Disaster recovery of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) - A case of recovery from Canterbury earthquakes 2010-11

Rabia Ijaz

Thesis, Canterbury University, 2020, https://hdl.handle.net/10092/100691


The initial goal of this research was to explore how SME business models change in response to a crisis. Keeping this in mind, the business model canvas (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010) was used as a tool to analyse SME business models in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. The purpose was to evaluate the changes SMEs instituted in their business models after being hit by a series of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The idea was to conduct interviews with business owners and analyse them using grounded theory methods. As this method is iterative and requires simultaneous data collection and analysis, a tentative model was proposed after first phase of the data collection and analysis. However, as a result of this process, it became apparent that owner-specific characteristics, action orientation and networks were more prominent in the data than business model elements. Although the SMEs in this study experienced several operational changes in their business models, such as a change of location, modifications to their payment terms or expanded/restricted target markets, the suggested framework highlights how owner-specific attributes ensured the recovery of their businesses.

After the initial framework was suggested, subsequent interviews were conducted to test, verify, and modify the tentative model. Three aspects of business recovery emerged: (a) cognitive coping – the business owner’s mind-set and motive; (b) adaptive coping – the ability of business owner to take corrective actions; and (c) social capital – the social network of a business owner, including formal and informal connections and their significance. Three distinct groups were identified; self-sufficient SMEs, socially-based SMEs and surviving SMEs.

This thesis proposes a grounded theory of business recovery for SMEs following a disaster. Cognitive coping and social capital enabled the owners to take actions, which eventually led to the desired outcomes for the businesses.

Please contact Resilient Organisations for a copy of this thesis.

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