Purpose: To show that the inability to adapt to a series of crises caused by business development is one of the principal causes of failure for all organisations and that one of the primary components in small business success must be the managerial competence of the principal actors, inevitably the owner-manager. Design/methodology/approach: This paper examines the divergence between the prescribed and assumed models of entrepreneurial behaviour provided by contemporary management theorists and the real, observed and reported behaviour of small business practitioners and owner-managers. It reports on case study examples and highlights the dichotomy between expected and actual behaviour in typical management situations. Findings: The paper suggests that the almost egotistical attitude displayed by many entrepreneurs, constitutes an abuse of the trust and the power placed in the hands of small business owner-managers and that in extreme instances, the abuse of entrepreneurial power may lead directly to the failure of the small firm. <br/>Originality/value: Many surveys of small business failure and sub-optimal performance often suggest situational and operational causes and explanations. This paper offers a different perspective for future research because the cause may be seen to lie with the apparently non-rational behaviour of the entrepreneur or owner-manager who does not adhere to the “rules” and expectations of classical management theory
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