OUTSOURCING PATHS OF ACCOUNTING BY SMEs

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1 UNIVERSITEIT GENT FACULTEIT ECONOMIE EN BEDRIJFSKUNDE ACADEMIEJAAR OUTSOURCING PATHS OF ACCOUNTING BY SMEs Masterproef voorgedragen tot het bekomen van de graad van Master in de Toegepaste Economische Wetenschappen Eline De Wilde en Marieke Meulewaeter onder leiding van Prof. dr. Everaert

2 Ondergetekenden, Eline De Wilde en Marieke Meulewaeter, verklaren dat de inhoud van deze masterproef mag geraadpleegd en/of gereproduceerd worden, mits bronvermelding. Eline De Wilde Marieke Meulewaeter

3 Acknowledgements First and foremost we would like to thank Prof Dr Patricia Everaert. We are very grateful for her readiness to receive us at all times and for her expertise in giving us guidance and professional advice. We would like to thank Mr Yvan De Maesschalck, Master in Literature, and Jan Watté, an Irishman, for reading and correcting our thesis. We would also like to thank all the people prepared to participate in our interviews. In particular we would like to thank Mr Johan Verbeken (Verbitek), Mrs Carolien Danckaert (Pauwels Consulting), Mrs Sonja Demeyer (Accountemps), Mrs Elise Beerens (Securex), Mrs Sabine Janssens (Markomo) and Mrs Gudrun Phijs (CIACFleet). We are equally thankful to all participants who filled in our questionnaire. Last but not least we wish to thank our parents, family and friends for giving us their support and for stimulating us throughout the months we spent writing this paper. I

4 Table of Contents Acknowledgements... I Table of Contents... II Used Abbreviations... IV List of Figures... V List of Tables... V List of Appendixes... V 1. Introduction Literature review Outsourcing Extent of Outsourcing in Accounting, HR, IT and Fleet Management Outsourcing of Accounting Outsourcing of Information Technology Outsourcing of Human Resources Management Outsourcing of Fleet Management Interdependency Determinants to explain Outsourcing Methodology Research design Data collection Non-response bias Variable Measures and Reliability Measurement of Dependent Variables Measurement of Independent Variables Measurement of Control Variables Model specification Results Descriptive statistics Outsourcing interdependency Relationship outsourcing intensity and the personal characteristics of the owner-manager Accounting II

5 IT HR Fleet Management Discussion Conclusion References... VI Figures... VIII Figure 1 Outsourcing intensities of supporting tasks... IX Tables... X Table 1 Accounting tasks... XI Table 2 IT tasks... XI Table 3 HR Tasks... XI Table 4 Fleet Management tasks... XII Table 5 Characteristics of the owner-manager... XII Table 6 Non-response bias... XII Table 7 Multi-item variable measurement... XIII Table 8 Descriptive statistics... XIV Table 9 Independent t test for dummy variables... XVI Table 10 Correlation Matrix (2008)... XVII Table 11 Correlation Matrix (2007)... XVIII Table 12 Pearson Correlation Coefficients for the outsourcing intensities... XIX Table 13 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of Accounting... XX Table 14 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of IT... XXI Table 15 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of HR... XXII Table 16 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of Fleet Management... XXIII Table 17 Overview findings third research question... XXIII Appendixes... XXIV Appendix 1 Interviews... XXV Appendix 2 Questionnaire... XL III

6 Used Abbreviations HR: Human Resources IT: Information Technology KSA: Knowledge, Skills and Abilities SME: Small and Medium-sized Enterprises TCE: Transaction Cost Economics IV

