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Participation & Empowerment: An International Journal, Vol. 7 No. 7, 1999, pp. 180-193. © MCB University Press, 1463-4449

Empowerment in small businesses

Peter Wyer and Jane Mason

De Montfort University, Bedford, UK

Keywords Empowerment, Small firms, Organizational learning, Sustainable development

Abstract The concept of empowerment has received a great deal of attention in recent years. However, the empowerment knowledge base is predominantly large company-oriented with little evidence of understanding what empowerment means in a small business context. It is inappropriate to treat the small firm as a microcosm of a large organisation. The small business is qualitatively as well as quantitatively different and this article propounds that it is questionable whether the concept of empowerment and its various dimensions as portrayed in the literature are readily transferable to small businesses. It is suggested that empowering management approaches are key features of successful growth-oriented small firms but the current body of empowerment literature fails to encapsulate the idiosyncrasies and informalities of the small business operation, and thus convey understanding of the unique and novel forms of empowerment which facilitate sustainable development. Case study insight is used to support these propositions.

Introduction The overall aim of this article is to explore the nebulous concept of “empowerment” within the context of small business management and to suggest that, while much of the academic literature tends to discuss the concept from a variety of informative perspectives and dimensions, in the main such discussion fails to address the distinctive characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the small business. All organisations, large and small, are today struggling to develop in an external operating environment which is epitomised by turbulence and uncertainty. Practitioners and academics alike are focusing on the need for effective utilisation of people as the key resource in maintaining competitive advantage in such an uncertain environment. Within this context of effective people management, “empowerment”, often perceived as another buzz-word for “employee involvement or participation” or some variation of “delegation”, has received a great deal of attention, sometimes being proffered as the “elixir” to organisational success. Within the small business context research shows that owner-managers view people management as one of their most important roles, and yet one of the tasks they find the most difficult (Hankinson et al., 1997). While a multitude of theories, concepts and guiding frames of insight have emerged over the years and are embraced within the human resource management knowledge base, it can be argued that much of this knowledge has relevance to large organisations and fails to address the distinctive characteristics of the small business. This paper commences by portraying the small business as a potential unique

problem type whereby qualitative as well as quantitative differences distinguish it from the large company. Such a conceptualisation is utilised to demonstrate the high level complexity of the small firm management task as it strives to cope with the vagaries of the contemporary operating environment. Attention is drawn to the dangers of viewing the small firm as a microcosm of a large company and to the potentially limited utility of people management theories, concepts and approaches which are propounded as applicable within the large company context. Having distinguished the small business context and warned of the need for caution in the uptake of management knowledge bases which may not fully address that context, the concept of “empowerment” is examined as a propounded “mechanism” for the efficient and effective utilisation of the human resource. It is suggested that while a great deal has been written about “empowerment” in recent years, the concept as developed within the literature is, in the main, oriented toward large organisations and much of its content cannot be readily “transferred” to small businesses. It is further suggested, however, that, if considered within the distinct operating contexts of the small business, “empowering management processes” may indeed be a distinctive feature of those small businesses which succeed in sustaining ongoing development, and that such management activity has not yet been encapsulated in the “empowerment” literature. The article supports these suggestions by drawing on insight derived from the authors’ ongoing research into the sustainable strategic development of successful small business within the transitional economy context of Russia, the developing economy context of Malaysia and the developed economy context of the UK. A case study is utilised to suggest how empowering management approaches may be key features of effective management in growth-oriented small businesses. The base insight from the case is then integrated with overall understanding derived from our ongoing research in its totality to emphasise the potential role of empowerment in the small firm in facilitating the learning about and acting on unknowable open-ended change which predominantly impacts on the contemporary business. It is thus a strategic learning perspective to the unfolding of understanding of “empowerment” within small business which is offered as an innovative context for enhancing understanding of what empowerment may mean in a small firm context. The article concludes by suggesting that if we are to understand what empowerment means within growth-oriented small firms, we must expect to find that the informalities and idiosyncrasies of such businesses will see successful small businesses “empowering” their workforce through management approaches not fully reflected in the current “empowerment” literature. This may sometimes be by mechanistic means (such as at the level of steady state production activity where a devolving of responsibility may be apparent at the margins), occasionally be opportunistic or ad hoc and at times may be viewed as a “natural facilitating” management approach whereby the

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positioning of key workforce provides the potential for their empowerment to underpin organisational learning from their day-to-day interfaces with key informants on the boundaries of the firm’s activities.

