they think and feel about growth? An expectancy-value approach to small business managers' attitudes towards growth
Wiklund, Johan, Davidsson, Per, & Delmar, Frederic (2003) What do they think and feel about growth? An expectancy-value approach to small business managers' attitudes towards growth. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 27(3), pp. 247-269.
In this article we investigate how small business managers’ beliefs concerning the con-sequences of growth influence their overall growth attitude. We find this to be an important question. Although previous research has shown that small firm growth is the most important source of new jobs (Davidsson, Lindmark, & Olofsson, 1994; 1996; Kirchhoff, 1994; Rey-nolds & White, 1997), there are also clear indications that many small business managers de-liberately refrain from exploiting opportunities to expand their firms. We test the influence of the eight most important perceived consequences of growth on the overall growth attitude in three separate, large-scale surveys of small business managers. Previous research suggests that there is reason to more carefully assess the role of growth motivation when examining firm growth. Many small business managers are not willing to pursue growth (Davidsson, 1989a; 1989b; Delmar, 1996; Gundry & Welsch, 2001; Storey, 1994). An important implication of this is that many small firms do not realize their full growth potential (Scott & Rosa, 1996), which may constitute a source of great under-utilization of resources. Our knowledge of why small business managers vary so greatly in their growth motivation is still limited. It constitutes an area worthy of further investigation, as research that examines the effect of growth motivation on subsequent business growth finds support for a positive relationship (Bellu & Sherman, 1995; Kolvereid & Bullvag, 1996; Miner, Smith, & Bracker, 1994; Mok & van den Tillaart, 1990) . In this article we explicitly assess reasons for differences in levels of growth motivation. More specifically, we focus on the beliefs and attitudes toward expanding a business. Building on the expectancy-value theory of attitudes (Ajzen, 1988; 1991; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1977; 1980; Fishbein, 1967; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), we are interested in how the overall attitude toward growth is influenced by specific cognitive beliefs about the consequences of growth. Second, we believe that this research can have practical implications. People’s beliefs are influenced by the persuasive argumentation of others (Ajzen, 1991; Chaiken & Stangor, 1987). Hence, it should be possible to affect small business managers’ beliefs about growth through providing them with the relevant information and knowledge. That is, if certain be-liefs have stronger influence on overall attitude, society may be able to take specific actions related to these areas that, in turn, will affect the small business managers’ attitudes toward expanding their firms. The article proceeds as follows. The next section introduces the expectancy-value theory of attitudes and shows how previous empirical research regarding the motivation of small business managers can be placed in this conceptual framework in order to explain individual differences in growth motivation. Eight hypotheses concerning how specific expected conse-quences of growth affect growth motivation conclude the section. Next, the replication design is presented along with the analyses carried out to test the hypotheses, the samples and the variables. The hypotheses are then tested by means of regression analysis in the following sec-tion. A discussion of the results and their implications for future research as well as small business managers concludes the article.
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