Presentation by Jana Gebauer
Empirical studies on firm size and growth show that the larger proportions of companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), are voluntary or forced non- and slow growers. Yet, the generally unquestioned postulate is that growth is the entrepreneurial raison d’être and an indispensable (societal) obligation for an economic actor. In this spirit, ‘non-growth’ appears to be a ‘non-issue’ in business and management literature and indicates under-performance. The hence limited knowledge about how to successfully manage a non-growing company represents a major hurdle for a broader acceptance and diffusion of alternative growth and development models. We therefore hold that management approaches which defy one-sided quantitative expectations on growth and success need to be emphasized. In recent years, case studies are on the rise presenting motives, strategies and criteria of SME for leaving the growth-path and reducing their growth-dependencies. Based on our own quantitative and qualitative research in this field, we aim to go further into the development of a qualities-driven, growth-independent and social-ecologically transformative management model. To that end, we conduct a meta-analysis of existing case analyses on SME and also include cases and analyses from the variety of alternative economic approaches with diverse regional, historical, and normative backgrounds. Deriving a general model for strategic and operative decision making at the firm level from case analyses on perceived economic niche phenomena within a critical growth discourse will express a break-out from the common sense business imperative.