The need to recognise the distinctiveness of the small business Small businesses can not be understood by viewing them as “little big businesses” (Welsh and White, 1984). The depth of understanding of the small business toward which academics continue to strive will only derive from recognition that clear qualitative as well as quantitative differences distinguish the small firm from the large company (O’Farrel and Hitchens, 1988). For Wyer (1990), small firms face potential unique problem types deriving out of owner- manager and size-related characteristics (Smallbone and Wyer, 1994) which may well contradict the commonly perceived high flexibility, fast responsiveness traits frequently propounded as key sources of competitive advantage for the small firm (Chisnall, 1987). Many of the problems faced by small businesses are inevitably centred on the owner-manager. For example, owner-manager related characteristics and constraints can be demonstrated by focusing on the motivations, values, attitudes and abilities of the owner-manager (Smallbone and Wyer, 1994). For instance, the owner-manager may well be reluctant to recruit external expertise owing to independence and autonomy motivations. Such expertise may be essential for developing small firms to facilitate understanding of external change issues pertaining to the organisation (Wyer and Mason, 1998). The alternative to the external supplementing of the management capability of the owner-manager is for the firm to continue to struggle on within the context of the owner-manager’s own limited capabilities and to confront a possible reluctance to delegate and allow more autonomy to existing key staff (Ket de Vries, 1977). Examples of size-related characteristics and constraints are limitations relating to the small business ability to offer career paths or reward packages equitable with large organisations which can marginalise the small firm in relation to the labour market and the attracting of quality workforce (Curran, 1988). The ability to attract reasonable cost finance to underpin sustainable development can be restricted by a lack of profit track record and/or a lack of collateral levels demanded by lenders. Moreover, the external operating environment within which large and small firms operate is increasingly dynamic and complex (Johnson and Scholes, 1993), and the turbulence and uncertainty under which all businesses function points to the need for owner-managers and management teams of growing small businesses to be capable of developing abilities for coping with unpredictable, unknowable, open-ended change (Stacey, 1990). Time and resource constraints, together with the unique problems of the nature discussed above, culminate to make small business management a highly complex task. Acceptance of the distinctiveness of the small firm and of the unique problems which it potentially faces gives emphasis to the dangers of treating

the small business as a microcosm of the large company. In particular, it highlights how management knowledge bases appropriate for large organisations may well have limited application within small firms. Thus, just as management vehicles such as rational long-term planning may be inappropriate modes of management for the small business attempting to deal with unknowable, open-ended change situations, that tool kit of management vehicles embraced within the body of management knowledge known as human resource management (HRM) may, in its “pure” form, have limited application for the small firm. By the same token, the effective utilisation of the human resource is likely to be a crucial issue in the small business identification of and acting on unfolding open-ended change, and the question thus arises as to how successful small businesses effectively manage their staff so as to sustain development in such a hostile operating environment.

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Empowerment Empowerment is in vogue. It could be perceived as another “buzz word” of the 1990s referred to in all nature of business literature, videos which expound its valuable utilisation in the workplace and as part of everyday “business speak”. However, there are perceived difficulties. What is it? Arguably, there can be no definitive framing of a concept: as Lashley and McGoldrick (1994, p. 23) state, “… one of the ‘limits’ of empowerment is a lack of conceptual rigour in the ways the term is actually used”. For Cole (1997, p. 373) a sound conceptualisation of empowerment would see it as “a method of delegation which enables work decisions to be taken as near as possible to the operating units and their customers – both internal and external”. This portrayal reflects the view of Mitchel Stewart (1994, p. 6), who purports not only the “devolving of tasks” but “decision making and full responsibility”. Marchington and Wilkinson (1996, p. 112) determine that “improved levels of customer service” have been achieved by some organisations by moving away from rigid job descriptions and “working to contract” towards a culture of “beyond contract” which encourages “employee initiative and empowerment”. Attempted “definitions” of “empowerment” appear, to a great extent, to be a variation on a theme. Each one of us internalises the concept in a slightly different way. For example, Smith and Mouly (1998) explore the difficulty of “definition” and determine from their case studies that there were differing perceptions by employees as to the nature of empowerment. Honold’s (1997) enlightening review of the literature on employee empowerment suggests that current understanding is embedded in five groupings within the literature:

