Discussion and analysis of small businesses tends to work on generalized, popularized understanding and knowledge of what their motivations are and how they behave in a business environment. The need to explore below these generalizations into the submerged variables and relationships is argued in this paper if academics and policy makers seriously want to interpret and induct theory and practice from the key actors within their natural habitat. Thus, this paper provides a conceptual framework relative to small, urban tourism business performance, which is used as an analytical framework to guide the interpretation of qualitative research undertaken with small businesses in the City of Glasgow. Specifically, discussion and conclusions focus on the complexity and multi-dimensional nature of small tourism business performance, aspects pertaining to competitive advantages, and the enterprise development issues arising from the prioritization of lifestyle objectives over those of a more explicit economic nature. Conclusions are drawn relative to research, managerial and enterprise policy implications.
Three key concepts were identified in literature pertaining to small business performance as: complexity and multi-dimensional nature; lifestyle; and competitive advantage.
First, working from a literal, Oxford Dictionary, definition of “obstacles”, “business”, and “performance”, the following definition can be crafted: “impediments to the accomplishment of the commercial pursuit of enterprise”. From the foregoing it can be seen that this may be subjected to multiple dimensions and interpretations.
Secondly, findings deny the “death of the lifestyle” feature traditionally associated with ownership of small tourism businesses.
Finally, lifestyle prioritized over business may be interpreted as sub-optimal in rational economic terms. Conversely, the consequential, deliberate protection and conservation of “smallness” may represent an important contributor to the achievement of competitive advantage. Thus, enterprise development could potentially negate the very competitive advantages endowed through being small.