Big Decisions in Small Business Ecosystems:Stakeholder Priority

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In an increasingly competitive environment,engaging with stakeholders is no longer an option but anecessity to ensure short-term and long-term success. This is particularly true in small business, yet little is known about how small business managers make those decisions, often under uncertainty and time pressure. Small businesses operate in networks of interdependent entities (ecosystems) where individuals are known to each other. This supports building of relationships, trust and reputation and removes the separation between ‘business’and ‘ethics’ by promoting a long-term focus. Yet, limited resources and conflicting demands result in a need to prioritise some stakeholder demands. As suggested by Stakeholder Salience, decision makers may prioritise stakeholder claims based on perceived levels of power, legitimacy and urgency. The key decision makers of nine Australian small businesses were asked about their relationships with important stakeholders, how decisions regarding the priority of various stakeholders and their expectations were made and what factors may affect such decisions. Relationships with stakeholders were identified as dynamic and strategic resources, interviewees invested considerable time and effort to build and maintain positive relationships. Consistent with Stakeholder Salience model, decisions were affected by perceptions of stakeholders’ level of power, legitimacy and urgency. This research also found that intuitive perceptions about the stakeholder affected the decision-making process, and identified the following additional factors: commitment, dependence and potential exit costs as well as the decision maker’s perception of alignment with own values, thereby introducing a moral and ethical consideration that would sometimes take priority over other considerations.

Stakeholder Salience, Stakeholder Engagement, Decision Making, Management, Strategic Management, Ecosystem, Bricolage

Westrenius, A., & Barnes, L. (2020). Big decisions in small business ecosystems: Stakeholder priority. Advances in Economics and Business, 8(2), 73-84. doi:10.13189/aeb/2020.080201

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