(1)

leadership’s role in creating an empowering context within an

(2)

organisation; the individual empowered state;

(3)

collaborative work as empowerment;

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structural or procedural change as empowerment; the multi-dimensional perspective encapsulating much of these four

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categories. In highlighting the roots of the concept of employee empowerment, Honold gives emphasis to the wealth of relevant management knowledge developed over the years and apparently capable of serving as effective guiding management vehicles for organisations striving to bring the best out their key “people resource” by some form of underlying “empowering” management approach. The build-up of understanding of the concept of empowerment is, of course, significantly embedded in the human relations school of understanding and influencing organisations which provided a new language for managers (Lawrence and Lee, 1989). The highly influential works of Herzberg (1966, 1968) and Maslow (1954) provide guiding motivational models which highlight clear advantages and benefits for empowering management approaches: Herzberg’s two-factor theory, for example, propounds the benefits of “job enrichment” whereby interest, challenge, responsibility and problem-based learning are, where possible, built into a job. In the area of leadership, key works within the literature portray shifts from an early focus on the quest for a one best leadership style through to the benefits of a contingency approach to leadership (for example, Blake and Mouton, 1964; Hersey and Blanchard, 1972), whereby the manager’s approach to getting the best out of the workforce will depend on the nature of the task in hand and its operating context, the quality and characteristics of the workers themselves as well as the manager’s own characteristics and preferred leadership style. Clearly, the motivation and leadership literature point to, in some situational and worker-capability/needs contexts, the potential to get the best out of employees through empowering management approaches such as delegating responsibility, authority and power to subordinates in order to anchor their capabilities fully. Moreover, more recently the literature has begun to bring attention to the benefits associated with organisational leaders effecting collaborative working which extends beyond mere “group” work (involving a piecemeal collection of individuals) toward “team” working, whereby individuals have a collective rationale where there is clear understanding that individual performance contributes directly to the overall good (Godfrey, 1990). Such a team context has the potential to derive high level organisational returns by, for example, giving individuals the authority to anchor their perspectives, understanding and learning to the good of the collective whole. Adding a further complementary quality to the human relations view of organisations and its “tool kit” of empowerment-based management approaches, is, moreover, the view that organisations are not a unitary whole, but a loose and dynamic “coming together” of sectional groups and individuals (Lawrence and Lee, 1989) and thus should be treated as a “pluralist” model (that is, the political school of thought). We learn from this school that individuals or groups within a business may constrain empowering attempts at management.

 

Also, careful consideration of power-bases among, and aspirations of, individuals or groups can facilitate the sharing of power to the benefit of the organisation as a whole (Handy, 1976; Pfeffer, 1981). Clearly, the literature has much to offer in its build-up of insight over time in terms of enhancing understanding of what empowerment may or could mean for different organisations and different operating contexts within organisations; as such, it offers high potential in providing guiding frames to aid in the effective management of people. Whether the propounded management approaches and techniques integral to this literature begin effectively to address the opportunities, problems and management issues which epitomise the world of small business practice is, however, highly questionable. It is on this issue which the remainder of this paper focuses. In order to achieve this insight, areas of the qualitative case study research of the authors relating to the sustainable development of small firms are utilised to provide empirical input from which to begin to draw tentative conclusions.

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Drawing on case study insight: a Malaysian furniture manufacturer This is a case insight of a fast-developing upholstery furniture manufacturer and retailer which has achieved remarkable growth through the application of management approaches which challenge the orthodoxy of the rational planning schools of management and supports the view that to date little is known about strategic decision making and management within the smaller business. The firm is selected to provide insight into a small business which has sustained development from an original workforce of six employees in 1989 to reach medium-size status of 250 employees by 1996, thereby encapsulating the small business growth process (for comprehensive presentation of the case study see Smallbone and Wyer (1997)). Integral to the success of the business is the high level ability of one of its three owner-managers to interface with the firm’s external domestic and international operating environment. From a purely domestic orientation the firm developed over a six-year period toward active export involvement and foreign direct investment. While the firm’s mode of management is not based on any formal written plan, the owner-managers do have a mental framework of future development which serves as a frame of reference for consideration of working through of opportunities revealed from close interaction with the external environment. The mental framework is not rigid, but is adjusted as relevant change in the form of opportunities or threats are discovered. Effectively, one of the three owner-managers has been empowered to fill a discovery role with a particular close interaction with the external environment. In terms of new product and market development, it is almost a trial and error approach. The discovery process effectively draws on opinion and expertise from a wide variety of international sources as a “base” input for a dialogical learning process – between owner-manger and international sources of input and between the owner-managers themselves. For example, the externally- oriented owner-manager has a list of 20 to 30 Belgian and German suppliers

