Can we mend fences? A model of recovery processes of SME business-to-business relationships

Deirdre Mary Fleming, Jaana Tähtinen, Felicity Kelliher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to develop a process model of business-to-business (B2B) relationship recovery after a transgression has placed the future of the relationship in doubt. The research questions ask, How are relationships recovered? and How does the relationship strength pre-transgression influence the recovery process? Design/methodology/approach: The process model is empirically grounded with first-hand narratives of owner managers (OMs) and key personnel of Irish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Using the critical incident technique, 25 owner and manager interviews in 23 SMEs resulted in 48 recovery narratives. Findings: The findings identify four types of outcomes flowing from two potential recovery process paths. The strength of the relationship pre-transgression and the desire to maintain the relationship influence the parties’ actions during the recovery process and the status of the relationship subsequently. Research limitations/implications: The authors acknowledge that each narrative in the data are the informants’ construction of the phenomenon. The B2B relationship recovery process model offers OMs and SMEs a blueprint of what to expect, and how they might reach for recovery instead of the relationship ending. Originality/value: Prior studies either treat recovery as a minor part of an ending process or focus on a single sub-process, leaving the overall process under-researched. This study contributes to the B2B relationship dynamics discussion with a processual view of the overall recovery process, including recovery sub-processes, paths and temporal outcomes in different types of relationships and takes into account the pre-transgression relationship.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Business-to-business (B2B) relationships
  • Dissolution
  • Process model
  • Recovery
  • Repair
  • SMEs
  • Strength


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