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Of bad-seed, black-sheep and prodigal-sons: Profiling crime and enterprise in a small-business-community

Robert Smith (Department of Business and Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 7 March 2016



In small-business-communities trust is important inter/intra family particularly in relation to familial dynamics. Seldom is mistrust or distrust examined in an academic context. In business families “Black-Sheep” often rebel against familial expectations by engaging in criminal activity. This is important because entrepreneurs are eulogised by society and as an institution, family business is venerated. The very idea that small business owners would knowingly engage in crime is anathema. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Using retrospective ethnography and immersion techniques this quasi-longitudinal study of (dis)organized crime in a small-business-community (SBC) starts the bridging process.


There is an assumption that business crime is best accommodated under the rubric of white-collar-criminality typically regarded as an excusable middle-class crime compared to organized working-class crime. By focusing on the black-sheep of business families collectively this work illustrates how there may be a stronger link between organized-crime-groups and the local-business-community than previously assumed because a small minority of businessmen engage in the commission of ordinary crime by choice.


The methodology used is a limitation as is replicating it in other small-business-communities.


This study provides an alternative heuristic through which to understand the application black-sheep-thesis in business settings. The knowledge developed has practical implications for the investigation of crime in such communities and for researchers in the field.


This study extends knowledge of white-collar-criminality within the business domain.


This is an original and novel study which extends our knowledge and understanding of trust based issues in business settings and the SBC.



Smith, R. (2016), "Of bad-seed, black-sheep and prodigal-sons: Profiling crime and enterprise in a small-business-community", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 39-62.



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