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Sustainability-driven entrepreneurship and high-growth SME: How to combine Davids' and Goliaths' worlds?

Abstract : Purpose - To defend the market against incumbents ("Goliaths"), some sustainability-driven SMEs ("Davids") seek to achieve high growth by combining the best of Davids' and Goliaths' worlds. While these so-called "high-growth Davids" play a major role in the sustainable transformation of an industry, they have received limited attention in the literature. This paper therefore aims to explore how these high-growth Davids succeed in preserving their values and skills while combining them with those of the more conventional Goliaths' world. Literature - Many studies have shown that high-growth SMEs have to undergo organizational changes in order to face the new tasks and problems that growth elicits. However, literature on growth has somewhat neglected the specific issues of sustainability-driven SMEs, whose primary goal is not to generate maximum financial return, but to improve ecological and social well-being. Such firms have not only other reasons to conduct business, but also other ways of doing it. Due to values-related challenges, conventional approaches may be inappropriate for sustainability-driven firms. Methodology - An in-depth case study was conducted within a French sustainability-driven SME, a pioneer in organic vegetable distribution that has succeeded in evolving from an "idealistic David" to a "high-growth David". Semi-structured interviews with seven participants and secondary information were used to construct the data set. Then, an analysis was conducted based on open coding and event listing, which allowed us to track the major events of the history of BioDistri and of its growth trajectory. Results and implications - Our findings reveal two sets of key actions successfully carried out by this high-growth David: development of a staff representing the skills of both Davids and Goliaths and of a learning organization through exploration and exploitation. They also illustrate some challenges facing most high-growth SMEs (such as the complexity of coordinating new resources and of striking a balance between structuring and creative freedom) and identify some specific tensions that can arise due to the coexistence of these two worlds, in particular value diversity within the Top Management Team.
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Contributor : Céline Bérard Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 8:28:09 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 3:30:15 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00987950, version 1


Céline Bérard, Séverine Saleilles. Sustainability-driven entrepreneurship and high-growth SME: How to combine Davids' and Goliaths' worlds?. RENT, 2012, Lyon, France. ⟨halshs-00987950⟩



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