Drivers and Barriers of High-Growth Firms

An Exploratory Study

Master's Thesis, 2013

144 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations


1 Introduction

2 High-Growth Firms: Literature Review
2.1 Interest in High-Growth Firms
2.2 Definitions of High-Growth Firms
2.3 Firm Growth
2.4 Properties of High-Growth Firms
2.5 Drivers and Barriers of High-Growth Firms

3 Methodology
3.1 Exploratory Research Design
3.2 Data Collection Method
3.3 Sample of High-Growth Firms
3.4 Data Analysis

4 Findings
4.1 Characteristics of the Sample
4.2 Categories and Sub-Categories of Content Analysis
4.3 High-Growth Phases
4.3.1 High-growth Phase One
4.3.2 High-Growth Phase Two
4.3.3 High-Growth Phase Three

5 Discussion of Findings
5.1 Presentation of High-Growth Framework
5.2 Internal Drivers of High Growth
5.2.1 Strategy
5.2.2 Growth Intent
5.2.3 Business Model
5.2.4 Product
5.2.5 Marketing and Sales
5.2.6 Innovation
5.3 External Drivers of High Growth
5.3.1 External Network
5.3.2 Customer
5.3.3 Market
5.4 External Barriers to High Growth
5.4.1 Macro-Environment
5.4.2 Finance
5.4.3 People
5.5 Internal Barriers to High Growth
5.5.1 Structures and Procedures
5.5.2 Management Team
5.5.3 Company Culture
5.6 Summary

6 Managerial Implications
6.1 General Implications of this Research
6.2 Application Possibility: A Systematic Approach towards High-Growth Management.

7 Conclusions and Directions for Further Research



List of Figures

Figure 1: Research Procedure

Figure 2: Model of Firm Growth by Penrose

Figure 3: Exploratory Research Design

Figure 4: Characteristics of Study Population

Figure 5: High-Growth Phase Model

Figure 6: High-Growth Framework

Figure 7: High-Growth Planning Process

Figure 8: High-Growth Diagnosis Radar

Figure 9: High-Growth Elements Matrix

List of Tables

Table 1: Growth Patterns and Demographic Characteristics of High-Growth Firms

Table 2: Classification Scheme of Literature Review

Table 3: Classification of the Sample Firms Based on Age and Industry Characteristics

Table 4: Categories and Sub-Categories of Content Analysis

Table 5: Example Statements about the Entrepreneurs’ Founding Motivation

Table 6: Example Statements about the Necessary Conditions for High Growth

Table 7: Example Statements about the High-Growth Phase One

Table 8: Example Statements about the First Transition Phase

Table 9: Example Statements about the High-Growth Phase Two

Table 10: Example Statements about the Second Transition Phase

Table 11: Example Statements about the High-Growth Phase Three

Table 12: Overview over the Importance of Elements in Three High-Growth Phases

Table 13: Managerial Implications of Research Findings

List of Abbreviations

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High-growth firms (HGFs) are a small, but impactful group of firms that receive increasing attention from different academic fields. Moreover, growing rapidly is associated with a number of important advantages to firms. Despite recognizing the importance of the topic, there is a dearth of manage- ment-oriented research on drivers and barriers of rapidly growing small and medium-sized enter- prises (SMEs). Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is to generate new insights into the drivers and barriers of high-growth SMEs. Moreover, it aims to structure and integrate the knowledge on the topic in order to provide a holistic perspective on HGFs. The study defines HGFs as firms that in- crease their sales by on average more than 20 percent per annum over a period of at least three years. To generate inductive insights, the study conducted interviews with CEOs of 20 German HGFs, applying a qualitative content analysis approach. As a result, a category scheme emerged that con- sists of 15 topics that proved to have considerable importance related to the HGFs’ growth. The thesis presents a new framework, which classifies the 15 empirically identified drivers and barriers of HGFs. One central finding of the content analysis is the realization that the importance of these elements and the related practices of HGFs largely depend on the firms’ size and development phase. Hence, the thesis proposes a model that introduces three distinctive growth phases of SMEs. Thus, it discusses the drivers, barriers and related practices of HGFs from a dynamic and holistic perspec- tive. The study reveals that the firms’ growth was initially driven by a superior value proposition, the close relation to their key customers and other external network partners, and by a high strategic flexibility. Firms entered a second growth spurt when they scaled their organization and business model; consequently, a business model innovation, new firm structures as well as marketing and sales capabilities drove growth in the second phase. A third growth phase started when firms divided and decentralized their organization into several business units or duplicated their business model in foreign countries. In this phase, growth was positively influenced by the firms’ innovative ability, the management’s commitment to growth and the execution of systematic growth strategies such as product or market diversification. Besides, the study finds that the HGFs’ growth is initially inhibited by limited access to qualified personnel and finance, while the inability to adjust the firms’ structures and procedures, culture and managerial roles to the rapidly changing requirements can erect a growth barrier when SMEs grow larger. The thesis presents a list of concrete implications for practitioners and proposes a systematic approach for managers which aim at growing their firm rapidly.

1 Introduction

Scholars of management science have been interested in firm growth for decades. Several theories offer explanations on why some firms grow, while the majority of firms do not grow at all (Coad, 2009). Since the 1980s, a particular discussion is concerned with the phenomenon of high-growth firms (HGFs). HGFs are a subset of firms that show strong growth rates for several consecutive years. A growing body of research points to the important role of HGFs in employment creation (e.g. Acs and Mueller, 2008; Anyadike-Danes et al., 2009), productivity (e.g. Du et al., 2013) and eco- nomic growth (e.g. OECD, 2013). Moreover, high growth provides firms with diverse competitive advantages for several reasons. First, rapid growth itself as well as the firm’s increased size act as a signal mechanism for firm health and market acceptance and subsequently allow for improved access to key resources such as management talent or finance (Gartner and Markman, 2002). Furthermore, an increase in size allows the firm to generate larger economies of scale, improve the firm’s power towards its stakeholders (Porter, 1985) and ultimately increase its productivity and chances of sur- vival (Aldrich and Auster, 1986). Hence, scholars from the areas of strategic management, entrepre- neurship and SME research are interested in answering the question of how firms can achieve high growth.

For many firms, high growth constitutes a top strategic priority (Barringer et al., 2005), but only a small percentage of firms succeed in growing rapidly. In Germany, less than 4 % of firms achieve growth rates of more than 20 % for several consecutive years.1 Other countries show slightly higher rates of HGFs, but also fail to increase their share of HGFs significantly despite implementing increasing policy measurements towards the support of HGFs. Moreover, only a small subset of firms succeeds in maintaining high-growth over a longer period of time (Parker et al., 2010). In fact, empirical findings suggest that firms, which experience high growth in one period, are in general less likely to experience high growth in the next period (Coad, 2009). Hence, high growth rates are not only difficult to achieve, but even more difficult to maintain.

The existing literature offers limited insights for practitioners due to three reasons. First, a large set of studies focuses on identifying a set of static and quantifiable factors that distinguish HGFs and their slow-growing or declining counterparts in order to derive strategic recommendations for achieving high growth. Despite much effort, most of this research approaches fail in producing mod- els or frameworks that could reliably describe, explain or predict HGFs (Coad, 2009). Second, many studies focus on factors that are beyond the firms’ direct influence. Storey (1994) categorizes the research on factors associated with high growth into pre-start characteristics (e.g. founder character- istics), at-start characteristics (e.g. legal form, industry) and post-start characteristics (e.g. innovative activities). The author recognizes that only a strong focus on the third category allows the develop- ment of useful implications for existing businesses. Third, those studies concerned with the post- start characteristics produce converging results, but there is a dearth of integrating the findings (Bar- ringer et al., 2005). This is because only a small number of studies provides a holistic view on the subject of HGFs. Consequently, few holistic models or frameworks emerged from the scientific dis- cussion that serve managers to actively manage high growth. To the author’s understanding, no dom- inant theory emerged from the high-growth discussion yet. Ergo, many stand-alone statements de- scribe the importance of individual categories (e.g. financial management) or detail on the practices of particular areas (human resource practices) without relating the insights to other areas. As a result, the author concludes that there is a lack of holistic approaches towards high growth that allows val- uable implications for practitioners.

Furthermore, it has to be acknowledged that “’high growth’ is multidimensional in nature, and that ‘high growth’ occurs in a variety of ways” (Delmar et al., 2003: 191). First, this study recognizes that the multitude of applied definitions of HGFs leads to different populations of firms. Second, it rejects the idea that it is possible to develop one formula that would allow to grow rapidly all com- panies in all stages of their development. In fact, the same factors that powerfully drive growth in one phase might have a negative impact in a later stage of its development for the same firm (Parker et al., 2010). Third, the author acknowledges that the influencing factors on high growth are partly dependent on the macro-environment in which the firm operates (cf. BMWi, 2012). A large part of the literature analyzes firms from the United States, often focusing on the drivers of prominent HGFs such as Google, Ebay or Amazon. Acknowledging the differences in the external environment of HGFs in the United States and in Germany (e.g. access to venture capital), findings from large parts of the literature might not be applicable for the German or European context. There are only a few Germany-based studies that particularly explore the drivers and barriers of HGFs in a management- oriented way. Besides, the German economy is characterized by a strong foundation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in B2B industries, which are rarely addressed by the high-growth literature.2 In other words, there are several dimensions that result in various sub-populations of HGFs. Therefore, seeking to generate findings that are valid for all HGFs is not promising. Hence, this thesis builds upon the assumption that for every sub-group of HGFs and every development phase a set of drivers and barriers exist that is of particular importance.

