Studies of small firms tend to assume either that models derived from large firms can be applied directly or that small firms are uniformly distinct from large ones. A recent framework, based mainly on low-wage family-owned firms, has identified an analytical space to identify different types of small firm. This article tests out that framework in a different context: four high-tech and non-family-owned firms. The framework identified market conditions and strategic choice as key measures, and was useful in capturing practice, though it also needed further refinement. Key substantive implications were: apparently similar firms in fact behaved differently, for reasons to do with their market situations and the choices they made; and the firms displayed tensions between 'modern' business strategies and 'traditional' and informal employment practices, tensions that the framework helps to capture.