7 List of Figures Figure 1 Outsourcing intensities of supporting tasks... IX List of Tables Table 1 Accounting tasks... XI Table 2 IT tasks... XI Table 3 HR Tasks... XI Table 4 Fleet Management tasks... XII Table 5 Characteristics of the owner-manager... XII Table 6 Non-response bias... XII Table 7 - Multi-item variable measurement... XIII Table 8 - Descriptive statistics... XIV Table 9 Independent t test for dummy variables... XVI Table 10 Correlation Matrix (2008)... XVII Table 11 Correlation Matrix (2007)... XVIII Table 12 Pearson Correlations Coefficients for the outsourcing intensities... XIX Table 13 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of Accounting... XX Table 14 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of IT... XXI Table 15 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of HR... XXII Table 16 Regression analysis of outsourcing intensity of Fleet Management... XXIII Table 17 Overview findings third research question... XXIII List of Appendixes Appendix 1 Interviews... XXV Appendix 2 Questionnaire... XL V

8 OUTSOURCING PATHS OF ACCOUNTING BY SMEs

9 1. Introduction In this paper we will study outsourcing of staff functions by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Belgium. Nowadays many organizations realize that, to remain competitive, carrying out their core activities flawlessly is of paramount importance. As a consequence, they refer to external specialists to manage their non-core activities (staff functions). This current trend is endorsed by The European Outsourcing Survey 2008 of Ernst & Young. They examined 600 European firms across France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium. About 70% of the respondents outsource at least one of the staff functions. Belgian firms lead the field by 81%. Also the number of activities (5.3) Belgian firms outsource is higher than the European average (4.1). We can consequently conclude that outsourcing is an important Belgian phenomenon. In addition, this survey investigates which activities are mostly outsourced. The supporting functions to be discussed in this paper are the third (information technology (IT)), fourth (human resources (HR)) and fifth (accounting and finance) most frequently outsourced activities 1. Although the survey of Ernst & Young only covers larger firms, we believe this trend also arises in SMEs. One of the outstanding characteristics of SMEs is resource poverty. To cope with this problem, special management tools are at their disposal (Welsh and White, 1981). These tools can enable SMEs to exploit their scarce resources. We believe outsourcing is one of those. Our research covers small and medium-sized enterprises in Belgium with an average number of employees between 20 and 250. SMEs are the engine of the Belgian economy 2. Although most of the organizations in Belgium have less than 20 employees we will exclude these enterprises in our survey. Those micro-enterprises are not relevant for our research since they generally have no other choice than to outsource their supporting functions. This would preclude us from finding intensity in the level of outsourcing. The purpose of this study is to gain a better insight into outsourcing of following four different functional areas: accounting, information technology (IT), human resources management (HR) and fleet management. These activities are subject to our first research question Which supporting activities are outsourced by SMEs?. Whereas many authors conducted scientific research on these topics separately, we combine them to investigate the interdependency between the outsourcing intensities. This results in our second research question: Is there a dependency between the outsourcing of accounting tasks?. The third 1 The first and second most frequently outsourced areas are maintenance functions and distribution, logistics and transport, but they are not relevant for our research. These tasks only take place in production firms. 2 More than 99% of the Belgian companies have less than 200 employees. (source: UNIZO-CofaceEuroDB) 1

10 research question will lead us to investigate whether the personality characteristics of the ownermanager influence the decision to outsource the four functional areas. To answer these research questions, we first conducted six exploratory interviews with organizations that provide HR, IT or fleet management services to SMEs. Subsequently, in order to obtain data to test the hypotheses concerning these research questions, a questionnaire was sent to 1999 SMEs in Belgium. We would like to contribute to the existing literature in three ways. Firstly, although SMEs are important in our economy, only a few papers have analyzed outsourcing in SMEs (e.g. Delmotte and Sels, 2008; Everaert, Sarens and Rommel, 2007). We extend this literature by focusing on SMEs in Belgium. Secondly, we investigate the internal connection between the outsourcing of four supporting functions. As far as we know, literature on the connections between these different tasks is missing. Finally, while most of the literature deals with the risks, benefits and success of outsourcing, we examine the relationship between the characteristics of the owner-manager and the area(s) which are outsourced. Our main conclusions can be summarized as follows. Firstly, IT turned out to be the most attractive candidate for outsourcing, followed by accounting and HR. SMEs are not inclined to outsource their fleet management. Secondly, with respect to the outsourcing interdependencies, we find the outsourcing intensity of accounting to be positively correlated with outsourcing of IT and negatively with outsourcing of fleet management. Thirdly, regarding the influence of the owner-manager on outsourcing of accounting, IT and fleet management, we found respectively two, three and one significant personality characteristic. Family businesses tend to outsource accounting and IT and to insource their fleet management. Also age influences outsourcing of accounting. Older owner-managers are more reluctant towards outsourcing. Furthermore, experience and interest in IT leads to insourcing of IT. In the following section, we will give an overview of the literature on outsourcing and the development of the hypotheses. The third section describes the methodology used, followed by a description of our results. Next, in section five, we will discuss these findings. Finally, we will give some concluding remarks. 2