The overall motivation of this research is two-fold. First, it relates to the strong positive effects of HGFs on society that are pointed out by many studies. Hence, this research is motivated by support- ing economic growth, job creation and further secondary effects that ultimately lead to higher pros- perity for society. Second, this thesis seeks to enable firms to achieve and maintain high growth since high growth is associated with a number of positive effects to the firm. Combined with the identified research gap, these motivations translate into the central objective of exploring and explaining the drivers of and barriers to high-growth firms. More specific, this thesis aims for five objectives, the first three directed at the academic discussion and the latter two directed at practitioners:

(1) Structuring and integrating the existing knowledge on drivers and barriers of HGFs from a holistic perspective.
(2) Advancing the understanding of the growth path of high-growth SMEs.
(3) Generating new insights on drivers and barriers of HGFs, integrating them into one holistic framework and seeking to identify some cause-and-effect relationships between the firm’s growth strategy, drivers and barriers.
(4) Offering practitioners an integrative source of knowledge on high growth of firms, repre- senting simultaneously a guide to the complex and large body of literature on the topic.
(5) Developing a systematic approach that allows firms to assess and improve their high-growth potential.

Thus, the main outcome of this research consists both of a generic framework for high growth - ideally representing the foundation for further research and management tools - as well as the de- velopment of a set of management tools (e.g. checklist for high-growth potential) that can firm- specifically help to achieve high growth.3 In summary, this thesis aims at generating exploratory, descriptive, and prescriptive knowledge to the literature as well as proposing an applicable approach towards achieving high growth.

This work is different from previous studies in the area of HGFs in the combination of the four dimensions of research methodology, research perspective, research object, and the addressed target group of its implications. First, it applies a methodological approach that combines inductive and deductive methods. This approach is both rooted in validated theoretical methods, but pragmatic in execution. On the one hand, the inductive-exploratory approach of firm interviews provides new insights into the topic, allowing the expansion of the existing knowledge. On the other hand, the constant orientation at the literature allows for integration, combination and confrontation of the new insights with existing knowledge. Second, this study differs from previous investigations on drivers and barriers of HGFs due to the holistic and dynamic perspective on HGFs. The holistic perspective implies that this study aims at developing an integrated framework of drivers and barriers. Moreover, the study includes a dynamic perspective on the growth path of HGFs since the drivers and barriers are discussed in relation to the three distinctive phases of the development of HGFs. Some previous studies have compared two or more groups of HGFs, but haven’t analyzed the shifting impact of the drivers and barriers over time at the same firms. The broad scope of this research allows to link the drivers and barriers of HGFs to distinctive growth strategies and development phases of these firm. In addition, this study proposes a model for the growth path of high-growth SMEs. Third, this study is concerned with a group of HGFs that are not sufficiently investigated yet: German high-growth SMEs from technology- and knowledge-related B2B industries. Despite playing an important role for the development of the German economy, there is a dearth of knowledge on the rapid growth of SMEs in this particular environment. Fourth, the study is strongly directed at the information needs of business leaders, focusing on factors that are manageable by firms instead of generic properties. Besides, this study offers a practical approach for applying the theoretically generated knowledge. In summary, this research applies a combination of approaches that offer a unique contribution to the discussion of HGFs.

This thesis is organized as illustrated in the figure above. First, it reviews the existing literature in order to distinguish the dominant definitions, theories and properties of HGFs. Moreover, it system- atically analyzes the existing literature on drivers and barriers of HGFs and structures those findings in a thematic scheme. Chapter two presents those findings. Next, this research conducts interviews with CEOs of HGFs, and analyzes the material with a qualitative content analysis. The content anal- ysis will identify and structure the important elements that drive or inhibit high growth and link the interview statements to those elements. Chapter three presents the theoretical and practical consid- erations regarding the applied research methodology. Chapter four characterizes the sample of firms in the study, describes the growth path and presents the categorization scheme that emerged from the qualitative content analysis. The same chapter presents a phase model of high growth that builds the foundation for the discussion of the drivers and barriers. Chapter five presents a framework of high growth that integrates the elements (drivers and barriers) that emerged from both the content analysis and literature review. Furthermore, the chapter systematically analyzes and structures the interview statements and contrasts these findings with the literature. As a result, every element is discussed individually in this chapter in order to identify its importance in the different growth phases, the components constituting the element, as well as the practices of HGFs regarding this element. Chapter six derives general implications for managers on how to achieve and maintain high growth and presents a systematic management approach towards creating high growth. Finally, chap- ter seven summarizes this thesis, draws conclusions, discusses the limitations of the study and indi- cates possibilities for further research.

Figure 1: Research Procedure

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Own Research

2 High-Growth Firms: Literature Review

2.1 Interest in High-Growth Firms

High-growth firms (HGFs) have garnered increasing amounts of attention from diverse academic fields since the 1970s for three reasons. First, scholarship from the field of economics and political economy has been particularly concerned with this topic, as HGFs are an important stimulus to na- tional economies and increasingly relevant to policy makers (Acs et al., 2008; Shane, 2009). Second, scholars of entrepreneurship focus on HGFs to gain valuable insights into the determinants of successful start-up firms (cf. Siegel et al., 1993). Finally, scholars of management science analyze HGFs to better understand the phenomenon of organizational growth (e.g. Delmar et al., 2003) and its driving forces (e.g. Henrekson and Johansson, 2010). The number of studies in the economic, entrepreneurship, and management literature concerning HGFs has increased in recent years (cf. BMWi, 2012), intensifying and broadening the discussion on the topic.

Economists’ interest in HGFs is due primarily to the fact that such firms are of high economic im- portance and can create a large share of the economy’s net jobs. Early literature on HGFs was framed in the context of the job creation argument, which holds that a small group of firms generates a disproportionately large number of jobs in every economy (Birch, 1979; Birch, 1987; Birch and Medoff, 1994).4 A meta-analysis by Storey (1994) finds that 4 % of firms create around half of the new jobs in an economy.5 A more recent meta-analysis of 20 studies from different countries in Western Europe and North America by Henrekson and Johansson conclude that a “few rapidly grow- ing firms generate a disproportionately large share of all new net jobs compared with non-high- growth firms” (2010: 240). Daunfeldt, Elert and Johansson (2010) added eight additional studies to the sample used by Henrekson and Johansson (2010) and show that HGFs positively contribute to productivity and economic growth, as well as employment growth. The fact that HGFs are respon- sible for a disproportionate amount of job creation is well recognized; however, scholars disagree on the scope of the effect.

Similarly, HGFs are studied in the context of their effects on regional or sectorial development. HGFs can be a key factor in the evolution of existing economic structures, such as in the transfor- mation from an industrial to a service economy (Almus, 2002). Besides, when operating in techno- logical branches and business-related services, these firms often provide new technological know- how. Consequently, HGFs produce important spill-over effects that are beneficial to the growth of other firms in the same localities and industrial clusters (Mason and Brown, 2013) since the former are generally more innovative than their slower growing counterparts (Autio and Hölzl, 2008). This clearly enhances the economic potential of a geographical area or a sector (Mason and Brown, 2013). Therefore, HGFs may play an important filtering role in the process through which advances in knowledge are converted into advances in economic wealth (Acs et al., 2008; Autio and Hölzl, 2008; Biosca and Marston, 2011). The identification of HGFs can therefore act as a leading indicator for identifying growth industries (Bos and Stam, 2011). Within this discussion, other scholars emphasize the fact that the majority of firms do not grow at all (Autio and Hölzl, 2008), highlighting the excep- tional importance of HGFs in propelling economic development of specific regions or sectors. For the above reasons, economists investigate HGFs for their capability to develop important dynamic regional and sectorial effects by generating innovations, producing knowledge-spillovers, and enhancing their environment’s commercial value.

Practitioners and management researchers are interested in investigating HGFs for the assumption that high growth offers some important advantages to companies. First, high growth often generates economies of scale that will eventually result in higher profitability (Penrose, 1959). Especially for young, innovative companies in new-to-the-world markets, high growth is also linked to First Mover Advantages like early access to distribution channels, favorable contracts with suppliers, long-term loyalty of customers, or the spreading of supervisor costs over a large number of employees (Gartner and Markman, 2002). Du et al. (2013) analyzed a large longitudinal sample of UK firms and demon- strate that high growth leads to higher productivity. Second, growth rates and firm size can represent an important signal of a firm’s health, market acceptance and future potential (Willard et al., 1992). Therefore, sales growth is often used as the primary indicator by potential investors, cooperation partners or customers to evaluate the risk of planning a long-term partnership with a company. Be- sides, increases in firm size broaden the firm’s possibilities for brand recognition and reputation building and, consequently, allow for greater negotiating power with stakeholders (Porter, 1985). Third, high growth increases an employer’s attractiveness and consequently offers increased possi- bilities of attracting qualified personnel, particularly extraordinary management talent (Gartner and Markman, 2002). In conclusion, many scholars assume that high growth is beneficial to firms since the high-growth phase can be seen as a step toward sustainable competitive advantage, more favor- able market conditions (Gartner and Markman, 2002), and, ultimately, higher probabilities of sur- vival (Aldrich et al., 1986).

