The Evolution of Business : Interpretative Theory, History and Firm Growth book cover
1st Edition

The Evolution of Business
Interpretative Theory, History and Firm Growth

ISBN 9780367733414
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
206 Pages

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Book Description

Firm growth. This concept has interested researchers for generations. Economists have sought to predict and measure firm growth using a host of different variables, while strategic management scholars depict growth as the result of clever analyses and rational resource exploitation. Entrepreneurship scholars - ever engrossed by successful start-ups - have pondered why growth sometimes comes fast and sometimes never at all, while the field of business history has given countless examples of growing firms in a range of different settings. Yet despite research across fields, our knowledge of how growth in a firm actually comes about is limited and we still know little about the process.

This book offers a new reading of economist Edith Penrose’s The Theory of the Growth of the Firm. The bold statement is that although Penrose’s work - across fields and generations - is amongst the most quoted on firm growth, the basic points of her work have yet to be realized and explored empirically.

Essentially, growth is created by a dynamic interrelation between the firm’s self-conception and its image of context. Based on these two subjective categories, the firm makes decisions and its actions lead it to develop along a particular path. To Penrose this is the basic engine that drives the growth and development of firms.

This book discusses how the engine of firm growth can be captured in empirical analysis using interpretative theory and narrative methods inspired by recent streams of research in business history.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Penrose and the historical study of firm growth

Subjectivity, entrepreneurial attitude, and image of context

The creation of meaning

The social nature of meaning

Change and Geertz’ concept of culture

Thick Description and narratives

The case of Fiberline and the use of empirical material

2. Founding a company and formulating a basic narrative

The circumstances of the start-up


The basic narrative of Fiberline

Establishing a proper motive and a founder

Naming the product and the market

Specifying the production process and constructing the birth of a company

3. The prior experience of Henrik Thorning and the context of the Start-up

The plastic industry in Denmark in the 1970s and start 80s

The development of the composite industry in Denmark

Environmental concerns and organizing the industry

Dukadan and Henrik Thorning’s two years working there


Innovation in the Danish plastic industry

4. Putting resources to service and strengthening the basic narrative in the start-up process

Getting started

The first sales

The everydayness of acute problems



5. How should the profiles of Fiberline be sold?

Pressure building

Strong export growth of the Danish plastic industry

A gradual focus on sales

Standard profiles and distributors

The origins of the international focus

The narrative of how profiles should be sold and to whom

6. The efforts of financing and opportunities for growth

Continued pressure after 1983

Financing behavior over time

Bootstrapping and effectuation in financing behavior

7. Productive opportunities and technological base

The growth of Fiberline and of the Danish plastic industry from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s

External inducements to diversification - Processed profiles and systems

Internal inducements to diversification – phenol based profiles and construction profiles

8. Market focus and developing the sales organization

The composites industry around the turn of the millennium

Seven good years of development and organization building

Establishing the sales organization

Diversification and uncertainty

Sales and strategic plans in the early 1990s

Operational systems and the strategic plans in the late 1990s

9. Discussion

The case of Fiberline and the theoretical choices I have made

The study of firm growth and path dependency

The study of business history

The study of entrepreneurship

The study of internationalization

10. Conclusion

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Ellen M. Korsager is an Assistant professor of business history at the Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.