11 2. Literature Review First, we will discuss the definition of outsourcing that is most relevant in this study. Subsequently, we will cover the respective outsourcing literature about accounting, information technology, human resources and fleet management. In addition, we identify subtasks for each staff function. Thirdly, we will deal with the literature that focuses on the interdependency of outsourcing of the four functional areas. Finally, we will discuss the literature on the characteristics of top management teams. This last topic is of great interest for our third research question Outsourcing Outsourcing has been defined in many ways. Most of the definitions we find in IT and HR literature. Somewhat exaggerated, it can be said that there are as many definitions of outsourcing as there are authors who discuss outsourcing. Gilley and Rasheed (2000) acknowledge this problem of the spectrum of definitions. They propose that outsourcing may occur in two different ways. On the one hand, outsourcing may be seen as the substitution of internal activities for external ones. This explanation is commonly used in literature 3. On the other hand, outsourcing may occur through abstention. In this case, a company has never performed this activity inside but it does possess the ability. This interpretation puts outsourcing in a different light, meaning that one may only speak of outsourcing when an activity is performed by a service provider while the organization itself is able to perform the activity internally. In what follows, we support the perspective on outsourcing by Gilley and Rasheed (2000). The latter also assume that an outsourcing strategy consists of two dimensions. The first dimension is breadth. This dimension refers to the number of activities that a company outsources. In this paper these are the number of subtasks of each activity (accounting, IT, HR and fleet management). The second dimension is depth referring to the portion of one particular activity that is outsourced. Concerning the latter dimension, we adapt the distinction that was introduced by Lacity and Willcocks (1998): 3 e.g. Loh and Venkatraman (1992) define outsourcing as the significant contribution by external vendors of the physical and/or human resources associated with the entire or specific components of the IT infrastructure in the user organization (Loh and Venkatraman, 1992, pg 336); Gilley, McGee and Rasheed (2004b) define outsourcing as Outsourcing can be described as the act of subcontracting out all or parts of the functions of a firm to an external party (Gilley et al., 2004b, pg 118). 3

12 Total outsourcing: More than 80% of the activity is outsourced. Total insourcing: Less than 20% of the activity is outsourced. Selective outsourcing: The activity is outsourced from 20% to 80% 2.2. Extent of Outsourcing in Accounting, IT, HR and Fleet Management This section deals with the first research question. For each functional area we will first give an overview of the literature available on the extent of outsourcing. Secondly, we will identify the different tasks for each staff function. Arbaugh (2003) examines the relationship between outsourcing practices, firm strategy and growth in SMEs. This article distinguishes eleven activities. Five of these activities are also examined in this paper: information systems, accounting and three subtasks from HR namely training, payroll and recruitment and selection. Arbaugh (2003) reached the conclusion that 83% of the SMEs contracted one or more activities out with wages administration as front runner. More in general, human resources activities appear to be very attractive candidates for outsourcing. Furthermore, they found that the possibility to focus on core competences causes outsourcing of supporting functions Outsourcing of Accounting From the 1970s until the 1990s outsourcing of accounting consisted mainly of outsourcing of simple, repetitive processes e.g. payroll and transaction processing. However Anderson and Vita (2006) recently have noticed a tendency to outsource all or a major part of the accounting tasks to India, Singapore, Malaysia etc. With regard to outsourcing of accounting in SMEs there has been conducted research on a local basis. Bennett and Robson (1999) investigate the use of external business advice in Britain. Their results show that 83% of the interviewed SMEs make an appeal to accountants. They argue that accountants inspire a high level of institutional confidence. More recently, Everaert et al. (2007) examined the use of accounting services by Belgian SMEs. Following Lacity and Willcocks (1998) they used three sourcing strategies based on the degree of outsourcing. Their results show that on average 35% of the accounting tasks are being outsourced and roughly half of the companies follow a selective outsourcing strategy. As opposed to the latter, Nayak et al. 4