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whom he uses to derive information about competitors and to become familiar with markets. The nature of the relationship, however, is not one of fleeting conversation but rather of him “digging information out of the supplier”. The resultant levels of understanding of activities of key international competitors, the nature of markets and relevant external change issues impacting on those markets are used to consider necessary actions to allow for ensuring sustainable foreign entry strategies, maintaining of existing competitive edge and/or for creating new innovative areas of activity. An international understanding in terms of familiarity with markets, what is available, what is developing, who is developing and how, underpins management actions for improving the firm’s competitive stance in its overseas and domestic markets. Dialogue continues between the owner-managers and appropriate changes in operational behaviour are worked through. Those change ideas in turn are bounced back for feedback and views of the suppliers or other key external informants. Agents, distributors and suppliers are felt to be “very important, your fingers, your feelers”. The build-up of an overall working network of contacts also involves interface on the world stage at upholstery machinery fairs, paper manufacture fairs and furniture trade fairs, all of which allow for the build-up of insight to inform decisions on appropriate mode of entry and operation within specific markets. The, at times, opportunistic nature of the strategic actions of this firm holds deep significance. Active external environment interface through an ongoing discovery mode of management sees the firm unfolding its own future and moving down strategic development paths it never envisaged. Commensurate with the growth of activities, the owner-managers have had to effect changes in the style and types of management – latterly toward a more professional management. When small in operation, the three owner-managers held many portfolios of responsibility but, as the firm has grown, middle managers have been built-in – an export manager, project manager and six operations managers. “The middle ranking is taking over part of our portfolio”. The three owner-manager directors have responsibilities relating to:

(1)

market development, product development and promotion;

(2)

finance;

(3)

projects and contracts (hotels, corporate sector, etc.).

With regard to underpinning growth with relevant skilled people resources, the firm’s attitude can be exemplified by reference to engineering capabilities where they have tried engineers with Masters degrees but this has not proved wholly successful: “sometimes the best people are our lower rank workers to move up to run things. It takes an MBA six months to digest such areas as fabrics. A supervisor has built up crucial experience so he gets promoted. He can respond effectively to our branch managers which is crucial”. It is felt that very few external “experts” exist who have sub-sector specific knowledge. This, in turn,

is balanced by clear evidence that some other members of the workforce are not fully trusted: the owner-management clearly felt uncomfortable with the prospect of relinquishing power to these individuals beyond certain limits. Indeed, tight control mechanisms were in place to limit the freedom of these staff. Effectively, empowering management activities within this firm begin to emerge as “contingent processes”: adherence to and relaxation of the management control paradigm is contingent on owner-manager preferences, the nature of organisational tasks and activities and owner-manager confidence and trust with regard to particular employees. Empowerment thus exists in parts of the organisation manifesting in a variety of dimensions and often embedded in informal and idiosyncratic management processes.

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An organisational learning perspective to enhancing understanding of the concept of empowerment within small businesses The above case insight is indicative of the findings of the author’s research to date in that how successful small businesses effect their strategic development processes would appear not to be steeped in their application of rational long- term planning modes of management, but rather in the way they build understanding about unfolding unknowable open-ended change situations (see the work of Stacey (1990, 1991, 1993) on the strategic management of organisations striving to cope with open-ended change situations). Rather than tidy, systematic step management processes, sustainable small firm development seems to be founded substantially on relationship building, where accidental encounter, opportunistic and intended, but informal, interface with key actors on the boundaries of the firm’s activities, all play a key role in facilitating learning about open-ended change. Resultant derived facts and insight are brought back into the firm where internal dialogue between key decision makers takes place to create small firm-specific information as a basis for considering changes in organisational behaviour in terms of adjustment to existing markets, products and/or processes focus. Dialogue is a key activity within this learning process, which unfolds creative and innovative ideas from the collective inputs of the participants. These dialogical learning processes centre not only around the internal small firm staff, but also the inputs of the key external informants. The whole process may often be iterative, with a to-ing and fro-ing between the firm’s staff and the external actors. A lack of resources and/or confidence regarding the unfolding of understanding may result in trial and error or experimental activities as an integral part of the learning process. Crucially, it appears that embedded in such strategic learning processes within those small firms which successfully sustain development are management approaches based on empowering key individuals within the firm to facilitate learning activities which allow the firm to cope with unpredictable impacting change situations. By jettisoning many of the traditional paradigms of management and instead using, as interpretative frames, the type of strategic learning processes revealed in this research, a greater depth of understanding

