This paper is a review of the literature concerning management development in small firms. It looks at the benefits in terms of growing a small firm and whether the lack of management skills contributes to their failure. In addition, this paper looks at some of the barriers to management development, including the attitudes and characteristics of the entrepreneur, and also looks at learning models that may be appropriate for small firms. The paper also looks at the authors' views on the effectiveness of management development for small firms, the barriers to learning as well as the skills required. Management development programmes are now widely accepted as a means of improving the competitiveness of firms and the economy as a whole. Although management education and training has, in the past, been designed mainly for larger firms, there is a growing awareness of the requirements of small businesses. Government initiatives designed to encourage start-ups and to boost the growth of small firms have emphasized the importance of management development. This review of the literature shows that, on balance, management development programmes are effective for small firms. The main benefits appear to be survival and growth, reduction in failure and improvement in performance. The skills required include leadership and management, developing management systems and techniques and team building. Other skills include planning, delegation and financial management. The paper concludes that there is a need for further research into the effectiveness of management development programmes, the skills required and the barriers to learning in small firms and, also, whether they have an impact on the survival, growth and profitability of small firms.