13 (2007) conclude that accounting tasks appeared to be the least outsourced tasks in manufacturing firms. Academic literature on outsourcing tax functions is scarce. Dunbar and Phillips (2001) examine the determinants of corporate tax function outsourcing. They make a distinction between tax planning and tax compliance. Their results support the outsourcing practice of tax functions in SMEs, indicating that larger firms benefit from economies of scale and internalize their tax-planning and -compliance activities. We follow the lead of Everaert et al. (2007) and discern four accounting and two fiscal tasks. Table 1 gives an overview. [Insert Table 1] Outsourcing of Information Technology The second supporting function we identified, is the IT function. Since the beginning of the 90s IT outsourcing has drawn much attention of the academic world. Loh and Venkatraman (1992) call the decision from Kodak to outsource most of its IT functions to IBM a milestone, indicated as the pre- and post-kodak regime. Furthermore, Kakabadse and Kakabadse (2002) argue that IT is the second most outsourced area with an average of approximately 55% of the organizations in US and Europe. The survey of Borthick (2001) confirms this finding. She emphasises the growth in IT outsourcing and argues that IT outsourcing has evolved from its own phase of buzzword status in the early 1990s, into a standard business practice (Borthick, 2001, pg. 28). Only 11 percent of their respondents indicate they are outsourcing not one of the IT functions. The majority of the available literature focuses on IT outsourcing without making a difference in the size of the companies. As a consequence, most research deals with outsourcing in large companies. We especially focus on IT outsourcing in SMEs. Rohde (2004) investigates the IS/IT outsourcing practices in small and medium-sized manufacturers through an in-depth analysis. She finds that SMEs consider most of their IT/IS function (apart from the accounting software) as a commodity which is consequently inviting to be outsourced. 5

14 We identify 5 major IT tasks that could possibly be outsourced by SMEs (Table 2). The software and hardware task are adapted from Rohde (2004). She makes a distinction between acquisition and maintenance of hardware and software. With regard to software she identifies another task, namely the adjustment of the software to the company context. The third task to be considered, is the development and maintenance of the website. Although one could argue that this is part of the marketing function, we classified this as an IT task because of the lack of an effective marketing department in most SMEs 4 (Carson, 1993; Carson and Gilmore, 2000; Gilmore, Carson and Rocks, 2006). The fourth task is the helpdesk 5. Security of the network completes the list of five tasks. According to Barthélemy (2001), 56% of the companies outsource their network management. Also Clark et al. (1995) identify network design and control as an IS activity. [Insert Table 2] Outsourcing of Human Resources Management Human resources management is the third supporting function we will discuss in this paper. Kanter (2003) explains her opinion concerning the future of the human resources function in her book Human Resources in het 21 st Century. From her point of view, HR as an internal department in the organisation faces an insecure future and will be carried out elsewhere and in a different manner. She distinguishes four developments of which outsourcing is one. Kakabadse and Kakabadse (2002) confirm this development. They find that HR management is the third most outsourced area in Europe and US with an average of approximately 45% of the surveyed firms. The sources we used to enlarge our knowledge of HR outsourcing are all dealing with large firms. There is little literature available on HR management in SMEs. According to Delmotte, Lambert, Sels and Van Hootegem (2002), this limited attention is due to the lower visibility of HR management in SMEs. Larger firms have formal procedures, HR departments etc. As a consequence, many academics doubt whether one could talk of HR management in SMEs. Bacon, Ackers, Storey and Coates (1996) verify this assertion. They survey the extent to which 4 We conducted an interview with a marketing- and communication agency. The CEO confirmed that most SMEs lack an effective marketing department. (interview with Mrs Janssens, 5 th November 2008, Ghent). 5 We didn t find any literature that explicitly mentioned helpdesk as an IT activity. However, we chose to include this task as the result of an interview we conducted with an IT service provider. (interview with Mrs Dankaert, 4 th November 2008, Ghent) 6