The literature on HGFs is also concerned with the specific managerial challenges rapid growth pre- sents to the firm, since growing a firm is a particular challenge, requiring specific managerial capa- bilities and knowledge (Barringer et al., 2005). Moreover, high growth itself can erect barriers to- wards profitability. In the worst case, high growth can lead to a firm’s complete failure if manage- ment is unprepared to deal with its inherent challenges (Hambrick and Crozier, 1985). Kazanjian (1988) recognizes that every stage of growth has its own complications. Some of these challenges arise from the necessity of HGFs to quickly adapt their formal and informal structures, cope with increasing managerial complexity, and develop their human capital accordingly. Operations such as marketing and sales are exposed to particular challenges during periods of high growth that cannot normally be treated with standard management techniques (cf. Gartner and Markman, 2002). Man- agement research is therefore particularly interested in identifying the challenges of high growth as well as delivering solutions to overcome them.

The existing literature on high growth can be classified into three streams, which are often difficult to differentiate. The first stream is concerned with the phenomenon of high growth and its different paths (e.g. Delmar et al., 2003), briefly reviewed in section 2.3 of this thesis. The second stream of research, reviewed in section 2.4, identifies the inherent properties of HGFs with special focus on how policy makers or venture capital firms can identify HGFs in advance. Many authors in this stream use quantitative approaches to find discriminating variables between contrasting sets of fast and slow-growing firms. This study will refer to this research stream as properties of HGFs, to dis- tinguish it from to the third stream, which focuses on identifying the factors that drive or inhibit high growth. Most of these properties are static and beyond direct managerial influence (e.g. founder characteristics). The third stream focuses on drivers of and barriers to high growth. Those studies aim at identifying specific strategic and operational behavior for achieving and then dealing with high growth (e.g. in human resource management). This stream will be systematically reviewed in section 2.5. Large parts of the existing literature do not draw the distinction between the two latter streams and discuss the properties of HGFs and driving factors of high growth indiscriminately. This research seeks to deliberately focus on the driving and inhibiting factors of high growth that can be directly influenced by management. To summarize, the topic of HGFs is of much interest to practi- tioners and academia alike, whose discussion mainly focuses on the growth path and properties of HGFs at the expense of identifying the drivers of and barriers to high growth itself.

2.2 Definitions of High-Growth Firms

To appropriately evaluate the existing literature, it is crucial to realize the multi-dimensionality of terminologies and definitions which are applied in prior studies. This multitude of applied definitions of HGFs produces contrasting insights as researcher observe different types of firms. Before reviewing the relevant literature, this thesis review recognizes the difficulties in comparing studies with deviating definitions and therefore determines its definition of HGFs.

Different authors use a variety of labels when describing the same research object. This study opts for the term high-growth firm (HGF)6, seeing that it is used by many authors in the recent discussion (e.g. Davidsson et al., 2003; Casillas and Moreno, 2007; Lopez-García and Puente, 2009; Daunfeldt et al., 2010; Eckhardt and Shane, 2011; Garnsey and Mohr, 2011).7 Another popular label for these firms is the term gazelles, first introduced by Birch in the 1980s. It distinguishes the group of rapid- growing firms from their small and slow-growing counterparts (mice) and large, but slow growing companies (elephants). Although the term is practical, this research deliberately abstains from using the terminology, seeing that literature uses its meaning inconsistently. According to the dominant definition of the OECD, “gazelles are the subset of high-growth enterprises which are up to five years old” (Eurostat-OECD, 2007: 63). Birch (1979) and many other authors (e.g. Hölzl and Frie- senbichler, 2008; Parker et al., 2010, Henrekson and Johansson, 2010; BMWi, 2012) do not draw this distinction and use the term Gazelles synonymously for HGFs. Some authors equally refer to rapid growth firms (e.g. Hambrick and Crozier, 1985; Barringer et al., 2005), fast growing firms (e.g. Almus, 2002) or high-growth companies (e.g. Ahrens, 1999; Autio and Hölzl, 2008; Vanacker and Migart, 2010). Other labels are deliberately intended to draw a fine distinction to HGFs. For example, Acs et al. (2008) introduced the term h igh-impact firms, emphasizing especially the em- ployment creation factor.8 Within the German literature, the generally used term schnell wachsende Unternehmen (e.g. Lessat and Woywode, 2001; Hölzl, 2019; BMWi, 2012) translates to rapid grow- ing firms. As a result, the variety of terminologies used by prior research causes problems of inter- study comparability and limits the coherence of the literature on the subject.

More importantly, the research field of HGFs is fragmented for the fact that a multitude of definitions is applied to describe or investigate the same phenomena. Henrekson and Johansson conclude through an analysis of 106 articles, books and book chapters on HGFs that "[t]here is no general agreement on the definition of Gazelles" (2010: 228). Daunfeldt et al. analyzed nine different defi- nitions and their corresponding populations of HGFs according to their impact on employment growth, economic growth, productivity growth and sales growth. Their results clearly show that “HGFs of different definitions are usually not the same firms” (2010: 2) and that the correlation between the nine groups of HGFs is low. In conclusion, the existing literature has to be reviewed cautiously, since differences in methodology and populations of HGFs cannot be neglected.

The definitions of HGFs differ primarily on four dimensions: growth indicator, growth measure- ment, time period studied, and growth process (cf. Delmar et al., 2003). First, the growth indicator refers to the variable over which growth is observed. Most studies focus on sales and employment growth to define HGFs (Ibid.). However, some studies also determine a firm’s growth by measuring its development in productivity, value added, assets, market share, physical output, profits, or equity (Delmar et al., 2003). Second, the choice of a relative or absolute measurement method has a large effect on the type of firms concerned (cf. Daunfeldt et al., 2010). In general, the use of absolute terms results in a population of larger firms, while relative measurement leads to a younger popula- tion of firms. To avoid this bias, some research combines absolute and relative growth measure- ments,9 while other studies introduce further variables, such as minimum size (e.g. Ahmad and Pe- tersen, 2007) or minimum age (Hambrick and Crozier, 1985). Alternatively, some authors define HGFs as the top 10 % of growth firms within an industry (e.g. Storey, 1994) or as those firms who significantly exceed the average growth rate of their industry (e.g. Casillas and Moreno, 2007). Third, definitions differ in the time span over which growth is analyzed. Most research applies a time span of three years (BMWi, 2012), while some studies use the growth rate of up to six years (e.g. Stam and Wennberg, 2009). Fourth, definitions also differ regarding the growth process. In most cases this concerns the different growth paths of organic growth and growth through acquisitions (e.g. Hambrick and Crozier, 1985). This distinction is of importance, since these two approaches are likely to be different both in terms of the underlying drivers and challenges as well as the economic implications (Coad and Hölzl, 2010). The combination of the four dimensions results in various definitions that describe different sets of firms.

This research applies the authoritative definition by the OECD and Eurostat for defining HGFs, seeing that a large share of recent studies opted for this definition (e.g. Casillas and Moreno, 2007; Hölzl, 2009; Wiklund et al., 2009; Garnsey and Mohr, 2011; Mason and Brown, 2011). The OECD defines HGFs as “enterprises with average annualised growth greater than 20 % per annum, over a three year period […]. Growth can be measured by the number of employees or by turnover. […] A provisional size threshold has been suggested as 10 employees at the beginning of the growth pe- riod.” (Eurostat-OECD, 2007: 61).10 The existing literature discusses advantages and disadvantages of different definitions and measurements at length (cf. Daunfeldt et al., 2010). The main advantage of the chosen definition is its broad acceptance, its practicability in identifying HGFs and its low dependence on specific industry characteristics. The main disadvantage of this definition is that it potentially over-represents smaller firms that can achieve high growth in the early stage already by hiring some new employees or by acquiring a large industrial client. Regarding the growth indicator, the OECD definition proposes either the use of sales or employment. This study focuses on sales as the main indicator recalling that its objective is to contribute to management practitioners, who are in general more interested in growing their sales than their employees. Yet, this study applies em- ployment growth as a secondary indicator. Therefore, this study is concerned with firms which in- creased their sales by at least 20 % per year (on average) over a period of three or more years and additionally showed significant growth rates in the number of employees.

2.3 Firm Growth

In order to understand the drivers and barriers of HGFs, it is necessary to understand the phenomenon of firm growth in general and rapid firm growth in particular. Economists explain the rationale be- hind the phenomenon of firm growth through five streams: neoclassical theories, the growth theories by Penrose, managerial theories, evolutionary concepts and theories regarding the population ecol- ogy. These theories build upon the assumption that growth is not an end in itself and that growth and larger firm size create specific advantages to the firm. These theories can help understand the manager’s aspirations towards growth as well as potentially provide some theoretical models through which high growth can be described.

First, neoclassical theories (cf. Coase, 1937) explain growth through the existence of an optimal firm size, which allows a profit-maximizing level of production. When a firm achieves this point, at which the additional costs of coordinating large bureaucratic organizations exceed the potential economies of scale, growth is expected to cease. The high-growth literature argues that firms have a Minimum Efficient Size (MES) that they must reach in order to exist in the market (Almus, 2002). Acs and Audretsch (1990) present a positive empirical correlation between MES and growth rates in different industries, explaining the small firms’ stronger commitment to growth with their need to reach their industry’s MES.

