Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Michael A. Abebe

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer L. Welbourne

Third Advisor

Dr. Sibin Wu


Small business owners (entrepreneurs) are heterogeneous in their motivations and goals, with some seeking to expand firm scope, size, and purpose, and others seeking stability. The small and medium firm growth literature indicates that growth intention varies, but why does it vary so much, and so often? Why do some firms have a threshold mentality, represented by a stability intention, while others have a growth intention? To explore these questions, this dissertation empirically examines the socio-cognitive determinants of small and medium firm growth intentions. Participants included owner/managers of independent Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) decision-making authority for their firms. 159 usable responses were obtained from the United States. Those responses were analyzed using hierarchical moderated regression and mediation analysis. The results of this study indicate that Managerial Optimism predicts small and medium firm Growth Intention, but Fear of Failure does not. Furthermore, Managerial Optimism’s influence over growth intention is fully mediated by market information interpretation as opportunity. Market information interpretation as threat, however, does not predict small and medium firm Growth Intention. Social Capital in the form of business and community organizations directly predicts small and medium firm growth intention, regardless of market information interpretation outcome. Finally, Entrepeneurial Orientation does not play any moderating role between market information interpretation and Growth Intention. The findings presented here imply that the development of Growth Intention, even in small and medium firms with relatively simple command structures, is a complex process that depends on both personal and social factors, and that changes in nature depending on how the manager perceives their market environment. This research significantly extends the literature in illustrating how these processes function, and in providing a guide for further research.


Copyright 2017 David A. Alvarado. All Rights Reserved.