To Grow or Not to Grow? That is the Question: Lessons for Social Ecological Transformation from Small-Medium Enterprises

Heidi Leonhardt, Maria Jutschen, Clive L. Spash

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper


While research on alternatives to growth at the level of the economy as a whole is
accumulating, few studies have related the criticism of growth to the business level. This
paper starts to address this gap by investigating mechanisms of growth for small and medium
sized enterprises (SMEs), presenting a case study that applies Q methodology and interviews
with owner-managers of both growing and non-growing SMEs in Austria. Some mechanisms
stimulating growth are identified across SMEs including contributing to innovativeness and
motivation of employees. Others are only of relevance for some SMEs: competition, financial
stability and a desire for market power. The owner-managers of non-growing SMEs hold
values and pursue goals that free them from mechanisms of growth or prevent them from
being triggered. Moreover, they exhibit a strong identification with their SME, operate in
niche markets and strive for financial independence. This illustrates that a growth imperative
is neither inevitable nor are growth mechanisms always operative, but depend upon structures
and institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameSRE - Discussion Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • SRE - Discussion Papers

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