Social responsibility, entrepreneurship, small business, narrative analysis, altruism, business motivations


This study examines the interview narratives of owners of 73 small and medium-sized businesses from a large metropolitan area located in the southwestern U.S. Our analysis focuses on owner discussions of their motivations and goals for starting and running their own businesses. Our findings reveal three central motivational narrative themes: (1) traditional business-centered success outcomes—a category we refer to as “Business is Business”; (2) owners’ personal and family well-being and fulfillment, labeled as “Business is Personal”; and (3) social responsibility concerns directed toward the betterment of other people and society more generally that we labeled as “Business is Doing Good.” Owner narratives typically referenced motives in more than one of these three realms. However, relatively, they expended considerably more time and energy discussing altruistic or social responsibility goals compared to strictly business or personal motives. Our study reveals the importance of norms of social responsibility in the discursive constructions of small and medium-sized businesses.

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