Investigating barriers to SME growth and development in transition environments: A critique and suggestions for developing the methodology

Rachel Doern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A perennial question for management scholars, economists and policy makers alike is why businesses do or do not grow. One way of explaining why so many businesses do not grow is through the notion of `barriers'. In formerly planned European economies in transition, barriers have been used to account for why so few businesses grow and why the SME sector has not developed as widely or rapidly as expected; yet, studies in this context tell us very little about why, how or indeed, if, this is the case.This article explores the limitations of the previous approach to investigating barriers, looking at the research assumptions, definitional issues, conceptualizations, and methodological limitations and challenges present in some of these studies. It begins to develop and integrate the previous approach into a more rounded methodology, shifting the focus away from prediction to understanding, and away from quantifying what kinds of barriers affect growth to exploring how barriers may influence growth intentions and behaviours. It encourages researchers to unpack the meaning of barriers and to take into account the context in which they are perceived. It also aims to overcome some of the challenges encountered by researchers working in transition environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-305
JournalInternational Small Business Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009

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