15 the new HR management practices are implemented in small organizations. Their results reveal that the take-up of the eleven HR key initiatives 6 in SMEs is rather high. In the case of two of these initiatives (team working and increased flexibility between jobs) the adoption is close to 75%. This means that innovative and progressive employee relations practices are not restricted to large companies and HR management does apply to SMEs. Also for HR we identify six different tasks. We adopt most tasks of Delmotte and Sels (2008). They measure the level of HR outsourcing regarding following HR activities: payroll, training, temporary agency work, recruitment and selection of operational and support staff, advice in HR management, recruitment and selection of managerial staff, development of job or wage classification, outplacement, appraisal and career guidance. Lever (1997) also defines six HR activities: payroll, benefits, training, HR information systems, compensation and recruitment. We chose to consider only those HR activities that occur in both studies, meaning we exclude advice in HR management, outplacement, appraisal and career guidance and HR information systems. Table 3 gives an overview of the six HR tasks that could be outsourced by SMEs. [Insert Table 3] Outsourcing of Fleet Management Joosen (2004) describes the developments in the car leasing market over the past decade. According to him, nowadays customers are more critical and require more flexibility from leasing agencies than before. Besides the financing of their fleet of cars, firms are also looking for a more professional fleet management that can control the costs of using those cars. This control of and decrease in costs are often the most important reasons to outsource fleet management. Besides financial advantages, firms can also achieve a higher quality of their fleet management. Thonnon (2007) mentions the existence of a relationship between the size of a company and the financing of its company cars. One out of two SMEs finance their fleet of cars themselves 6 The eleven key initiatives are a culture change programme, devolved management, team working, performance appraisals, a mission statement, team briefing, quality circles, harmonized terms and conditions, psychometric tests, de-layering, increased flexibility between jobs. 7

16 and only 4% of the small firms chooses for a long term rental. According to her, this is a missed opportunity because full service leasing is an interesting alternative for internal time-consuming fleet management. As a consequence of this reluctance of SMEs to outsource fleet management, we might expect that the outsourcing intensity will be rather low. Through an interview with a service provider 7 of fleet management we identified two tasks for private cars as well as for company cars: acquisition and administration of the maintenance, assurances and fuel carts (Table 4). [Insert Table 4] 2.3. Interdependency In this section we will address the second research question and develop the associated hypothesis. We want to measure the relationship between the outsourcing intensity of accounting and the outsourcing intensity of IT, HR and fleet management. The findings of Ordanini and Silvestri (2008) support a positive relation between recruitment and selection outsourcing and the outsourcing of other HR practices. They argue that enlarging the span of outsourced activities positively affects the outsourcing intensity of a firm. Patry, Tremblay, Lanoie and Lacombe (2008) also conclude that HR outsourcing is more likely to be found in firms which have already outsourced other activities like finance and IT. An explanation for the positive influence of experience is given by Gainey and Klaas (2003). They view knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) gained through experience in outsourcing as an important factor to effectively manage outsourcing relationships. Some examples of such KSAs are negotiation skills, knowledge of the vendor s cost structure and familiarity with the outsourcing market. Therefore, firms that emphasise outsourcing of different functional areas are more likely to acquire these KSAs. Such firms are subsequently more likely to outsource other activities. This explanation relies on transaction cost economics (TCE) of Williamson (1973). The principal purpose of this theory is to specify the conditions under which an internal organization is preferred to the market. This approach argues that the features of the transaction determine 7 Interview with Mrs Phijs, 26 th November 2008, Ghent 8

