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The context-dependent nature of small firms’ relations with support agencies: a three-sector study in the UK

Paul Edwards, Sukanya Sengupta and [Chin-Ju Tsai]

International Small Business Journal, 28, 6, 543-65


Strategic networking is widely seen to be important for small firms, but most attention has been given to the operation of networks rather than the nature of links with firms’ strategies and resources. The article addresses these links through a study of 89 firms in three sectors.Variations in their involvement in external relationships are the focus. Previous theory suggests that product market conditions and firms’ internal structures, such as reliance on family labour, will explain the level of involvement. The evidence supports some of these ideas but also shows that the context of the sector is central. For firms, the lesson is to develop distinct kinds of external relationship, depending on the firm’s context and strategic position. The policy implication is that business support agencies need to be sensitive to these highly specific contextual factors.