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Small business growth: recent evidence and new directions

Matthew Dobbs (Department of Management, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)
R.T. Hamilton (Department of Management, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 7 August 2007




To review empirical contributions to the small business growth literature since the mid‐1990s.


Narrative review of the literature using the framework adopted in previous reviews: management strategies; characteristics of the entrepreneur; environment/industry factors; and firm characteristics.


The absence of any unifying theory means that the literature continues to feature a wide range of growth measures and model specifications. As a result of this, knowledge development appears fragmented rather than cumulative. New theoretical perspectives are needed if we are to develop our understanding of the growth process in small businesses.

Research limitations/implications

Alternative types of research are suggested that focus on small business growth as a process rather than an episode. Future research needs to adopt multiple measures of growth and, more importantly, be based on theory longitudinal in scope but idiosyncratic in its focus. Empirical work should seek to explain the periodicity of growth and the role that learning plays in the idiosyncratic development of small businesses.


The paper synthesizes the literature in an area that is critical in terms of the advice given to policy makers and business owners. It does so while building on the frameworks used in previous reviews and then identifying new research approaches that are needed to advance understanding of the small business growth process.



Dobbs, M. and Hamilton, R.T. (2007), "Small business growth: recent evidence and new directions", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 13 No. 5, pp. 296-322.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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