Title: From 'silicon steel' to 'iron lady': how a metal company's novel, responsible identity affects its business environment

Authors: Tarja Ketola

Addresses: Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Rehtoripellonkatu 3, 20500 Turku, Finland

Abstract: A gentle, middle-aged teacher woman inherits a medium-sized metal industry company from her autocratic engineer father who established the company over 35 years ago. Is that a road to disaster, business as usual or a new beginning? This paper investigates the effects on the business environment of the path chosen by this female entrepreneur. The case study is based on action research, conducted during 2006-2009, aiming to solve the threatening organisational identity crisis of the company. The responsible identity adopted by the organisation through a bottom-up reflection process aroused mixed feelings among stakeholders. While the exhausted employees welcomed the change, the sceptical corporate clients, financiers, local politicians and competitors found it strange. By remaining true to its adopted identity the company gradually turned the initial doubts, mistrust and ridicule into gentle humour, trust and appreciation. The economic crisis that started in 2008 actually increased trust in this company whose new, responsible mission, adopted during the boom, had enabled it to prepare itself for the recession. Local competitors, who were on the brink of bankruptcy, posed a serious ethical problem to the case company, and this initiated a second round of identity reflection.

Keywords: steel industry; metal companies; novel identities; responsible identities; small and medium-sized enterprises; SMEs; female entrepreneurs; women; gender; identity crises; bottom-up processes; reflection processes; stakeholders; employees; corporate clients; financiers; local communities; politicians; adopted identities; doubts; mistrust; ridicule; humour; trust; appreciation; economic crises; responsible missions; recessions; local competitors; bankruptcy; ethical problems; business ethics; identity reflection; responsibilities; awareness approaches; value basis; self-certainty; time perspectives; anticipation; achievements; role experimentation; leader-follower relations; business environment; organisational identity; dynamic equilibrium.

DOI: 10.1504/IJBE.2011.043648

International Journal of Business Environment, 2011 Vol.4 No.4, pp.353 - 362

Published online: 27 Sep 2014 *

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