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Inside the black box of high-growth firms in a crisis-hit economy: corporate strategy, employee human capital and R&D capabilities

Abstract

In an attempt to open the black box of high-growth firms within turbulent economic environments, this paper explores the role of corporate strategy, employee human capital and R&D capabilities in achieving exceptional growth performance in a crisis-hit economy. Relative and absolute growth measures based on both employment and sales are computed utilizing survey data on 1500 firms in the midst of the Greek crisis. Our findings indicate that adopting a geographical diversification strategy significantly increases the likelihood of becoming a fast-growing firm, irrespective of the growth metric used. Entering in diverse product markets and taking advantage of R&D capabilities appear to additionally contribute to relative employment change in HGFs of smaller size. Based on the absolute employment growth indicator, we provide some evidence that HGFs of larger size are able to grow fast through product diversification, acquiring other firms or by investing on training low-skilled employees. Nevertheless, hiring already highly educated persons seems to matter only for sales HGFs, while research collaborations are found to negatively affect the probability of growing fast in terms of sales.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Eurostat and OECD provide an alternative recommendation according to which firms with at least 10 employees in the start-year and annualized employment growth exceeding 20% during a 3-year period (Eurostat-OECD 2007) are considered as HGFs. However, this definition is not applicable in our case since it requires annual observations over a 3-year period.

  2. More specifically, the examined firms are classified in nine industries defined based on 2-digit NACE codes: Food and Beverages, Textile, Paper and Publishing, Chemical Products, Plastic/ Elastic Industry, Non Metallic Industry, Basic Metals, Machine and Machinery Equipment, Furniture, and Rest of Manufacturing Industries.

  3. Coad et al. (2014b) examined also HGFs by using the definition on the upper 1% of firm growth distribution. However, the specific definition is not applicable in our sample due to a very limited number of observations for HGFs.

  4. These results are available upon request.

  5. In our case the Birch indicator was computed using the formula: [((Employment2013) − (Employment2011))] ∗ (Employment2013/Employment2011)

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Acknowledgments

A preliminary version of this paper was first presented at the 15th Globelics International Conference held in Athens in October 2017. We would like to thank participants in this conference and two anonymous for their constructive comments on our paper. In addition, we wish to thank the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research as well as the Laboratory of Industrial and Energy Economics at the National Technical University of Athens for providing us with the survey data used in our research.

Funding

This work was financially supported by the Greek General Secretariat for Research and Technology in the context of the Bilateral Research and Innovation Programme “INNOMSME (On the INNOvativeness of Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Enterprises in Greece and Germany)”, 2016, within the Greek-German Research Cooperation carried out by the DIW Berlin and the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE).

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Correspondence to Ioannis Giotopoulos.

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Caloghirou, Y., Giotopoulos, I., Kontolaimou, A. et al. Inside the black box of high-growth firms in a crisis-hit economy: corporate strategy, employee human capital and R&D capabilities. Int Entrep Manag J 18, 1319–1345 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-020-00674-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-020-00674-x

Keywords

  • High-growth firms
  • Crisis
  • Corporate strategy
  • R&D capabilities
  • Human capital

JEL codes

  • L10
  • L25
  • L26
  • O32