This thesis provides an examination of how and why growth firms adopt and implement management practices and processes. It also analyses the extent to which management development can facilitate further expansion and provide growth oriented firms with sustainable competitive advantages. The continued interest given to the small business sector by policy makers and academics can be attributed to the belief that these ventures will increasingly become the cornerstones of economic prosperity and wealth creation. The study draws its participants from the Wales Fast Growth Fifty Network, an initiative set up to champion the cause of growth firms in Wales. This initiative highlights that despite past successes in securing inward investment, the economic future of Wales will increasingly be 4ependent upon indigenous growth oriented businesses. The research adopts a two stage qualitative methodology and results are based upon three group interviews involving 18 growth oriented firms and a further 31 semi-structured interviews with owner-managers of growing business ventures. The phenomenon of small firm growth has been approached from a wide range of theoretical perspectives. These approaches fail however, to explain how the abilities and motivations of the entrepreneur or owner-management team shape management development. Moreover, previous studies have yet to explore the internal mechanisms of the firms and in particular the extent to which firms can manoeuvre themselves in to favourable market positions by establishing competency and knowledge based barriers to competition. This study contends that the effective adoption of management practices and processes geared to long term market advantage is determined by the ability and experience of owner-managers. The research also reports that management practices such as marketing, planning, quality assurance and standardisation are all routinised and utilised by growth firms to engender sources of sustainable competitive advantage. Finally, a theoretical framework is posited, utilising the concepts of an entrepreneurial and management filter developed and refined in this thesis, to explain management development and how competitive advantages merge.
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