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Strategies Snarks and stories: SME owner manager perceptions of business advisers

Barry Ardley (Business School, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Philip Moss (Dee Set: Complete Retail Solutions, Lincoln, UK)
Nick Taylor (Business School, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)

Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1471-5201

Article publication date: 17 October 2016




This paper aims to examine the perceptions of small business entrepreneurs regarding the efficacy of external business advisers in delivering sustainable strategic and operational guidance.


The research is interpretivist, exploring the narratives of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner/managers in manufacturing. Five in-depth interviews were carried out, revealing a range of decision stories about the use of external business advisers.


While there was some scepticism towards the use of advisers in certain situations, the research revealed that levels of trust, relationship building and the credibility of the consultant are substantial factors in determining whether the engagement is successful.

Research limitations/implications

As a small-scale study, it would be worthwhile to examine the perceptions of additional entrepreneurs to business advisers to compare research findings.

Practical implications

Policy regarding advice to small businesses should be framed in terms of the local context of the firm and its owner, rather than on broad and generalisable systems of business knowledge. Time and effort is required to build a sustainable relationship between advisers and owners, and it is recommended that particular attention be paid to the process.

Social implications

The research suggests that potentially, industrial policy regarding current delivery of small business advice requires readjustments towards more of a relationship focus.


Little established research appears to exist in relation to the tendency or otherwise, for SME decision makers to pursue and use external advice. This paper helps to fill an important gap in the literature while offering some significant and nuanced insights into the perceptions of SME owner managers.



Ardley, B., Moss, P. and Taylor, N. (2016), "Strategies Snarks and stories: SME owner manager perceptions of business advisers", Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 211-231.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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