Not all smooth sailing: Barriers to small business success for owner/managers from Middle Eastern communities in Melbourne

There has been very little international research on Arab entrepreneurs from the Middle East, who began to land on American shores during the late 1880s and on other parts of the world for decades. Little attention has also been given to Arab entrepreneurs from the Middle East, who began to land on Australian shores during the late 1860s, and who have been greatly contributing to the Australian economy and cultural diversity for almost 150 years. Thus, in an attempt to fill the gap, this paper investigates barriers to small business success, using a sample of Middle Eastern communities in Melbourne, Australia, specifically the Lebanese, Egyptian and Iraqi communities, the three largest in the state of Victoria with developed community infrastructures. Unfortunately, a list of the total target population did not conveniently exist for sampling purposes; and it was impractical to compile such a list, therefore, cluster sampling was utilized, particularly, area sampling, as geographic areas were identified. For pragmatic reasons, and to enhance representativeness of the sample, PPS technique was used to identify the proportion of each sample for each community for interviews. Thus, around ten per cent (n=16) in proportion to the total number of working population (N=165) were subsequently interviewed. Individual in-depth, semi-structured and audiotaped interviews were conducted using a list of open-ended questions relating to the barriers to business success. Interviews were manually content-analyzed using conventional content analysis and constant comparative methods. Thus, the analysis of participants’ comments reflected the following barriers to business success: (i) dealing with difficult people; (ii) loss of support sources; (iii) personal idiosyncrasies of the owner/managers; (iv) financial barriers; (v) lack of specific business experience; and (vi) others. The analysis of participants’ comments also indicated that dealing with difficult people as a barrier to business success was further analysed into (A) extended family, friends and people from own community, (B) employees and (C) customers, the other five barriers could not be analysed further. Quotations and excerpts from interviews were used to facilitate understanding interviewees’ points of view, as well as to illustrate and support each the first and the second levels of analysis for each of the barriers. This study lies in its contribution to academic literature, and its results should improve understanding of entrepreneurial behavioral patterns through the development of teaching and training programs, which can assist government and relevant bodies in introducing public policy that helps improve entrepreneurs’ success.

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