The post 1963 role of the SME sector as the key value adding component in the two- system Japanese economy has long been understood by both academics and policy makers (e.g. MacMillan 1989:59-62). This contribution has even been to the extent of their significant (by comparison with European SME counterparts) investment in both overseas manufacturing and non manufacturing sectors (source: SMEA). With the possible exception of Italy, no other SME sector in the developed world accounts for a larger percentage of national employment than does that of Japan (Storey, 1994: 32). In addition, the importance of small firms to the maintenance of a stable economy is seen most strikingly during times of economic downturn when governments spend considerable proportions of their trade support budgets on fostering enterprise start-up and development (Johnson, 1991); this is because they are recognised as the 'seedcorn' for future industrial growth (Scott and Rosa, 1999) and an easy source of new (if not necessarily ongoing) employment. This is even more so in the current age, where we are witness to the establishment of 'born global' enterprises almost entirely without geographical location, run by small groups of technologically super-empowered individuals (Friedman, 1999; Zuboff, 1988).
Underneath such broad-sweeping statements, and plain financial investment, lies the question of just exactly how ventures start up and develop. We shall explore this question, by an examination of their very nature. We shall argue that, in fact, to understand start-up and development it is necessary to change our unit of analysis and examine in detail the nature of the interpersonal relationships that go towards making up the emerging organisation. In particular, we shall consider the role of the entrepreneur and the myriad individual stakeholders s/he must satisfy to ensure the survival of the company s/he has established. By recourse to detailed discourse analysis, in particular of the establishment of effective relations with potential business investors (Harrison, Dibben and Mason, 1998), we shall seek to demonstrate how and why, above all else, the nature and extent of the trust that exists between the entrepreneur and his stakeholders is the essential determinant of venture success. We shall shed light on how such trusting relations might differ in a Japanese context as opposed to, for example, an English or French context (Dibben, Harris and Wheeler, 2003; Harris and Dibben, 1999). We shall demonstrate why it is that policy maker's preference for statistical accounatability and corporate governance may ultimately lead to a diminishment of the very trusting relations needed for venture growth (Davies and Dibben, 2004). Lastly, we shall explore some of the ways in which internet companies can use their websites to develop trustful relations with customers they have no physical contact with (Marsh and Dibben, 2003) and, by reference to the drinks industry, question whether our regulation of the internet leaves us, and our offspring, vulnerable to the abuse of the trust that they establish (Dibben Wheeler and Marsh, 2003).
Dr Mark R. Dibben BA (Hons) MSc PhD is Senior Lecturer in Management in the Commerce Division at the University of Lincoln, New Zealand. Prior to this he held tenured posts at the University of Aberdeen and the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Research interests include the role of trust in human organising, with particular regard to entrepreneurship, public sector management and social information systems development. A further area of interest is process philosophy; he is co-editor of the journal Concrescence, Visiting Scholar at the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California and Founding Director of the Chapter for Applied Process Thought, the UK node of the International Process Network of research centres and institutes concerned with contemporary applications of primarily Whiteheadian and Bergsonian metaphysics. He has authored over 30 scholarly publications since 1998, among the most recent of which include a co-edited Special Focus Section of the American philosophy journal Process Studies (32.2), and co- authored refereed articles on trust and co-operative behaviour in Quality and Safety in Health Care (13.2), Health, Risk & Society (5/3), the Journal of International Entrepreneurship (2/2) and the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (37). His research monograph Exploring Interpersonal Trust in the Entrepreneurial Venture was published by MacMillan in 2000.