Does the sector matter? An analysis of high-growth firms and industry growth rates
Publication typeJournal article
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Publication Begin page927
Publication End page945
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AbstractPurpose This paper aims to analyze the effect of industry growth rates on the characteristics of high-growth firms (HGFs) that are active in a particular industry. By making a distinction between HGFs active in stable and declining industries and HGFs active in growing and high-growing industries, it is analyzed if the main dimensions of firm performance are significantly different for HGFs active in one of these different industry types. Gaining more insight into this industry aspect of high firm growth is important as governmental measures towards HGFs may be more effective if they have a specific sectoral focus. Design/methodology/approach A subset of 740 Belgian HGFs was analyzed. Data were gathered from the Belfirst database. HGFs were classified within their corresponding industry type: a declining industry (negative growth), a stable industry (0 −5% growth), a growing industry (5 −10% growth) and a high-growth industry (>10% growth). Four dimensions of structural firm performance that are expected to correlate with high growth were taken into consideration: productivity (value added per FTE), profitability (ROA), innovativeness (intangible assets) and financial health (solvency and liquidity).Tukey's range tests in conjunction with post-hoc analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests were carried out to test for significant differences in all the mentioned variables for the HGFs in the four different industry types. Findings Results show that HGFs active in a stable industry are not significantly more profitable or innovative than HGFs active in a growth industry. However, significant differences could be encountered when it comes to the other two dimensions of structural firm performance: productivity and financial health. It is shown that HGFs active in declining and stable industries are significantly more productive than HGFs active in growth industries and high-growth industries. Also, HGFs active in declining and stable industries have significantly higher liquidity ratios than firms active in growth industries, pointing towards a better financial health for HGFs in nongrowing industries. Research limitations/implications The results confirm the conceptual logic that the differences between resource-based view (RBV) and industrial organization (IO) propositions will have an impact on the drivers of firm performance and high business growth. Every future study that focuses on the growth determinants of HGFs should be aware that considering the subset of HGFs as one homogenous group may be suboptimal. It is likely that the growth determinants of both HGF types will indeed be fundamentally different. Originality/value Until now, all studies on HGFs have considered the subset of HGFs as a whole. This paper tried to disentangle the subset based on the growth rate of the industry in which HGFs are mainly active. In this proposition, a reason for the lack of knowledge about characteristics of HGFs may – at least partially – be found in the fact that industry membership plays an important role in determining the characteristics of a high-growth firm. Future studies focusing on high-growth determinants may benefit from systematically taking the industry growth rates into account, with the knowledge that the propositions of two different theories – IO and RBV – may be the fundamental drivers of a firm's high-growth rates.