Re-constructing success: a perspective from small firms' owner-managers

Morel d'Arleux, Corinne (2000). Re-constructing success: a perspective from small firms' owner-managers. PhD thesis The Open University.



The present dissertation is composed of two main parts. The first step lies in a conceptualisation research effort, which aims at re-constructing success and providing a new understanding of success as a subjective, individual-based concept encompassing three dimensions : professional, familial and personal success. Success is defined as : an ideal state of global satisfaction that may relate to family, personal or work fulfilment feelings, according to individual preferences.

The second part is an empirical study which is designed to illustrate this conceptual framework and contribute to extend our knowledge on small firms owner-managers' visions of success. An evaluation method, based on the Index for Global Success (IGS), is elaborated for that purpose. Three analyses are developed : the first one describes the respondents' global characteristics and visions of success, the second study explores males' and females' visions of success, and the last one applies the IGS method to compare high- and low success perceivers, test the link between IGS, business performance and individual satisfaction, and thus test the IGS method relevance.

The findings prove that success needs to be studied at the individual's level as a subjective construct and that the use of a composite index to evaluate success enables the gathering of overlapping dimensions composing success. The importance of personal and familial dimensions, beyond professional success, receives empirical support. Females appear to have different visions of success than males, placing higher concern on the personal dimension. Finally, the Index for Global Success enables the testing of subsamples which differ in their levels of satisfaction and firm's performance. Statistical analyses establish that `success' (evaluated through the Index for Global Success), business performance and individual satisfaction are positively correlated.

It is concluded that the IGS method is a relevant tool to evaluate success, and that success is a complex rather than simple unidimensional construct.

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