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A critical examination of start-up business growth through employment decisions

Jarvis, Madeleine Ruth (2014) A critical examination of start-up business growth through employment decisions. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

In the United Kingdom, small businesses account for 99.9% of all private sector businesses, 59.1% of private sector employment and 48.8% of private sector turnover (BIS, 2012). Small business growth is considered to offer benefits to the economy via wealth creation and employment. Implicit in policy and the management literature is the idea that in order to grow, businesses must recruit additional resource. However, there is limited research into how, why and when businesses take this first step. The complex transition from being a sole trader to a manager is largely ignored in studies of business growth and human resource management in in favour of normative accounts, which relate to larger or more established businesses. To address this gap in the extant research, this research aims to critically investigate the complexities of employment decision making in a start-up business context in order to further understand start-up business growth. The research adopted a longitudinal, qualitative case study design to critically evaluate business owners’ employment decisions. Visual data elicitation tools (mapping) complemented semi-structured interviews and observational data collection to develop four case studies, presented as the empirical contribution of this study. Employing the theoretical lens of effectuation, this study moves towards an expanded theory of human resource management in growth orientated start-up businesses and provides an empirically grounded conceptualisation of effectual logic in practice in a start-up business context. The contributions are an expanded understanding of the practices of hrm in growth oriented start-up businesses, strongly influenced by kinship and notions of legitimacy, and an understanding of the role of effectuation in relation to hrm in growth oriented start-up businesses. These findings make a valuable contribution to extending perspectives on growth, support and employment practices in the UK small business sector. Specifically contributing to the academic discussions regarding effectual decision making and growth. It also offers practical utility via policy and practice implications.

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