Sarah L. Jack
D. Jane Bower
Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Aberdeen,
Aberdeen AB24 3QY, Scotland, UK
In today's dynamic commercial environment the growth and development of new firms relies heavily upon the entrepreneur. Throughout peripheral areas of Scotland a number of fast-growing entrepreneurial firms have developed their operations very successfully in recent years, some establishing themselves as both domestic and international operators, despite their distance from main home and international markets. This paper seeks to present the initial findings, of an on-going longitudinal research study regarding successful entrepreneurial firms based in peripheral areas of Scotland. Initial findings suggest that although firms must operate within environmental constraints, they do have some ability to choose and shape their own business environments. A key question addressed in the research relates to the effect that improvements in physical and electronic/telecoms communications have had on changing the definition of remoteness and how these improvements have affected the study sample.
A qualitative methodological approach is being adopted for this study which involves in-depth interviews and non-participative observation. Information gathered from the sample will be used to build in-depth case studies over a period of time. The sample consists of four successful entrepreneurial firms based within the Highland and Grampian areas of Scotland; each differs in terms of size, turnover and activity. The participating firms have been selected on the basis that they are highly regarded as being successful within their sector by industry experts.
From the research conducted thus far, the firms selected for the study perceived their location on the periphery as not having specifically hindered their development. Despite their distance from the "core" areas they have been able to develop their businesses. It appears that peripheral firms develop their own resources to become relatively self-reliant and this suggests that they are more vertically integrated than their counterparts in metropolitan areas.
All the firms in the sample felt that there had been significant improvement over recent years in the local infrastructure. However, changes and improvements in methods of communication appear to have facilitated the activities of the firms studied?they have become functionally less distant from their markets.
The sample firms all feel a sense of responsibility to the local community and interaction is seen as very important. This has resulted in the firms developing local business and social networks which they have identified as playing an important support role.
The results show that despite their location on the periphery the firms studied have found ways of overcoming the majority of constraints placed on them. The awareness of mutual dependence on local networks felt by the sample firms is manifested in their involvement in the local community and their relationship with the workforce.
The improvements in communications and the local infrastructure have helped the development of peripheral firms. They can trade more easily and more professionally at both national and international level. Thus it appears that the definition remoteness is being altered by the major changes in the technological environment which are impacting on the business in generally favourable ways.