17 what the most efficient governance structure is: market (=outsourcing) or hierarchy (=insourcing). Markets are often assumed to be efficient but efficiency requires that all information is available to all parties. If this condition is not met, firms can incur costs, called transaction costs. Gainey and Klaas (2003) assume that prior experience with outsourcing, resulting in KSAs, reduce these transaction costs for HR outsourcing. Williamson made two behavioral assumptions that underpin his theory (McIvor, 2009). Bounded rationality is his first assumption. It refers to the fact that the human mind has cognitive limitations. A decision-maker is not able to fully understand all cognitive complexities of all possible decisions. For example, managers do not know in advance all actions a competitor will take. The second assumption is opportunism, which refers to decision-makers acting with guile in a self-interested way (McIvor, 2009, pg. 47). Williamson (1973) calls these two assumptions human factors, which may lead to the internalization of an activity. These human factors and their associated costs increase when a transaction has following features: infrequency, uncertainty and asset specificity (McIvor, 2009). The negative influence of infrequency explains why firms that outsource already many activities are more inclined to outsource than firms that outsource only a few activities. TCE supposes that opportunistic behaviour of a supplier is less likely to happen when a transaction occurs frequently. Therefore transaction costs are likely to be lower in a market than in a hierarchy. Based on this theory we expect a positive relationship between the outsourcing intensity of other supporting functions (IT, HR and fleet management) and the outsourcing intensity of accounting tasks: H 1 : The outsourcing intensity of the accounting tasks is positively correlated with the outsourcing intensity of the other staff functions: HR, IT and fleet management Determinants to Explain Outsourcing In this section we go into a full consideration of the third research question. The hypotheses are founded mainly on the upper echelons theory (Hambrick and Mason, 1984). This theory states that top managers values and cognitive skills partially influence the strategies and performance levels of an organization. One assumption made is bounded rationality on account of top management. Three limitations occur sequentially in this process of bounded rationality. First, managers do not observe the entire reality. Managers do not take notice of certain aspects 9

18 unconsciously; they have a limited field of vision. The second limitation is the fact that managers selectively perceive only some of the aspects of the limited field of vision. Finally, the managers own values and cognitive base shape a filter by which their selectively perceived information is interpreted (Hambrick and Snow, 1977). This interpretation results in a strategic choice, which in turn leads to corporate performance. Hambrick and Mason (1984) do not propose outsourcing as a strategic choice, but we will. In turn, outsourcing leads to corporate performance. The upper echelons theory emphasises the observable managerial characteristics because Hambrick and Mason (1984) are of opinion that the psychological dimensions are very difficult to measure. This theory also focuses on the team of managers and not on the single CEO. In our study, we assume that the outsourcing decision in small and medium-sized organizations is made by the owner-manager and not by a team. A study by Feltham, Feltham and Barnett (2005) investigates the influence of the owner-manager in family businesses. Three to four enterprises confirm that the company is dependent on the owner-manager. The upper echelons characteristics proposed in their theory are age, functional tasks, other career experiences, education, socioeconomic roots, financial position and group characteristics. Functional tasks evolve from past experience in some functional area. Age and education we will discuss later. The variable other career experiences considers whether managers have either worked inside or outside the present organization in the past. Socioeconomic roots equals with a lower or higher socioeconomic group. Financial position refers to the percent of shares managers own of the organization and their total income. The last variable, group characteristics, is not relevant for our research because we consider a single owner-manager. With respect to our subhypotheses we want to mention that literature on the effect of manager characteristics (mentioned in the upper echelons theory) on the outsourcing decision is rather uncommon. We did find literature on the effect of some characteristics on leadership style and influence tactics. Our subhypotheses are developed from these papers and the interviews we conducted. The first characteristic we adopt, is age. During our interviews with the service providers, it became clear that older owner-managers are more reluctant to outsource (some of) their activities. Grant et al. (2001) find a positive relationship between age and conservatism. Given the fact that outsourcing is a relative new concept for SMEs, this could be an explanation for the findings from our interview. This results in the first subhypothesis. 10