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of what empowerment means in a small firm context begins to emerge. For the successful small firms in the research the following dimensions of empowerment were revealed:

• Resources, time and often ability constrained sytematic collection of

relevant data or comprehensive structured analysis of the environment.

A window into crucial change activities within the firms’ industry and

the identification of key influencing forces is derived through the build- up of external relationships with key actors (suppliers, distributors,

agents, etc.). In the Malaysian case firm discussed above, this was facilitated through the creation of “management slack”, whereby a key role of one of the three owner-managers was to spend considerable time interfacing with the external environment. Creation of this slack involved an empowering approach by the two internally based co-owner- managers who agreed to release the interfacing owner-manager from other internal duties, and a “self-empowering” approach by the interfacing owner-manager who not only agreed the role with his colleagues, but also chose to take self power through the way he built the role toward a vital informing function. For other small firms, empowerment relating to such environmental learning activity often involved owner-managers or key employees extending their natural day- to-day routine or accidental interfaces with key external actors such as suppliers consciously to extract relevant insight with regard to external change forces.

• Those individuals charged to interface with the external environment are further empowered to attempt to create information out of that insight which is specific to the context of their firm. Effectively, insight

or

facts received from external interface is a stimuli for the receiver, but

in

its crude form may mean little for the receiving small firm until

worked into small firm-specific information.

• For the created information to inform future strategic direction, a further contextualisation involves key decision makers in formal or informal dialogue to consolidate their own interpretations of the information into a collective agreement in the form of group decision makers’ meaning. This was often a lengthy process with understanding building out of a to-ing and fro-ing between external key informant and owner- manager/key internal decision makers to clarify an emerging idea. Empowerment here includes leadership facilitating activity in terms of time and resource creation for dialoguing and collaboration and, at its most formal level, for project team building. Individuals are empowered through co-operative actions, sharing of insight and understanding and through working together. However, within the participant small firms key individuals are brought into the collaborative learning process – but often only on projects or change situations which are relevant to their area of expertise. Thus, we may here be talking not of the empowered

organisation, but of empowerment as a contingent and fluid concept, with some individuals being “empowered” as and when needed on a situation-specific basis.

• The created information and attempted assigning of meaning into a collective understanding was within a context of willingness to build into an existing framework of strategic activity in terms of where the owner-management currently considered the business would be in a few years time. That is, if the new understanding revealed opportunity or threat the firms were prepared to take action in terms of adjustments to markets, products and/or processes to underpin enhanced competitiveness and development of the business. Implementation of strategic developments of this nature which translate into growth of activity may involve the creation of new roles within the business which can often only be effectively filled through utilisation of the base industry sub-sector specific experience of existing workforce. Or there may be an owner-manager unwillingness to recruit externally. In such instances, selected staff members are given the opportunity to grow into new roles. In instances where external staff are recruited, empowerment relates to owner-management relinquishment of areas of their previous roles and also elements of self-empowering in terms of influencing their own behaviour to accommodate new growth-related activities.

• A frequent finding was that in the place of written plans is a clear mental framework in the form of a mental qualitative, and yet flexible, “preferred end”. In the absence of quantified long-term objectives or vision, this mental framework encapsulates the existing focus of markets, products and processes activity of the firm and the direction it is felt these should be developed into the future, given the current level of understanding of the firm’s external operating environment. It provides the focus for underpinning of the deeper learning required within the firm to determine the significance of crude external insight for current markets, products and processes activities – the focus for actual adjustment to markets, products and processes activity if the learning so suggests. Within this context, the overall learning processes, including the actual adjustments to organisational behaviour, may involve emerging ideas being implemented on an experimental basis with evidence of ad hoc pockets of empowerment which draw on individual capabilities as and when needed.