One of the most quoted approaches to explain firm growth origins from Penrose (1959), who pro- poses that firms are not only realizing “Economies of Size” (1959: 89)11, but also “Economies of Growth” (Ibid.) when they grow larger. Economies of growth are inherent in the growth process, but usually cease when the firm stops growing. In Penrose’s dynamic theory, growth is led by an internal momentum generated by learning-by-doing, but limited by the management’s capacity. As managers increasingly accustom to their tasks, they release mental capacity, which then can be spend on value-creating activities and the pursuit of market opportunities. The figure below displays the model of firm growth by Penrose that describes the ability to increase managerial capacity as the central barrier to growth. Penrose’s second growth contribution results from her resource-based view of the firm. Firms deliberately grow their internal resources to be able to generate more value from external opportunities (Coad, 2009). Therefore, the firm’s resources act both as an incentive to grow and a barrier when the firm attempts to maintain its coherence (Penrose, 1959). The theories of Penrose and her followers clearly state, that firms grow to realize the advantages of internal resource development and not because size per se offers any advantage (Coad, 2009).

Figure 2: Model of Firm Growth by Penrose

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Barringer and Jones (2004): 76. Based on: Penrose (1959).

A third perspective on growth is offered by managerial theories (cf. Marris, 1963), which propose that managers aspire to grow their firms primarily in order to generate personal advantages. This perspective builds upon the observation that “managers attach utility to the size of their firms” (Coad, 2009: 34). Higher firm size usually equals higher salaries, bonuses and other perks for management. Besides, firm size also relates to social status, power, promotion opportunities, and other non-finan- cial incentives. In the latter stage of the firm this strong sales-maximizing mentality can conflict with other stakeholders’ objectives. Thus, the firm’s governance structure can have an important impact on the firm’s growth potential (Coad, 2009). Through the managerial perspective, growth is the result of the management’s personal utility maximization aspiration.

Furthermore, evolutionary concepts explain firm growth by interpreting the growth of firms as the result of its fitness (cf. Coad, 2009).12 One implication of this perspective is that “(f)itter firms survive and grow, whilst less viable firms lose market share and exit” (Coad, 2009: 106). This positive selection also explains, while most firms do not grow at all, while few firms show high growth rates. Furthermore, this perspective recognizes the heterogeneity of firms and dynamic nature, explaining the dynamic adaptation of firms within turbulent environments.

A fifth perspective is offered by the population ecology theory introduced in the seminal works of Hannan and Freeman (1977). According to this sociological perspective, growth is limited by the density of firms in a given market, since every niche possesses only a limited amount of resources. Firms deliberately enter niches where they can grow without constraints. Subsequently, new com- petitors enter and compete for the niche's limited resource pool until the resources are saturated and firms growth rates decline. This perspective observes the industry or niche as the important unit of analysis rather than analyzing the growth rationale of an individual firm (Coad, 2009). Therefore, the population ecology appears to contribute little support in explaining high growth apart from interpreting market developments.

In the high-growth literature, only few studies question the entrepreneur’s or manager’s commitment to high-growth, assuming that “growth is a top strategic priority for a large percentage of firms” (Barringer et al., 2005: 664). Smallbone et al. (1995) draw a possible distinction in the governance structures of the firm, suggesting that future goals for the business may be determined as much by personal lifestyle and family factors as by commercial considerations when ownership and manage- ment is combined in one or few individuals. These considerations relate to the perspective of man- agerial theories of growth. Nevertheless, most research builds upon the assumption that firms delib- erately aim at achieving high growth.

Research acknowledges that despite extensive studies, high growth is neither easy to predict nor to plan (e.g. Coad and Hölzl, 2010). Autio and Hölzl (2008) argue that “steady, rapid, predictable growth is rare among gazelles.” Coad and Hölzl (2010) find no correlation between management’s growth aspirations and their firms’ growth rates and assume that high growth cannot be planned in advance. Empirical results by Stam and Wennberg (2009) suggest that growth aspirations are posi- tively and significantly associated with the growth of low-tech firms, but not for high-tech firms. The findings suggest that “even a strong desire for growth is not a sufficient requirement for actually achieving high growth rates” (Coad and Hölzl, 2010: 9). Only few studies recognize the importance of luck and the determinism of growth, although most empirical studies fail to reliably explain high growth. St-Jean et al. conducted longitudinal case studies to identify triggering events of high growth, leading to the proposition that chance plays a significant role in triggering growth spurts or slowdowns. Among their analyzed firms, growth was often a rather reactive event “caused more or less by chance if the firm finds itself in the right place at the right time” (2008: 174). A review by Coad (2009) shows that most attempts to model high growth are inadequate, even though they find statistically significant results, most studies still reported R-squared values of below 0.113. Moreo- ver, it is diƥcult to generalize findings across firms; individual firms show changing explanatory variables for growth over time, propelling the possible hypothesis that growth is a rather random phenomenon (Coad and Hölzl, 2010). Despite the inability of existing models to predict high growth in a reliable manner, several studies reject the argument that growth is a random event (Almus and Nerlinger, 2001; Barringer et al., 2005).

High growth is mostly a temporary phase in the firm’s lifecycle. Especially for SMEs, high growth often is a necessity for survival, as it allows access to important resources such as qualified personnel or financial resources. Paradoxically, empirical analysis point out the existence of a trade-off be- tween high-growth and survival (Parsley and Halabisky, 2008; OECD, 2010), meaning that high growth itself threatens the survival chances of firms. To overcome this risk, firms generally stabilize and shift their focus from growth to profitability after some years of rapidly growing (Coad and Hölzl, 2009). Thus, Hölzl assumes that “being a high-growth SME is a temporary phenomenon in the lifespan of an enterprise.” (2009: 59). High relative growth rates are possible over a longer span, but “most studies find that there is a high persistence of firm size dynamics, which indicates that the dynamics of the growth processes of most firms are quite limited” (Hölzl, 2009: 62). In fact, Hölzl (2011) finds that HGFs often experience rather modest or even declining sales briefly after a high- growth phase. Even the high-growth phase itself is usually discontinuous, with a high growth spurt being followed by a period of decline or stabilization (St-Jean et al., 2008). More importantly, liter- ature does not agree on the question why high growth is so difficult to maintain (Barringer et al., 2005).

2.4 Properties of High-Growth Firms

Large parts of the literature are concerned with identifying systematic differences between HGFs and slow-growing firms (Barringer et al., 2005) and particularly investigating the influence of the firm’s current size and age, its current growth rate and other factors that powerfully and consistently explain high growth (Parker et al., 2010). Meta-analyses of the existing literature (e.g. Delmar and Davidsson, 1998; Delmar et al., 2003) conclude that despite the large research effort, there exists very limited knowledge about the properties of HGFs. Reverse, Barringer et al. (2005) conclude that, “[c]ontrary to prior beliefs that the literature on firm growth is fragmented or limited, the im- plications from our analysis suggest the literature is rather rich and mature.” Although the literature has developed a solid body of arguments and propositions, there is no agreement on a set of factors, which would reliably predict HGFs.

With regards to the relation between a firm’s size or age and its growth rate, most studies relate their research to Gibrat ’ s law. This theory introduced by Gibrat (1931) states that there is no correlation between the size of a firm and its growth rate. This practically implies that size is no indicator for high growth at all and that a high growth phase is equally likely to happen at any stage of the firm’s development. The majority of studies concerned with this law does not find empirical evidence and reject the law (e.g. Audretsch et al., 1999). In the German context, longitudinal studies by Harhoff et al. (1998), analyzing approximately 11.000 German firms, and Almus and Nerlinger (2000), an- alyzing young German firms from technology intensive and non-intensive sectors, also reject Gi- brat’s law. Although controversial, Coad affirms that Gibrat's law “appears to provide a better de- scription of industrial development than any other alternative theory” (2009: 7). Moreover, there is still no agreement on the relation between size, employment growth and sales growth (Lee and Winslow, 2013)14. As argued above, more recent studies recognize that the correlation of age and firm growth primarily depends on the applied definition of HGFs (Daunfeldt et al., 2010). More specifically, firm size positively influences the probability of a firm to become high-growth when growth is measured in absolute terms. Reverse, the probability of becoming a HGF decreases with an increase in firm size when a relative definition of HGFs is applied (Ibid.).15 Acs et al., using a relative measurement definition, conclude, that "on average, gazelles are younger and smaller than other firms, but it is young age more than small size that is associated with rapid growth" (2008: 6).

Some studies suggest, that it is neither size nor age, but the current growth rate, which reliably pre- dicts high growth. These studies recognize an autoregressive pattern in high-growth rates, meaning that companies, which show high growth in one period, are more likely to grow above average in the next period as well (cf. Lopez-García and Puente, 2009). Coad and Hölzl draw the distinction between smaller and larger firms. While larger firms’ growth patterns are smoother, small firms often experience erratic on-time-shots in growth. Therefore, they conclude that “small firms that grew very fast in the previous period are particularly unlikely to repeat this growth performance” (2010: 6). HGFs display increased growth volatility, which increases the probability of further high growth, but also increases the risk of a sudden decline due to the increased risks.

