Without any doubt, the small firm sector has received growing attention from politicians, media, researchers and the general public over the last decades. Small firms are often expected to solve the problems of unemployment and economic recession. Recent research gives some support for this opinion, i.e. that small firms are of great and growing importance to the economy (e. g. Davidsson, Lindmark & Olofsson, 1996; Storey, 1994). Small and new firms have great impact on the creation of new jobs. Relatively speaking, the number of jobs created by expanding small firms is larger than the number of jobs created by new firms during their first year in operation (Davidsson Lindmark & Olofsson, 1996). Research also indicates that a relatively small proportion of high-growth firms create a large proportion of these jobs (Storey, 1994).
In a small firm, the importance of personal qualities of
the top manager for the development of the firm is likely to be
relatively greater than in a large firm. Therefore, focusing on
the individual is relevant when researching small firms. In
economic theory and empirical
research, the managers willingness to grow his or her firm is often taken for granted. Previous research indicates that many small business managers are not interested in pursuing growth (Davidsson, 1989a; Kolvereid, 1992; Stanworth & Gray, 1991; Storey, 1994). A plausible reason for this is that they expect some consequences of growth to be negative and therefore refrain from growing their firms. A pilot interview study conducted by one of the authors (Davidsson, 1986) based on interviews with eleven owner-managers, and a literature review of classical works (Bolton, 1971; Boswell, 1972; Deeks, 1976; Stanworth & Curran, 1973) identified eight key areas that are important for small business managers and are likely to be affected by growth. These are a) workload, b) work tasks, c) employee well-being, d) private finances, e) control, f) survival of crises, g) product/service quality and h) independence. Further, in the bulk of research on small firm growth, motivation is usually omitted and explanatory power is usually moderate (see e.g. Storey, 1994 or Davidsson, 1989a, Ch. 2 for a review). The few studies that have researched the link between motivation and firm growth have found motivator to be a major predictor of actual growth (Kolvereid & Bullvag, 1996; Mok & van den Tillaart, 1987).
This illustrates that the entrepreneurs motivation can be of central importance for the growth of the firm and suggests that motivation is not solely based on financial expectations. Motivation theories appear to better help us understand entrepreneurial behaviour and performance than personality or ability theories (Bellu, 1993; Delmar, 1996; Miner, 1990; Miner, Smith & Bracker, 1989; Miner, Smith & Bracker, 1992; Miner, Smith & Bracker, 1994). Motivation theories are aimed at explaining why an individual chooses to act in a certain direction, whereas personality theories explain that an individual has to act in certain ways. Ability theories on the other hand explain performance in very specific tasks (e.g. academic achievement, chess, typing), The entrepreneurial context can be characterised by high complexity and uncertainty involving fuzzy tasks (Campbell, 1988). In such a context, ability is in a sense subordinate to motivation. That is, when studying entrepreneurial behaviour we measure the outcome of a goal in a space of several different goals. Motivation will be an important determinant, because the choice of a goal in itself will lead to a higher achievement in that specific direction. There is therefore reason to more closely examine different concepts used in motivation theories and assess their ability to explain entrepreneurial behaviour (Davidsson, 1989a; Delmar, 1996).
One of the major concepts in motivation theories is attitude. An attitude is a valuation of an object or a concept, i.e. to which extent an object or concept is judged as good or bad. While in psychological studies of entrepreneurial behaviour, personality and value variables such as e.g. Need for Achievement or Locus of Control have been extensively researched (Stimpson, Robinson, Waranusuntikule & Zheng, 1990), attitudes have received relatively little attention. In psychological language, personality and values are distal, i.e. weak determinants of specific behaviours. Attitudes on the other hand are proximal, i.e. more specific and because of their specificity, they are considered to be important determinants of behaviour. Consequently, the impact of attitudes on entrepreneurial behaviour is worthy of closer examination.
There has been much controversy over the importance of
attitudes in predicting behaviour. However, recent research has
shown that attitudes can predict behaviour if certain conditions
are met (Bagozzi & Warshaw, 1992; Kim & Hunter, 1993).
Attitudes have been found to be moderately strong predictors of
goal directed behaviour (r =.79 between attitude and behaviour
when methodological artefacts were removed, cf. Doll & Ajzen,
1992; Kim & Hunter, 1993). The probability for a significant
relationship increases when attitudinal and behavioural
measures correspond with respect to action, target, context and time. For example, the relationship is expected to be weak if there has been a substantial time interval between the measurement of attitude and the behavioural act. The relationship is also expected to be weak if a single act in a specific context (e.g., expanding the business by acquisition with the help of the bank) is measured instead of a range of actions with no specific context (e.g., expanding the business). Addressing these psychological issues can help us produce better prediction, and help us explain our results.
A shortcoming of theories about values and attitudes is that they give no information about how an individuals evaluations of a concept are translated into action and outcomes. Differently stated, attitude theories help us understand how choices are made and why, but they give little guidance about the chosen level of effort and persistence (Locke, 1991).
Attitudes can be broken down into three different classes of evaluative responses: (1) cognitive responses, also known as beliefs, are thoughts that people have about the attitude object (e.g., I believe expanding the business will enhance the possibilities of the business to survive a crises), (2) affective responses consist of feelings, moods or emotions that people have in relation to the attitude object (e.g., I feel happy /anxious about expanding my business), (3) behavioural responses are the overt actions exhibited by people in relation to the attitude object (e.g., I turned down the order, because it would have meant expanding the business).
In this paper, we have focused on the cognitive and behavioural response categories of attitudes to expanding a business. Expected consequences of growth are here seen as determinants of the entrepreneurs willingness to expand his or her business. Growth willingness is used as a proxy for behavioural response and expected consequences of growth are treated as indicators of cognitive response.
Given the important impact the motivation of the entrepreneur is likely to have on the growth of his or her firm and that attitudes have been scarcely researched in entrepreneurship, we set out to answer the following questions:
a) does growth willingness and expected consequences of
growth vary across firms from different industries, size brackets
and age groups?
b) to what extent can expected consequences of growth explain growth willinness?
c) which specific expected consequences have smaller or larger effect on growth willingness?
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