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Conclusion It appears that the adoption of a strategic learning perspective to the unfolding of understanding of the form and role of empowerment within a small business supports the notions emphasised by Honold (1997) that no single set of contingencies can describe empowerment – that it is multi-dimensional.

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Small businesses are potentially ingrained with disempowering structures, many of which derive from owner-manager and size-related characteristics which we argue above can manifest in unique problem types impacting on the small firm. For example, one can expect to find that owner-manager attitudes and motivations in many small firms centre around independence, autonomy and control manifesting in an autocratic management style whereby any forms of delegation or empowerment are kept to a minimum. For others, one way of circumventing the impact of potential unique problem types is to create an empowering culture whereby empowerment and self-empowerment become more “a way of doing things around here”, albeit often in a rather ad hoc or opportunistic situation – and employee-specific manner. In such firms we begin to understand the multi-dimensional nature of empowerment in terms of:

• Willingness and ability of leadership to nurture changes in culture and structure commensurate with growth stages of development.

• Idiosyncratic and informal learning activities in which experiment and trial and error are facilitated.

• Fluid collaborative activities, whereby key workers drift in and out of team-based activities on an incident or project-specific basis. Here an individual’s power base is fluid and dependent on proximity to owner- manager/key decision makers, probably for the duration of a specific project or incident.

• Small business development-embedded – whereby empowerment may relate to an enlarged role which the individual must him/herself “grow into” (often without formal training) and which may also be accompanied by self-empowering actions by the owner-manager who strives to influence his/her own behaviour to cope with the vagaries of the new emergent management tasks which the firm’s growth is unfolding (or the management abilities and tasks which are necessary to facilitate the growth).

• A type of “mutual inter-relationship empowerment” which fuels the self- empowering of the owner-manager where an empowerment in the form of anchoring the know-how of key external informants is crucial to the self-development of the owner-manager as he/she is constantly confronted with new unfolding situations in the wake of the firm’s growth. This together with a “counter empowering” whereby key external informants such as suppliers develop into a form of management extension to the small firm underpinned by co-operation, sharing and working together. Such an empowering relationship may be viewed as an idiosyncratic management approach whereby time, resource and management ability constraints are circumvented by anchoring-in, say, supplier, agent, or distributor know-how to broaden and deepen existing small firm management capability.

• “Empowerment” within the growth-oriented small business is probably best conceptualised in terms of “contingent processes” whereby pre- requisite to its occurrence is management’s first feeling confident that it is “safe” to relinquish power and to give more authority to particular employees (Johnson, 1995; Fleming, 1991). Integral to this are the issues of confidence and trust with regard to an employee’s ability to undertake effectively a particular task and the likelihood that employees will be given boundaries of autonomy within which to operate and innovate. This is supportive of the work of Geroy et al. (1998) who build on the “boundaries” insight of Blanchard (1997) and the “trust” issue developed by Mountford (1997). Within the small business context it seems likely that, even in those growing firms where “empowering management approaches” are evident, there will be dualistic paradigms whereby the traditional authority and power values and motivations of the owner- manager combine with the low level skills and negative attitudes of some workers to see a management control paradigm dictate. Paralleling this, however, may be developmental situations whereby unfolding tasks and activities are viewed as compatible to the developing capabilities of particular individuals and where the owner-management control paradigm gives way to bounded territories of authority and responsibility for those employees with whom the owner-manager feels “safe”. It is a real depth of understanding as to the nature and form of management approaches and activities that underpin sustainable small business development which continues to prove a void in the management literature. Embedded in this yet-to-be-revealed knowledge base will be further understanding of what empowerment means in a small business context. This paper has attempted to suggest the need to relax the use of large company- oriented paradigms as interpretative frames of reference for the enhancing of understanding of small business development. In this way we may begin to find that empowering management approaches of a novel or unexpected nature are key vehicles to the sustainable development of the growth-oriented small business.

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(Dr Peter Wyer is Director of the Centre for Small Business Development and Research, De Montfort University, Polhill Avenue, Bedford, MK41 9EA, UK. Jane Mason is Deputy Director of the Centre for Small Business Development and Research, De Montfort University, Polhill Avenue, Bedford, MK41 9EA, UK.)

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