Open Access

How Small Consultancies Grow: Challenging Problem-Based Theorising


This paper explores the adequacy of problem- based theorising in explaining the growth of small management consultancies. Literature on professional service firm growth tends to skip over the entrepreneurial stage, assuming ‘crises’ of governance during growth periods. Using interviews with 42 founders who grew their firms, the paper identifies challenges and potential solutions that impacted success. The paper argues that challenges were generally pre-empted by founders through the deployment of expertise that was acquired during experience, education or the use of software. The paper finds no evidence for the assumptions of ‘problem based’ theories of growth, and argues that changes in technology, experience and education may have rendered the theory useless – at least for understanding the growth of small consulting firms.