Exposing/correcting SME underperformance myths

John Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Web of Science)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to share with up-and-coming young researchers some of the important lessons the author has learnt on his research journey. Design/methodology/approach: In researching the performance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) (and, in particular, female-controlled SMEs), the author was very careful to ensure, as far as practical, that appropriate control variables (such as age of business, industry and hours worked) were included in the research design. Findings: There are two key findings that emerge from the research the author has been involved with over many years. First, the very high SME failure rate often referred to in the literature and popular press is a myth. Second, the belief that female-controlled SMEs underperform male-controlled SMEs is also a myth. Research limitations/implications: Based on the author’s research experience, there are three key points the author would like to share with the young researchers. First, do not be afraid to question what might appear to be a generally accepted fact. Second, do not jump to a quick and what might appear to be the most obvious conclusion. Third, be aware that unintended consequences can often be associated with quick conclusions drawn from research where there has not been adequate attention paid to a study’s methodology/limitations. Originality/value: The results from the research the author has been involved with highlight the importance of incorporating key control variables when assessing, and comparing, the performances of female- and male-controlled SMEs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2020


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