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High growth trajectories in small and medium sized enterprises: a comparative study

Cécile Chanut-Guieu (IUT Aix-Marseille and LEST UMR 7317, Aix Marseille Université and CNRS, Aix en Provence, France)
Gilles C. Guieu (IUT Aix-Marseille and CRET-LOG EA 881, Aix Marseille Université, Aix en Provence, France)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 11 November 2014




Rapid growth constitutes both a theoretical and an economic issue. Thanks to a comparative study of five high growth small and medium sized enterprises located in Rhône-Alp and Provence (France), the authors propose a processual analysis of high growth trajectories. The purpose of this paper is to identify trajectories and tools implicated in the construction and maintenance of a high growth trajectory.


The contribution is a comparative, qualitative study of five medium size companies in France that have experienced growth of more than 20 percent annually for at least four years. This study is based on 25 semi-directive interviews with company managers.


First, high growth is a result of the psychological state of the company leader. Second, high growth is a manifestation of a secure enterprise geographically based where the company originated. This, however, implies discomfort once high growth occurs when physical expansion obliges moving to unfamiliar locations. Finally, in companies with high growth trajectories, support functions develop relatively late.


The results corroborate certain previously presented findings and bring forth new conclusions particularly concerning the place of the leader, the existence of thresholds and the relative homogeneity of trajectories.



This work was supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR). Program “Enterprises and economic structures. Risks, transformations and constants” 2007-2010. The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The authors also like to thank the participants of the 2010 RENT Conference in Maastricht for their helpful feedback on an earlier version of this paper.


Chanut-Guieu, C. and C. Guieu, G. (2014), "High growth trajectories in small and medium sized enterprises: a comparative study", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 623-637.



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