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Startup firms' growth, management control systems adoption and performance


  • Davila, Toni

    () (IESE Business School)

  • Foster, George

    (Stanford University)


Startup firms face a significant managerial challenge when they grow beyond the boundaries of informal interactions. This transition point has often been identified with a significant crisis in the growth path of these firms. An important aspect of this transition is the adoption of management control systems that leverage top management attention and provide the infrastructure to scale up the business model. Using a multi-method, multi-case field research design in a sample of 78 startup firms, we examine the relevance of the adoption of financial systems vis-à-vis other management control systems. We find that financial planning-including cash budget, operating budget and sales projections-are the earliest set of systems adopted. We also look at the association between the adoption of management control systems and startup firm growth. We model this association using a simultaneous equation specification to capture the theoretical arguments that posit the endogeneity of these variables. We find a positive and significant association in both equations among these variables. We further examine whether the often argued CEO replacement at this transition point is associated with the level of adoption of management control systems. We find that CEOs that have adopted fewer systems have shorter tenures. Taking advantage of the intimate knowledge that venture capital investors have about the management processes (and management systems in particular) of the firms they invest in, we examine the association between company valuation and the adoption of management control systems. We find evidence consistent with this association. Finally, we examine the association between the adoption of financial planning systems and the adoption of strategic and human resource planning systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Davila, Toni & Foster, George, 2005. "Startup firms' growth, management control systems adoption and performance," IESE Research Papers D/603, IESE Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebg:iesewp:d-0603

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Willard, Gary E. & Krueger, David A. & Feeser, Henry R., 1992. "In order to grow, must the founder go: A comparison of performance between founder and non-founder managed high-growth manufacturing firms," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 181-194, May.
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    3. Moores, Ken & Yuen, Susana, 2001. "Management accounting systems and organizational configuration: a life-cycle perspective," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 26(4-5), pages 351-389.
    4. Siegel, Robin & Siegel, Eric & Macmillan, Ian C., 1993. "Characteristics distinguishing high-growth ventures," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 169-180, March.
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    6. Reid, Gavin C & Smith, Julia A, 2000. "What Makes a New Business Start-Up Successful?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 165-182, May.
    7. Thomas Hellmann & Manju Puri, 2002. "Venture Capital and the Professionalization of Start-Up Firms: Empirical Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(1), pages 169-197, February.
    8. Barringer, Bruce R. & Jones, Foard F. & Neubaum, Donald O., 2005. "A quantitative content analysis of the characteristics of rapid-growth firms and their founders," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 663-687, September.
    9. Fiet, James O. & Busenitz, Lowell W. & Moesel, Douglas D. & Barney, Jay B., 1997. "Complementary theoretical perspectives on the dismissal of new venture team members," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 347-366, September.
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    11. Chenhall, Robert H., 2003. "Management control systems design within its organizational context: findings from contingency-based research and directions for the future," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 28(2-3), pages 127-168.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dominique Demougin & Oliver Fabel, 2006. "The Division of Ownership in New Ventures," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-047, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.

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    management control systems; formal systems; professionalization; CEO tenure; startups;

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