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Towards a Variety of Meanings – Multiple Representations of Reputation in the Small Business Context

Authors

  • Merja Lähdesmäki,

    1. University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, and University of Jyväskylä, School of Business and Economics, PO Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland
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  • Marjo Siltaoja

    1. University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, and University of Jyväskylä, School of Business and Economics, PO Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland
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  • The authors' names are in alphabetical order; this paper is an equal contribution by both authors. The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for constructive comments in improving the quality of the paper. The helpful comments by Dr Teppo Sintonen and our other colleagues are also gratefully acknowledged.

Corresponding author email: marjo.e.siltaoja@jyu.fi

Abstract

This paper examines the discursively constructed meanings for reputation in the small business context – an area of reputation research that has so far attracted little attention. We argue that viewing reputation as a social construction makes it possible to uncover and understand the variety of meanings attached to the concept in small businesses. On the basis of 25 thematic interviews with owner-managers we (re)constructed four meanings for reputation: reputation as an economic resource, as social recognition, as a restrictive control mechanism and as a risk for personal status. We also investigate the variety of discursive events in which these meanings are created. The study further emphasizes reputation as a phenomenon in which a small business becomes identified with its owner-manager, adding to the complex and conflicting nature of reputation, including both positive and negative aspects.

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