If owner-managers engage in management development activities then chances of success may be improved for small businesses. But small business owner-managers (SBOMs) are a difficult group to engage in management development activities. While practitioners worry about timing, content and location of development activities, the purpose of this paper is to examine what drives SBOMs to participate in an online discussion forum (ODF) as a form of management development. An ODF was run with SBOMs and the factors affecting their participation are reported from this exploratory study.
A qualitative methodology was used where data gathered from three sources, the ODF posts, in-depth interviews with participants and a focus group with non-participants. These were analysed to evaluate factors affecting participation of SBOMs in an ODF.
The findings point to the importance of owner-managers’ attitudes. Attitudes that positively affected SBOMs participation in the ODF included; appreciating that learning leads to business success; positive self-efficacy developed through prior online experience; and an occupational identity as a business manager.
Few SBOMs participated in the ODF, which is consistent with research finding that they are a difficult group to engage in management development learning activities. Three forms of data were analysed to strengthen results.
Caution should be exercised when considering investment in e-learning to develop the managerial capabilities of SBOMs.
Evidence of the factors important for participation in an informal voluntary ODF. The findings suggest greater emphasis should be placed on changing attitudes if SBOMs are to be encouraged to participate in management development activities.
Smith, T. and Barrett, R. (2016), "Online learning: An effective means for developing small business owner-managers’ capabilities?", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 207-223. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSBED-05-2014-0083Download as .RIS
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