Concerning the industry in which HGFs are likely to find, current debate proposes that all industries can produce HGFs, although these firms are more likely to emerge in some specific industries. It is reasonable to expect that the growth of firms is linked to sector-specific degrees of innovation, com- petition and concentration (Coad, 2007). Apart from the inherent characteristics of an industry, its development stage is equally important. Firms in mature industries are likely to have lower average growth rates than firms in emerging industries (Ibid.). Empirical research on industry-related ques- tions offers partly contradicting results. Bos and Stam (2011) find that knowledge- and technology- intensive branches generate a high share of HGFs. However, Hölzl and Friesenbichler conclude that “Gazelles are equally likely to be found in low-technology and mature industry sectors as in high- technology sectors” (2008: 7). Similarly, Acs et al. underline that, “while some industries are char- acterized by a higher percentage of such firms, high-impact firms are by no means all in high-tech- nology industries.” (2008: 2). A recent study by Ramboll on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Eco- nomics and Technology (BMWi) offers various insights into German HGFs. The study shows that among the 20 branches with the highest ratio of HFGs, 14 branches are concerned with the manu- facturing of products, while 17 of the 20 branches with the lowest ratio of HGFs are related to ser- vices (BMWi, 2012). Findings from the study also suggest that HGFs are most likely generated in knowledge-intensive sectors. Although there are heterogeneous findings about the influence of the industry, some industries are seemingly more likely to ‘produce’ HGFs than others.

Instead of treating high growth as one phenomenon, some studies acknowledge the multitude of sub- groups of HGFs and their differing properties. Penrose (1959) already recognized that a firm’s growth pattern is significantly dependent on its age, its size, its industry affiliation, and whether the growth is achieved organically or by acquisitions. For HGFs, empirical support can be found in a study by Delmar et al. (2003) that used 19 different measures of firm growth to analyze their impact on the particular growth path. The study concludes that HGFs are heterogeneous phenomena and high growth is multi-dimensional in nature. Therefore, “identifying a high-growth firm depends on the measurements used” (Delmar et al., 2003: 213). As a result, their study introduced seven dis- tinctive forms of HGFs and demand that “researchers should measure different forms of growth with different growth measures” (Ibid..: 190). Table 1 presents these seven growth types; each of these sub-groups is associated with a different combination of size, age and industry as the right column of the following table illustrates.

Table 1: Growth Patterns and Demographic Characteristics of High-Growth Firms

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Delmar et al. (2003): 210.

Another key property, which distinguishes HGFs from slow-growing businesses, is related to the characteristics of the firm’s founder. Literature agrees that the founders of HGFs have prior to found- ing the firm already gained relevant expertise in the specific industry, have a higher education, a broader network than entrepreneurs of non-HGFs (Barringer et al., 2005). Other studies argue that it is prior entrepreneurial experience (Cooper et al., 1988) or the amount of founders (cf. Willard et al., 1992), which discriminates HGFs from other firms. In Germany, the BMWi study (2012) finds that the founders of HGFs count in general on many years of professional- and branch specific ex- perience. In terms of education, more than half of the founders of German HGFs have completed an apprenticeship, another 38 % possess an academic degree and 10 % hold a PhD. One in three found- ers previously founded a business and half of the HGFs are founded as a team (BMWi, 2012). Char- acteristics of firm founders can be an important factor to discriminate HGFs from non-HGFs, but fail in predicting or creating high growth.

Literature discusses a variety of other properties in their ability to distinguish HGFs from non-HGFs. Examples being the level of productivity growth (Mason et al., 2009) or the level of internationalization (Mason and Brown, 2013). Despite the discussion of various factors, no model emerged yet, which could consistently discriminate HGFs from other companies and reliably predict the emergence of HGFs. Some factors are positively correlated with high growth, but in many cases the direction of the influence remains unclear.

2.5 Drivers and Barriers of High-Growth Firms

This study systematically reviewed the existing literature to identify the dominating areas of drivers and barriers and to structure the existing knowledge. In this study, a driver is defined as a factor that causes a particular phenomenon to happen or develop, while a barrier is a circumstance or obstacle that keeps things apart or prevents progress. In a first step, relevant studies were identified by a set of 13 search words including the different labels of HGFs.16 100 paper were analyzed individually and classified according to their year of appearance, journal, methodology (qualitative, quantitative or conceptual), the applied definition of HGF (growth indicator, measurement, growth rate and du- ration), the characteristics of the specific population (firm age, size, legal form), as well as the par- ticular business environment, primarily represented through the industry characteristics. Subse- quently, the author reviewed these sources to compile all factors, which were labeled as drivers, barriers, success factors or influential factors of high-growth. A list of 95 factors emerged from this first review. Next, these factors were classified in an initial scheme of twelve distinctive themes. The figure in brackets equals the number of factors pertaining to the theme.

1.) Head of firm (10)
2.) Leadership (9)
3.) General (8)
4.) Organization (22)
5.) Customers (5)
6.) Entry type (4)
7.) Size (3)
8.) Age (1)
9.) Products (9)
10.) Finance (6)
11.) Employees (8)
12.) Market and governmental factors (10)

Among the many studies on HGFs, some authors already conducted extensive literature reviews. Storey (1994) pioneered in classifying the influencing factors of firm growth with a particular focus on small firms into the starting resources of the firm, the starting resources of the entrepreneur and the firm’s strategy. In a later work, Storey, together with Parker and van Witteloostuijn (Parker et al., 2010), adjust the classification to (i) the pre-start characteristics of the business (e.g. founder experience), (ii) the factors present when the business starts (e.g. sector) and (iii) the post-start char- acteristics of the business. Barringer et al. (2005) compile and classify the existing characteristics as well as behaviors and add the categories of business practices and human resource management practices, while eliminating the strategy or post-start characteristics category. Their research, as many others (cf. Delmar and Davidsson, 1997) places high importance on pre-start and at-start fac- tors. Concerning the post-start characteristics, Parker et al. (2010) conclude, after reviewing the relevant literature, that four functional strategies have been particularly widely analyzed within the relevant literature: human resource management (HRM), innovation and technology, administration and governance as well as marketing and sales.

For the purpose of delivering strategic insights on how to achieve high growth, a second round of literature review was conducted, placing stronger emphasis on the post-start practices of firms. Hence, the drivers and barriers were classified to a scheme of different themes that emerged from both existing literature reviews and logical considerations. The names of the topics are mostly ori- ented at existing classifications (e.g. human resource management practices). Those studies that were not specifically focused on HGFs or which solely focused on pre-start and at-start characteris- tics were eliminated, while 46 sources mentioned in the reviewed articles were added. Then, the author reviewed all sources, coded the mentioned drivers or barriers from the individual sources, and assigned them to one topic. At the end of the process, similar drivers or barriers from various studies that described the same idea were aggregated and labeled according to their common mean- ing.

First, the review revealed that only some studies offer integrative models on how to foster high growth. St-Jean et al. (2008) propose that the management’s motivation for growth, the firm’s prox- imity to its client base, its information management, and the availability of tangible and intangible resources are crucial for achieving high growth. After conducting case studies in Denmark, Poulfelt et al. (2009) propose seven critical areas: (1) Focus strategy, (2) business systems, value chains and networks, (3) self-financing and organic growth, (4) international profile, (5) organizational devel- opment and recruitment, (6) resoluteness, speed and action, and (7) the constitution of the board. Jaczak and Bares (2010) add dynamic organizational capabilities, strong ties with the territory, cus- tomer focus and vision as important areas. Schmidt (2009), investigating the drivers and barriers of German technology-intensive companies in their early stage of development, finds that young firms can grow if they operate successfully in the areas of networking, personnel acquisition, finance, and company image. Although these studies allow for valuable insights into high growth, no model or framework of drivers and barriers of high growth is generally accepted in the discussion.

The literature review of this thesis revealed that the existing studies have a strong focus on discussing internal drivers. The literature review identified 106 drivers, classified into 12 topics. The topics that contain the most drivers are the following: Strategy, formal organization (structures and proce dures), company culture, management, human resource management practices, and participation in inter-organizational relationships. The internal drivers will be discussed in detail in the chapter five. Giving the large number of diverse internal drivers in the literature, the author suggests that there is no single set of factors that initiate or drive high growth.

The review identified 10 external drivers of high growth and assigned them to the two topics of market and industry and availability of resources in geographic proximity. The latter category contains such diverse resources such as governmental support (BMWi, 2012; Mason and Brown, 2013), networking (Acs and Mueller, 2008), or knowledge spillovers (Audretsch and Lehmann, 2004; Acs and Mueller, 2008), or discusses the driving power of specific environments such as a strong system of education, research and technology transfer (Bleda et al., 2012).

Only a few publications published in the last years discuss the internal barriers of HGFs, most studies dating back to the 1980s. Those findings often refer to the challenges of high growth rather than explicitly discussing high-growth barriers. Since challenges of high growth often represent factors that possibly inhibit high growth in the next periods, they are discussed simultaneously. For instance, Kotter and Sathe (1978) describe the barriers in the realm of the formal organization and manage- ment, referring for example to the incapability of the founder-owner to adapt to new challenges and tasks. In addition, Hambrick and Crozier (1985) investigate the barriers that derive from the human capital development, since HGFs are fragile organizations that are confronted with specific threads such as internal turmoil. Fombrun and Wally (1989) recognize that high growth creates significant dilemmas to firms with regard to the formal structure of the organization (bureaucratization versus decentralization), the firm’s culture (entrepreneurial versus strategic) and the strategic emphasize (quality versus cost versus innovation). Based upon a survey among managers in the UK, a study by NESTA (2011) concludes that the inability to generate a positive cash flow and the subsequent fi- nancial constraints are a major barrier. The BMWi study (2012) identifies a decrease in the employ- ees’ motivation and the inability to adapt the organization during the transition from a start-up to a more hierarchical organization as major internal growth barriers for German HGFs (BMWi, 2012). In total, 20 internal barriers were assigned to the five topics of financial barriers, o rganizational barriers, m anagerial barriers, p roduction barriers, and human capital barriers.

