Drawing on resource-based view and signalling theory, this paper presents a comparative case of four (young vs. old; small vs. medium-sized) business-to-business firms to examine how (i.e. through which sources), why (i.e. for which managerial purposes) and for whom (i.e. for which audiences) do technology-based small and medium-sized enterprises build their reputation along the process of rapid growth? The results indicate that in the pre-growth stage product awards as well as technological and financial partners are important sources of reputation for demonstrating technological capabilities and firm sustainability to potential customers especially for young firms. Older firms, in turn, rely on technology partners and acquisitions in the rapid growth stage to convince existing customers that the firms’ can keep up with their customer’s changing needs. Moreover, the reputation gained from the first well-known customer and a focused clientele appear to be two critical antecedents of rapid growth whereas patents do not seem to have a significant reputational role in rapid growth. Our study informs the theory of reputation development of growing technology-based firms by abstracting a more nuanced understanding of stakeholder- and stage-contingent reputation that fosters rapid growth, and provides new insight into the literature on small firm growth.
- business-to-business firms
- rapid growth
- small and medium-sized enterprises
- technology-based firms