Of bad-seed, black-sheep and prodigal-sons

  • Profiling crime and enterprise in a small-business-community
  • Robert Smith
  • International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, March 2016, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/ijebr-04-2014-0059

What is it about?

In small-business-communities trust is important inter/intra family particularly in relation to familial dynamics. Seldom is mistrust, or distrust, examined in an academic context. In business families “Black-Sheep” often rebel against familial expectations by engaging in criminal activity. This is important because entrepreneurs are eulogised by society and as an institution, family business is venerated. The very idea that small business owners would knowingly engage in crime is anathema. The paper discusses these issues. Using retrospective ethnography and immersion techniques this quasi-longitudinal study of (dis)organized crime in a small-business-community (SBC) starts the bridging process.

Why is it important?

There is an assumption that business crime is best accommodated under the rubric of white-collar-criminality typically regarded as an excusable middle-class crime compared to organized working-class crime. By focusing on the black-sheep of business families collectively this work illustrates how there may be a stronger link between organized-crime-groups and the local-business-community than previously assumed because a small minority of businessmen engage in the commission of ordinary crime by choice. This study provides an alternative heuristic through which to understand the application black-sheep-thesis in business settings. The knowledge developed has practical implications for the investigation of crime in such communities and for researchers in the field. This study extends knowledge of white-collar-criminality within the business domain.


Professor Robert Smith
University of the West of Scotland

This is an original and novel study which extends our knowledge and understanding of trust based issues in business settings and the SBC. The study was inspired by my personal understandings gained from 25 years experience as a police officer.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Robert Smith