The external barriers are classified into six topics. The main external topics discussed by the litera- ture relate to the characteristics of the labor market (e.g. Davidsson and Henrekson, 2002; NESTA, 2011) and the financial market (e.g. Niosi, 2003; Bartlett and Bukvič, 2001; Ahrens, 1991), which inhibit effective access to qualified personnel and required capital. Other barriers can also be found within the industry, for example through fierce competition (e.g. Coad and Teruel, 2013) or the decreasing demand for the product (Bartlett and Bukvič, 2001). Furthermore, Davidsson and Hen- rekson (2010) discuss specific institutional barriers and conclude that major barriers to growth arise from taxation of entrepreneurial income, missing incentives for wealth accumulation, missing arenas for entrepreneurship, the wage-setting institutions, and labor market regulations. Other institutional barriers can be erected by the bureaucracy of institutions (Bartlett and Bukvič, 2001; BMWi, 2012), funding systems that act as incentives to stay small (BMWi, 2012), lack of state support or lacking security due to unstable institutions (Bartlett and Bukvič, 2001). Next, the economic environment can represent a barrier to growth, especially in an economic crisis (BMWi, 2012). Finally, the social environment can represent a barriers to high growth, for example relating to a lack of trust in a society (Bartlett and Bukvič, 2001). In Germany, young HGFs face barriers to high growth in terms of access to finance, availability of qualified personnel, the legal framework, bureaucracy, the eco- nomic environment, as well as the negative image of entrepreneurship (BMWi, 2012). To recapitu- late, the review identified 26 external barriers, most of them related to the missing access to key resources, difficult market conditions and an institutional environment that does not support firm growth.

Table 2 displays the classification scheme consisting of 16 driver-related and 46 barrier-related top- ics. 117 driving factors and practices are assigned to the driver-related topics, and 46 factors or practices correspond to the barrier-related topics. The complete list of drivers, barriers and the ac- cording quantitative, qualitative and conceptual studies that discuss these drivers are presented in Appendix A. This overview over the literature on drivers and barriers of HGFs offers important value with regards to the first objective of this thesis and adds important distinctions to existing literature reviews. First, the classification system applies a stronger management orientation, using firm functions (e.g. marketing and sales, finance) and other management topics (e.g. innovation, organizational culture) as topics instead of generic categories such as business practices. Second, it emphasizes the difference between drivers and barriers in a more exclusionary way. Third, this clas- sification follows the distinction between internal and external factors introduced by Penrose (1959) and followed by many studies (cf. BMWi, 2012). Hence, it allows discriminating between the factors that firms can act directly upon and those factors that firms can only adapt to. The classification of the existing literature helps to structure the enormous amount of studies on the subject, allows gain- ing substantial insights into the topic and facilitates the analysis of the empirical data.

Table 2: Classification Scheme of Literature Review

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Own research.

It is important to recognize that even for a single firm, no fixed set of factors exist that drives or inhibits growth in all phases. This insight could lead to the conclusion that static factors do not explain high growth (Littunen and Virtanen, 2009). According to a longitudinal study of Littunen and Virtanen (2009), the drivers for high growth are primarily dynamic variables such as increases in production capacity and external network relations or a proactive approach to strategy. Similarly, Parker et al. (2010) criticize large parts of the management literature and consultancy approaches that are based upon the assumption that “best practices” of HGFs could be similarly applied in all stages of a firm’s development to achieve the same results. Contrarily, Chan et al. (2006) state, that successful small businesses are actually quite homogeneous in strategy as well as style and that “a relatively small ‘repertoire’ of skills and characteristics is associated with sustainable high growth” (2006: 427). Hence, the author assumes that high growth as a multi-dimensional phenomenon can occur in various ways, but managerial challenges of HGFs converge, once a firm has entered a high- growth phase.

In summary, the literature review found that a large body of knowledge on drivers and barriers of HGFs is available. The discussion acknowledges the variety of different sub-groups of HGFs, each characterized by a different set of properties. Nevertheless, the review revealed that high growth is a particular form of growth and, consequently, general theories and findings for firm growth might not be viable for explaining the driving forces of HGFs. Even neglecting the difficulties in defining HGFs in a consistent way, the literature does not agree on the question whether HGFs are heterogeneous or homogenous in nature. Therefore, the authors conclude that the large body of knowledge offers limited value to practitioners as the existing studies (1) often focus on properties of firms that are outside of the management’s influence, (2) are very diverse and partly contradicting, and (3) are often isolated and rarely integrated into a holistic perspective.

3 Methodology

3.1 Exploratory Research Design

This research applies an exploratory-qualitative methodology building upon a series of interviews with representatives of high-growth firms. An exploratory-qualitative methodology was chosen be- cause this approach supports the generation of new insights, allows for theory and hypothesis build- ing, and is less restrictive in terms of research procedures (Bortz and Döring 2006). The study aims at generating new insights and theory building, since the literature review revealed a lack of agree- ment on drivers of and barriers to HGFs, and determinants of HGFs in Germany are assumingly different, making some of the existing literature invalid for this research. The exploratory study builds upon deductively generated insights from the literature review, consequently the literature classification represents an integrative part of the research method (Witzel 1982). As a result, this research attempts to apply both “inductive and deductive thinking” (Witzel 2000: par. 1) throughout the data gathering and analysis process. This approach allows to cover the complete topic, build upon existing knowledge, and generate new insights.

The empirical data is gathered primarily from interviews with CEOs of HGFs. A cross-case com- parison of 20 HGFs allows to inductively identify common patterns, drivers of and barriers to high growth.17 Moreover, the interview partners are experts on the topic of rapid firm growth from their personal experience. Hence, this approach combines a diverse set of high-growth case studies as well as expert knowledge on high growth.

The interviews were conducted in a semi-structured manner, giving the interviewer the opportunity to ask respondents about their opinions and relevant facts, and encouraging participants to contribute their own propositions that can serve as the basis of further inquiry (Yin, 2003). This method allows the researcher to inquire about specific factors, but also ensure that interviews are comparable (Frie- drichs, 1990). The researcher can already develop theoretical knowledge during the data collection phase by testing and refining empirically grounded hypotheses within the interviews (Witzel, 2000). This approach enables the researcher to optimally identify a company’s growth and success factors in full complexity.

Figure 3: Exploratory Research Design

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Own research.

The data analysis applies software-supported qualitative content analysis. The content analysis ap- proach is chosen for being a partly objective method to structure large amounts of interview data and generate a holistic theory in a structured manner (Bortz and Döring, 2006). Within the catego- rization process, the initial categories of drivers and barriers are defined by the literature review classification. The coding of individual drivers and barriers follows partly the grounded-theory methodology (cf. Glaser and Strauss, 1967), meaning that the drivers and barriers are coded sponta- neously. This research attempts to generate valuable new insights on the topic, identify a common set of drivers and barriers, and structure these factors in a framework for high growth applying a qualitative content analysis.

3.2 Data Collection Method

The sampling framework of the study primarily builds upon a ranking of the fastest growing German firms, but is completed with a set of diverse HGFs from different industries. Literature argues that the approach of choosing research participants is mostly irrelevant in exploratory studies, since every participant can provide interesting insights (Bortz and Döring, 2006). However, knowing that high growth is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, the sampling approach sought to identify firms from one particular sub-population. A list of 50 German HGFs from technology industries18 constitute the core of the sampling framework. According to the study results, all of the firms at least doubled their sales between 2007 and 201219 and started their growth phase with over ten employees and sales of at least 50.000 euro in 2007, and achieved sales of at least 800.000 euro in 2012. According to the award criteria, these firms needed to be based in Germany, use a self-developed technology, and invest a significant part of their sales in research and development (R&D). Concerning the industry, firms from the areas of communication, line supply, internet, computer, life sciences, and new tech- nologies (e.g. nanotechnology, solar cell technology or fuel cell) can participate in the study. This approach led to a sample framework that is illustrated in the figure below.

Figure 4: Characteristics of Study Population

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Own research.

25 additional firms were added to the sampling framework due to three reasons. First, the sample was amplified to generate also knowledge of HGFs from non-technology sectors. Second, a small control-sample of former HGFs with slower current growth rates was added. Third, firms from the first interviews repeatedly reported that they had low financial requirements when starting their ven- ture. Seemingly, most of the Technology Fast 50 firms’ business models did not require high initial capital investment, as many of them had started their venture as service provider in the IT sector. Hence, some firms from investment-intensive industries such as the biotechnology or nanotechnol- ogy sector were added to the sampling frame. As a result, a list of 75 German high-growth SMEs from diverse industries emerged.

The author contacted the 75 companies via telephone and email, describing briefly the scope of the interview and the research objectives as recommended by Frey et al. (1990). In total, 20 firms vol- unteered to participate in the study, twelve of which are part of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 sub- group. The interview guideline was sent in advance if requested by the interviewee, allowing them to prepare for the interview.

In general, the interview request was directed at the head of the organization under the circumstance that this person had been with their company at least five years. It was critical that the respondents were knowledgeable of their firm’s strategy and operational topics during the periods of high growth. Moreover, the author assumed that these managers were instrumental in creating the conditions nec- essary for high growth. In summary, the interview partner was at least a cofounder, CEO, or partial owner in all but three cases.

