New Perspectives on Firm Growth

New Perspectives on Firm Growth

Per Davidsson and Johan Wiklund

This insightful volume presents a collection of innovative works by two of the leading researchers of firm growth. The studies extend previous research by providing stronger theoretical underpinnings and using longitudinal databases that can separate in time the firms’ growth from its presumed causes. They also break new ground by examining different modes of growth, such as sales growth vs. employment growth, and organic growth vs. acquisition-based expansion. Further, the studies investigate the drivers of firm growth and take a critical look at the effects, such as under what circumstances high growth is associated with high profitability.

Chapter 10: Organic and acquisitive growth: re-examining, testing and extending Penrose’s growth theory

Andy Lockett, Johan Wiklund, Per Davidsson and Sourafel Girma

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, strategic management

Extract

The Theory of the Growth of the Firm by Edith Penrose, first published in 1959, is a seminal contribution to the field of management. Penrose’s intention was to create a theory of firm growth which was logically consistent and empirically tractable (Buckley and Casson, 2007). Much attention, however, has been focused on her unintended contribution to the resource-based view (henceforth RBV) (e.g. Kor and Mahoney, 2004; Lockett and Thompson, 2004) rather than her firm growth theory. We feel that this is unfortunate because despite a rapidly growing body of empirical work, conceptual advancement in growth studies has been limited (Davidsson and Wiklund, 2000; Davidsson et al., 2006; Delmar, 1997; Storey, 1994). The growth literature frequently references Penrose’s work, but little explicit testing of her ideas has been undertaken. This is surprising given that Penrose’s work remains the most comprehensive theory of growth to date. One explanation is that she did not formally present her arguments, favouring verbal exposition over formalized models (Lockett, 2005; Lockett and Thompson, 2004). However, the central propositions and conclusions of her theory can be operationalized and empirically tested.

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