The Mature Micro Business and its Network: Advancing the qualitative case study on network tie content and strength
Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
The value creating mechanism of business networks has been acknowledged in research (Casson & Della Giusta, 2007, p. 221; Granovetter, 1973; Jones, Hesterly & Borgatti, 1997, p. 912). Within small business research, focus has been on network structure (Jack, Moult, Anderson & Dodd. 2010, p. 317; Shaw, 2006, p. 5; Curran et al., 1993, p. 13), disregarding dynamic factors such as network content, strength and processes. Network studies within start-up businesses have received attention (Witt, 2004, p 392); hence limited research exists concerning more well-established small businesses’ networks. These research gaps will here be addressed from the perspective of a smaller business, a micro business, at a stage of firm maturity.
Small business research suffers from methodological fragmentation and underdevelopments, favoring positivistic and quantitative methods (Blackburn & Kovalainen, 2009, p. 128-129). To address this, this research seeks to explore qualitative alternatives, which can be increasingly fruitful for the small business field when studying networks (Jack et al., 2010, p. 317). Recognizing the social and contextual embeddedness of the micro business and its sensitivity to external changes (Curran & Blackburn, 2001, p. 7), this research opts for a qualitative in-depth case study to explore these contextual mechanisms. This research adopts a critical realist stance using ethnographic and process research methods of grounded theory, taking the sequence of events into account in the analysis. This present research combines strands of research of core disciplines (sociology) to newer disciplines (entrepreneurship) to produce a conceptual mapping. This deductive conceptual mapping is used as basis for the data collection and as a tool for analysis in this by nature inductive study.
This study finds that network tie content and strength deepen the understanding of networks and their maintenance, beyond the static mapping of structure. Network tie content and strength does influence structure and is in turn influenced by context. This provides answer to why the network appears as it does. The appearance of the mature micro business’ network indicates that growth ambitions can be inhibited by contextual factors such as limited access to new opportunities. This present study finds and agrees with Van Maanen (2011a, p. 226-227) that the single case study and ethnographic observant-participant methods, often criticized for not producing substantial findings, are informative as they allow exploring the influence of contextual factors. The intended audience of research academics and local/regional/national entrepreneurship policy makers should recognize that research which enhances tools for apprehending contextual factors can provide interesting results. The research design disregards generalization capabilities in favor of accounting for the research process of the researcher and its subject. This is argued to give a fruitful version of truth of network appearance in terms of content and strength and why it appears as such.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Network(s), micro businesses, context, contextual, structure, content, strength, single case, ethnography, critical realism
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-74936OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-74936DiVA: diva2:634989
International Business Program
UppsokSocial and Behavioural Science, Law