3.3 Sample of High-Growth Firms

Prior to the firm interviews, six interviews with experts from venture capital firms, ministries of economic affairs, and other relevant policy makers were conducted. This preliminary research al- lowed to gain more knowledge of German HGFs and their specific drivers and barriers. The experts pointed out the importance of the access to finance, the supporting role of policy makers, and de- tailed on some drivers of and barriers to high growth. More importantly, the interviews clarified some general questions concerning the environment of HGFs in Germany. Consequently, these pre- liminary insights reduced the risk of over-emphasizing some topics within the firm interviews or ignoring other important aspects entirely.

The interview guideline was formed and defined by the literature review and the preliminary inter- views, resulting in five thematic blocs.20 At least one question emerged from every category of the literature review, allowing to consider all relevant themes. At the same time, aiming at providing exploratory insights, those concrete questions were usually asked toward the end of the interviews, or when the topic was already mentioned by the interviewee. Out of five interview blocs, the first two sought to allow for new drivers and barriers to emerge. In detail, the first bloc sought to under- stand the firm’s business model, industry, value proposition, products, its growth path, and motiva- tion for growth. The second bloc aimed at inductively identifying the drivers of and barriers to high- growth from the perspective of the interview partners. Hence, in this part questions focused at iden- tifying the interviewees’ mindsets regarding their firms’ growth factors. The third part contained particular questions related to the financing strategy of the firm, since the preliminary research re- sulted in the assumption that the financial strategy was a key element for HGFs. The fourth bloc contained questions on specific pre-identified barriers to high growth as well as its organizational challenges that were identified in the literature review and mentioned in the expert interviews. The fifth and final bloc contained questions on particular growth drivers and strategies, and discussed topics such as innovation, product and market diversification, or internationalization. In general, the interview guideline allowed for generating inductive insights from the interview partners, but also to cover the topics that emerged deductively from the literature review.

The interview guideline was adjusted twice during the research process. Case study literature argues that theoretical saturation occurs after reviewing four to ten cases (Eisenhardt, 1989).21 The first eight interviews showed clear patterns. Therefore, some questions were added (e.g. on the recruit- ment of personnel), while an initial bloc on external environment factors was eliminated entirely after the first interviews due to low value of the responses, since the firms could not easily compare their environment with another hypothetical environment. In addition, a set of ad-hoc and follow-up questions emerged. These questions were only asked if the topic was brought up by the interviewee (Witzel, 1982). The adaption of the interview guideline offered valuable insight into the importance of specific categories and helped to avoid information saturation in later interviews.

Finally, 21 interviews22 were conducted via telephone between March and June 2013. All but two interviews were conducted in German, the mother tongue of the interview partners; this allowed them to express themselves optimally. Following the recommendations of Witzel (1982), the interviews were conducted in person but recorded on tape to allow the interviewers the full concentration on the discussion.23 The transcription of the recorded interviews also allows a more objective, deeper, and precise analysis (Kuckartz, 2006). The length of interviews varied between 30 and 95 minutes, primarily depending on the willingness and motivation of the interviewees to give detailed answers and opinions, as well as their time constraints. The 21 interviews produced in total 340 pages of primary data, equivalent of 16 hours of recorded material.

The communication strategy for the interviews sought to create an environment encouraging honest and open expression.24 The interviews were planned as “guided conversations rather than structured queries” (Yin, 2003). To achieve this, participants were asked in the beginning to describe their company. This introductory question had informational value, but also signaled to the interviewees that the interview style would be more open and narrative. One of the main challenges of semi- structured interviews is finding a way to satisfy the research’s information needs in a friendly and nonthreatening manner (Ibid.). Thus, the interviewer usually adapted the order of questions to the thematic flow of the interview and avoided asking for specific financial information. After approx- imately eight interviews, the technique shifted from an open to a more topic-focused approach (cf. Schmid, 2009), allowing for a more in-depth exploration of specific drivers and barriers. Thus, the interviewers played a more active role and used more references to previous answers in the latter interviews (cf. Witzel, 2000). All participants were guaranteed full anonymity in advance to encour- age honest statements and the valuable insight they provide. As a result, most participants discussed the introduced topics in an open and insightful manner.

3.4 Data Analysis

The interview transcripts were evaluated and analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The qual- itative content analysis denotes a methodology for analyzing large amounts of text data, in order to generate theories and insights. Hence, this method was deemed as most suitable for evaluating a large number of interview transcriptions (Kuckartz, 2006). The content analysis led to the identification of a set of both new and already empirically discussed categories and sub-categories.

The author applied a QDA software25 to conduct the content analysis. Literature recommends the usage of QDA software to recognize the causalities within a large number of interviews (Ibid.). MAXQDA-10 was chosen as the preferred software, since the program provides for clear classification and codification, the retrieval of coded passages, and the selection of a subpopulation according to self-selected variables. Variables such as turnover, number of employees, or technology-in- tensity were introduced in order to identify subgroups of HGFs. In addition, MAXQDA-10 allows the documentation of ideas that help to systematically develop a theory (Ibid.).

This research conducted three rounds of codification and one categorization workshop to refine the categories and codify the transcriptions. Initial first-level categories emerged from the literature re- view, but were constantly adjusted.26 Every meaningful text unit was coded according to the open coding methodology described by Kuckartz (Ibid.).27 Sub-categories were labeled according to pre- liminary research results whenever possible.28 When a driver or barrier was not mentioned in the literature, In-Vivo-Coding was applied.29 Most of the sub-categories emerged from the first eight interviews. After the evaluation of all transcriptions, a workshop with content analysis experts with- out prior knowledge of HGFs was conducted. These workshop participants challenged the catego- ries, the assignment of the sub-categories, and the internal coherence of the categorization system. As a result of the group discourse, the subcategories were restructured entirely from practices (e.g. firm builds and maintains close relationship to its clients) to neutral sub-categories (e.g. relationship to customers). This allowed for a more objective evaluation in the later step of text retrieval. In a second round of codification, all transcripts were re-coded according to the new sub-categories.

Subsequently, the coded text passages were retrieved and analyzed in order to describe the growth paths of HGFs, develop an integrative framework of drivers and barriers of HGFs, and generate new insights on HGFs. The objectives of the framework are three-fold. First, it aims at representing the categories, drivers of and barriers to high growth in an easily understandable manner. It needs to solve the challenge that - given the specific context of a particular HGF - some of the identified categories can either drive or inhibit high growth and some categories can either be internal or ex- ternal. Thus, the framework sought to classify the categories according to the two dimensions of driver vs. barrier and internal vs. external without being strongly exclusive. Second, the framework should be further specifiable through quantitative research. Accordingly, the framework had to offer the possibility to weight and map the importance or distinctness of the individual elements and to adjust in light of further empirical findings. Third, the framework should allow for the possibility to map the high-growth potential of individual firms or groups of firms in order to provide value to practitioners. Moreover, it should be able to compare the individual elements between particular groups of HGFs such as high-technology (high-tech) and low-technology (low-tech) firms, different high-growth phases or different nationalities. In brief, the objective of the framework was to illus- trate the empirical identified elements, while being further adjustable and applicable on diverse con- texts.

In the next step of data analysis, the text passages of every element were retrieved and analyzed in order to identify common patterns and growth factors and to consequently develop a measurement instrument. The interview statements were contrasted with the theoretical contributions of the relevant high-growth literature. This step sought to generate a list of statements which in general represent the practices of HGFs. The list of statements is supposed to serve as a checklist for firms to critically evaluate and discuss their high growth potential and current shortcomings. More importantly, these statements are supposed to act as indicators for the related sub-categories and categories and provide the basis of a measurement instrument of high-growth.

It is crucial to recognize that the knowledge and assumptions of the author play a major role in the evaluation process, since he also conducted the literature review, the interviews, and the content analysis. This personal union ensures the consistent definition of categories and sub-categories, but the evaluation of semi-structured interviews always constitutes an exchange process between the interview transcripts and the researcher’s theoretical understanding (Schmidt, 2010). Hence, the evaluation and interpretation of the data is not only influenced by the existing literature, but also by the knowledge and assumptions of the author.

4 Findings

This chapter briefly presents the results of the empirical research. First, it characterizes the firms of the study sample. Second, it describes the high-growth path of the sample firms, suggesting that high-growth SMEs go through three distinctive high-growth phases which are divided by transition phases. Based on the firm’s characteristics and the high-growth phases, a typology of high-growth SMEs will be presented. Third, this chapter presents the final categories and their constituting sub- categories that emerged from the content analysis. The analysis identified 15 separate categories which have particular influence on high growth. These categories and their sub-categories will be discussed in detail in the following section.

4.1 Characteristics of the Sample

The study sample consists of 20 high-growth SMEs that strongly grew their sales in the last five years. The age of the firms ranges from 8 to 20 years.30 The size of these firms ranges from 28 to 600 employees with an average of 137 and a median of 85 employees. In terms of revenues, these firms differ between 1.2 million euro and 100 million euro, averaging at 17.8 million euro. The 5- year growth rate31 of the HGFs ranged from a low of 150 %32 to a high of 5.600 %, with an non- weighted average growth rate of 718 % and a median of 269 %. In terms of annual compound rates, this equals a range from 20 % to 225 %. Hence, most these firms over-fulfilled the criterion for high growth by far.

