Objectives What motivates entrepreneurs to grow their business? Why are some entrepreneurs more willing than others to grow their firms? Does growth motivation influence the actual growth of firms? These questions serve as guiding lights for a systematic literature review on the topic of business growth motivation. The aim is to develop a holistic conceptual map of growth motivation based upon a meta-theoretical analysis. This procedure will condensate existing knowledge and guide future research.
Prior work Existing reviews on firm growth address the topic of motivation scarcely. Davidsson, Achtenhagen and Naldi (2006) seek for common grounds in existing literature and develop an overarching framework for future research. Wiklund, Patzelt and Shepherd (2009) develop and test an integrative model of firm growth. McKelvie and Wiklund (2010) focus explicitly on the growth mode. Dobbs and Hamilton (2007) criticize an episodic and linear approach towards business growth, while Achtenhagen, Naldi and Melin (2010) highlight a discrepancy between academic and practitioners’ perceptions of growth. Of these, only two review devote sub-chapters to growth motivation (cf. McKelvie & Wiklund 2010; Wiklund et al. 2009). Others, integrate the aspect of motivation indirectly. Yet, motivation plays an important role in seminal contributions of entrepreneurship (cf. Schumpeter 1934; Kirzner 1973) and firm growth (cf. Penrose 1959). In light of this, an up-to-date review on existing research on growth motivation is needed.
Approach This systematic literature review includes publications listed in Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science, limited to the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). The search syntax included various synonyms for ‘motivation’ and ‘business’ in combination with ‘growth’. I searched for the synonyms of ‘motivation’ and ‘business’ in titles, abstract and keywords. ‘Growth’ was required to appear in the title in order to increase the publications’ relevance. A similar approach was proved useful by previous reviews on growth (cf. Achtenhagen et al. 2010). 48 publications are considered eventually. These publications are reviewed systematically with regard to their theoretical approaches. The identified theories are structured in accordance to their position in Locke’s (1991) motivation sequence and their level of analysis in line with Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory.
Results I generate a phenomenon-centered conceptual map of firm growth motivation based upon applied theoretical concepts. It reveals that the phenomenon of growth motivation is hypothesized as a cognitive sequence which is influenced by personal, organizational, and environmental components. Until now, the cognitive base was researched extensively and remains mostly in line with developments in organizational and social psychology. A multitude of different persona, organizational, and environmental components have been explored. However, the research on growth motivation remains far from complete. Three aspects require further attention: accuracy of concepts, the influence of interpersonal relationships on growth motivation (e.g., family business), and variations in motivation across time.
Value/Implications The phenomenon-centered map on growth motivation condensates existing knowledge and guide future research on good grounds. The primary contribution is thus research-related. At the same time, it illustrates the complexity of growth motivation and supports critical voices against univocal policy-foci on high-growth firms. The widespread reluctance of small business owner-managers to grow their firms is explained by phenomenon’s immense complexity.
RENT XXX: 30th anniversary of the RENT conference, Antwerp, November 16th-18th, 2016.