19 H 2 : The age of the owner-manager influences the outsourcing intensity in a negative way. The second characteristic affecting the outsourcing decision is the past experience in a functional area. In the upper echelons theory this variable is named functional tasks. We favour a slightly different definition for reasons of clarity. McDonald, Westphal and Graebner (2008) study the effect of outside director acquisition experience on firm acquisition performance. They find a positive effect of experience on firm performance. We suppose that when an ownermanager has experience in a certain area, he will not be inclined to outsource (part of) that activity because his experience contributes to good firm performance. H 3 : Past experience in a functional task influences the outsourcing intensity in a negative way. The third and last characteristic from the upper echelons theory relevant for our research is education. Education consists of two dimensions. The first dimension is the level of education. Barbuto Jr., Fritz, Matkin and Marx (2007) investigate the influence of gender, age and education on leadership styles and leaders influence tactics. With regard to education the latter make a distinction between high school, bachelor and graduate degree. Leaders with a graduate degree received the highest scores for both institutional and transformational leadership. Howell and Avolio (1993) found a positive association between locus of control and transformational leadership. The latter refer to Bass (1985) to prove that transformational leadership is the strongest form of leadership and often includes aspects of institutional leadership as well. Therefore we argue that the higher the level of education, the stronger the locus of control (and thus transformational leadership) of the owner-manager and the less likely he/she will tend towards outsourcing. In this way, he is able to supervise the correct execution of the staff functions. This results in the following subhypothesis: H 4 : The level of education of the owner-manager influences the outsourcing intensity in a negative way. The second dimension of education is the field of training or education of the ownermanager. We refer to this characteristic as the field of studies of the owner-manager. Galanaki, Bourantas and Papalexandris (2008) develop a decision model for outsourcing of training functions. Only one factor appeared to have impact on outsourcing training functions, namely the existence of expertise and the investment to provide in-house training. This means that companies will outsource training when they lack internal resources. Conversely, companies will 11

20 not outsource training functions when they have the necessary expertise inside. Everaert, Sarens and Rommel (2008) investigate why SMEs engage in outsourcing of accounting tasks. They include educational background as a control variable in their model. They were particularly interested in whether the education of the CEO had an economic orientation or not. Their results confirm that CEOs who are qualified in accounting will not outsource accounting. Therefore we posit that when a manager is qualified in e.g. accounting, he will not outsource this area. H 5 : The field of studies of the owner-manager influences the outsourcing intensity of that functional field (accounting, HR and IT) in a negative way. Arendt, Priem and Ndofor (2005) introduce a CEO-advisor model of strategic decision making. Next to the influence of the team of top managers (in accordance with the upper echelons theory) or the influence of one person (the CEO), this model proposes a middle way where the CEO takes the final decision, but is assisted in the gathering and interpretation of the information and the recommendation of the final decision by his advisors (service providers for instance). The factors influencing this CEO-advisor model are environmental dynamism (see also Gilley, Greer and Rasheed, 2004a), organizational strategy, CEO leadership style, CEO tenure and advisor selection. We would like to consider CEO tenure as an independent variable. Arendt et al. (2005) expect a positive relation between CEO tenure and reliance on the formal advisory system, postulating that as tenure increases, managers have had the opportunity to replace incompetent service providers. In the wake of Arendt et al. (2005), we expect outsourcing to be positively correlated with owner-manager tenure. H 6 : Owner-manager tenure influences the outsourcing intensity in a positive way. The fifth characteristic that could influence the outsourcing decision is the owner-manager s gender. Mukhtar (2002) gives evidence for a different management approach between men and women. Schutjens and Stam (2003) give evidence for the fact that male managers have more cooperative relationships than female (29% vs. 14%). Subsequently, the following hypothesis is developed: H 7 : The outsourcing intensity is higher for male owner-managers than for female ownermanagers. Another variable we posit, is whether the company is a family business or not. In the current increasingly complex and competitive environment, strategic flexibility is a very important 12

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