Use of effectuation by established micro businesses: short-term gain, long-term pain?

Phillip McGowan (Department of Marketing and Sales Group, Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Publication date: 25 May 2020



The purpose of this study is to investigate the efficacy and impact of effectual logic used by owner-managers of established micro firms when making buying decisions.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 owner-managers of micro firms, concerning their decision-making processes when selecting suppliers. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, then analysed thematically.


This study contributes to the literature in respect of effectuation by considering its use by a micro firm owner-manager to develop relationships with trusted suppliers. The findings suggest effectuation positively promotes flexibility and reduces loss potential, thus positively affecting the price that the owner-manager is willing to pay. Furthermore, it also appears to necessitate effectual selling, with an ongoing iterative process, in which effectual selling leads to effectual buying. In contrast to extant literature, this study suggests that application of effectual logic to buying and selling decisions, by a micro firm owner-manager can create, rather than reduce, uncertainty.

Research limitations/implications

This study is based on single interviews with a sample of owner-managers of micro firms that operate within the same industry and within a single country. The subjective nature of qualitative research, homogeneity and size of sample may prevent generalisation of the findings.

Practical implications

Effectual buying and selling appears to provide a micro firm with the ability to engage with flexible suppliers so as to offer a heterogeneous array of products and services to its customers, thus promoting sales success. Yet, the lack of homogeneity of customer needs and need for supplier flexibility may lead to overall costs being greater than those that could be achieved if the micro firm specialised in a smaller range of products and services and developed internal resources to meet the needs of its customers.


In contrast to extant literature that states that effectuation is a way to reduce uncertainty to a level at which a decision can be made, this study suggests that continual use of effectual logic by owner-managers of micro firms when making buying and selling decisions can instead create more uncertainty in the longer term.



McGowan, P. (2020), "Use of effectuation by established micro businesses: short-term gain, long-term pain?", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 60-71.

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