Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Richard Watts

Second Advisor

Rocki-Lee DeWitt


Small businesses are critically important to the current U.S. economy. This is especially true for Vermont. In 2010, small Vermont businesses represented 96.3% of all employers accounting for approximately 60% of the private sector workforce (SBA, 2013). Entrepreneurs are drawn to Vermont for the quality of life, progressive atmosphere, and its distinction for fostering companies with socially, ethically and environmentally driven missions. Succession is an important stage in a company's life-cycle. Thus, succession planning is a crucial activity for founders, owners or high-level managers, (here after referred to as leaders,) in which to participate. This study explores the current environment of the intersection of social responsibility and succession planning.

In order to examine the confluence of social responsibility value retention and succession planning, each aspect of a leader's intentions needed to be understood. Thus, this study incorporates: a description and analysis of leader's social responsibility attitudes, intentions and behaviors; a description and analysis of leader's succession planning attitudes, intentions and behaviors; and an analysis of the commonalities and distinctions found in the combination of social responsibility and succession planning attitudes, intentions and behaviors.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with small business leaders from September through December, 2013. The interview sample was intentionally weighted towards business leaders who are known for being socially responsible, due to their expected ability to speak more knowledgeably about social responsibility and its implications for their business.

Findings indicate there is a lack of consensus among leaders in defining social responsibility values/orientation. Most leaders interviewed are thinking about succession planning and how their value-orientation might fit into that process. Applying the Theory of Planned Behavior, this study attempted to identify how attitudes towards social responsibility would impact the leaders' intentions and ultimately their behavior in succession planning.



Number of Pages

153 p.