The sample firms are from different German regions, were mostly founded by an individual entre- preneur and operate in knowledge-intensive, technology-oriented industries. Regarding the regional distribution, firms from southern Germany find the strongest representation in the sample with seven firms from the south-west (Baden-Wurttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Saarland), five firms from the south-east (Bavaria), and four each from the northern west and east. Most of the firms were founded by one founder, while seven firms were founded by a team. Six firms emerged as a spin-off from an incubator (e.g. university). With respect to the legal form, eight firms are organized as Ak- tiengesellschaften (AG), the German equivalent of the US publicly held corporation, ten firms as a GmbH (company with limited responsibilities; Ltd), and two firms as a GmbH & Co KG (limited partnership with a private limited company as general partner). Next, all but two firms operate almost exclusively in B2B industries. To gain an objective understanding of the technology- and knowledge-intensity of the firms, Nace Rev. 2 codes33 were assigned to all 20 firms in the sample. The Eurostat aggregation scheme classifies all manufacturing firms to high-tech or low-tech indus- tries.34 The four manufacturing firms in the sample equally belong to the high-tech, medium high- tech, medium low-tech and the low-tech sector. Furthermore, the aggregation scheme classifies ser- vice firms as knowledge-intensive or less knowledge-intensive. From the 16 service firms, 14 are assigned to knowledge-intensive industries, of which eight belong to knowledge-intensive high-tech service industries, four to knowledge-intensive market services and two to other knowledge-inten- sive services; two firms operate in less knowledge-intensive industries. Table 3 provides an overview over the number of firms that are assigned to high-tech, and knowledge-intensive industries or none of them combined with the factor of size that will be introduced as an important distinguishing property in the next sections. Although the firms are distributed over this classification scheme, it is important to emphasize that the findings in this study are primarily derived from and applicable for firms operating in knowledge-intensive and high-tech sectors, respectively.

Table 3: Classification of the Sample Firms Based on Age and Industry Characteristics

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Own research, based on classification scheme of NACE Rev. 2 (cf. Eurostat, 2009). Note: Color and number in brackets refer to the number of firms in the study sample.

The interview partners were in 15 cases the (co-)founder of the firm and in all but three cases the current head of their organization. Most of the interviewees were aged between 30 and 50 and had already acquired professional expertise in their industry prior to founding this firm. The author con- siders three of the interview partners as serial entrepreneurs, who have already founded at least two other firms. Most of the interviewees had also a higher educational background in the firm’s field of operation (e.g. PhD in physics), while only the minority holds a management education background. Still, most of the interview partners proved to be knowledgeable experts on management topics as well as experts on their firms.

4.2 Categories and Sub-Categories of Content Analysis

This section presents the final categories and sub-categories that emerged from the inductive-deduc- tive interplay described in chapter three. The following table represents the 15 influencing categories, as well as the 64 sub-categories resulting from the qualitative content analysis.35 These categories drive or inhibit high growth of SMEs.


1 In order to gain an understanding of the total population of HGFs in Germany, preliminary research was conducted using the available firm profiles at the company database Amadeus. The results suggest that 3.7% of German firms fulfill the criterion of growing their sales at least 20 % over the last three years (2009 to 2012).

2 To date, the majority of the literature focuses on large firms and consequently there is a dearth of research on high growth of SMEs. In fact, most SME research focuses on factors that contribute to their survival, rather than providing a greater understanding of the growth process (Sims and O’Regan, 2006).

3 These management tools are proposed but not researched in this thesis. New tools are necessary in order to apply the theoretical and generic knowledge in an applicable and firm-specific manner.

4 Current academic discussion and recent empirical findings partly reject the original findings and criticize the applied methodology of Birch (cf. Almus, 2002). Although the original stated percentage has been revised, literature still agrees on the high impact of HGFs on employment growth.

5 Storey (1994) investigated 14 individual studies for this meta-analysis, out of which 13 are based in the United Kingdom.

6 In this study high-growth is used as an adjective, referring to the phenomenon defined above.

7 This study refers to the findings of other authors also as high-growth firms and high growth if the firms and phenomena described by the author apply a similar definition.

8 The definition of h igh-impact firms deviates from HGFs insofar as Acs et al. (2008) use a growth criterion for HGFs that multiplies the firm’s relative employment growth with its absolute growth; hence, shifting the focus rather to older com- panies.

9 One example for a combining measurement is the Birch Index (BI), which multiplies absolute employment growth by relative employment growth and therefore reveals the employment-creation power of differently sized enterprises (Birch, 1987).

10 A growth rate of 20 % per annum adds up to a three-year growth rate of 72.8 %.

11 “Economies of growth are the internal economies available to an individual firm which make expansion profitable in particular directions. They are derived from the unique collection of productive services available to it, and create for that firm a differential advantage over other firms in putting on the market new products or increased quantities of old products” (Penrose, 1959: 99).

12 The stream of evolutionary economics finds its origins in the works of Schumpeter on creative destruction in the 1930s.

13 The R2 value (R-Squared) is a statistical term describing the degree to which a model is predicting a factor. If R-Squared is 1.0 then given the value of one term, the model perfectly predicts the value the variable, while a R-Squared of 0.0 indicates that knowing one factor or the explaining variables of a model does not provide any information for knowing the explained variable.

14 Lee and Winslow (2013) suggest that an increase in a firm’s employment base indicates its preparation for an expected increase in sales, rather than signaling a slowing growth rate. This explains why “firms with more employees needed to increase their employment pool even more as they not only rapidly developed their business, but also prepared for the next phase of growth.” (Lee and Winslow, 2013: 77)

15 As this research applies a relative sales definition, HGFs are expected to be relatively small.

16 The initial search strategy included the following search words: High growth; High-growth; Rapid growth; Rapid- growth; Fast growing; Gazelles; Rapidly growing firms; Rapid-growth start-ups; Fast growing enterprise; Fast-growing small firms; New venture growth; High-growth startup companies; Breakthrough growth firms; High-impact firms.

17 Some publicly available information on the firms and data from the company database Amadeus were added to the interview data in order to characterize the interviewed companies.

18 The consulting firm Deloitte publishes annually a ranking labeled “Technology Fast 50”, awarding the 50 fastest growing firms from technology-related industries. Firms need to apply in order to be considered. Deloitte publishes the ranking across several countries and economic regions on an annually basis. Thus, this sampling approach is also applicable in different countries and is repeatable in the future.

19 For the list of firms and exact criteria, see further: telecommunications/technologyfast50/06e00ca7298da310VgnVCM3000003456f70aRCRD.htm.

20 The interview guideline is presented in Appendix B.

21 Theoretical saturation is a concept introduced in the grounded theory. It is the point at which incremental learning is minimal because the researchers do observe the same phenomena again (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Researcher should stop adding cases at this point

22 One company volunteered as an object to an in-depth case study. Therefore, two representatives were chosen and interviewed separately.

23 The interviews were in all but three cases conducted by two researchers.

24 Witzel (2000) stresses the importance of a predefined communication strategy.

25 QDA stands for Qualitative Data Analyses; QDA software is frequently used in business research.

26 Kuckartz (2006) points out that it is possible to establish categories prior to the content analysis, given that the researcher allows these categories to be further refined, replaced or added.

27 This evaluation phase bases upon the recommendations of the grounded theory approach by Glaser and Straus (1967) and aims at purely exploring drivers and barriers described by the interview partners.

28 If the meaning of the statement was very close to an already existing driver or barrier from the literature analysis, the sub-category was labeled accordingly.

29 In-Vivo-Coding is a sub-form of open coding in which a term or phrase is extracted directly from the respective text passage as the code.

30 Two firms of the sample currently do not fulfill the high-growth definition, but have been HGFs in the past.

31 Although this study defined the time criterion of high growth to be a three-year period, five-year growth data are consistently available due to the fact that most firms emerged out of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 study, which uses the five-year sales growth as main criterion.

32 As the definition requires an average annual compound growth rate of 20 %, the minimum five-year growth rate equals 148.8%.

33 The NACE Rev. 2 is the statistical classification of economic activities in the European community (second revision). The four-digit NACE Rev. 2 codes classifies firms to a specific sector and industry.

34 Eurostat aggregates industries according to their technological intensity and knowledge intensity based on NACE Rev. 2 at two-digit level. Technology-intensity is classified into high-technology, medium high-technology, medium low-tech- nology and low-technology. Source: Eurostat, 2009; Following the NACE Rev. 2 classification of Eurostat, eight firms study firms belong to the information and communication industry, six firms to professional, scientific and technical activities, four to manufacturing, one to human health and social work activities and one is unclassified.

35 Compared to the classification of the literature, categories of driver and barrier are grouped together if they describe the same phenomenon from two different sides (e.g. the barrier of No Access to Qualified Personnel and the driver of Human Resource Practices). Besides, the category of macro-environment contains several individual categories that were regarded by few interview partners as important (Regulatory and Legal Environment, Sociocultural environment, Economic development). Furthermore, the category of Business model was newly introduced.

Excerpt out of 144 pages


Drivers and Barriers of High-Growth Firms
An Exploratory Study
University of Leipzig  (Lehrstuhl für Innovationsmanagement und Innovationsökonomik)
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ISBN (Book)
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Die Arbeit wurde in enger Betreuung das das Fraunhofer MOEZ erstellt. Die Arbeit umfasst einen 100-seitigen Textteil sowie eine 14-seitige, tabellarische Übersicht über wissenschaftliche Literatur zu High-Growth Firms.
High-Growth Firms;, schnell-wachsende Unternehmen, Gazellen, KMUs, Technologieunternehmen, Wachstumsmodell, Unternehmenswachstum, Mittelstand, Literaturübersicht, Wachstumstreiber, digitale Unternehmen
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Karl Täuscher (Author), 2013, Drivers and Barriers of High-Growth Firms, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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