The valorization of export information and its impact upon the international performance of SMEs

Abstract : The Absorptive Capacity (AC) and the Knowledge-Based View (KBV) perspectives have generated significant scholarly interest across a large number of disciplines over the last decade. Despite this important scholarly interest, both the AC and KBV literature streams have focused primarily on technology-intensive and dynamic industries, aiming to model innovation on the basis of technological and R&D knowledge absorption. As a result, knowledge and information relating to an organization's international market environment were mainly ignored, even though their utmost importance for foreign business development is overall emphasized within the international marketing literature. Especially in the case of SMEs, it is oftenly suggested that in order to handle the international market place turbulence, they shall better manage information and develop superior knowledge and capabilities relative to the management of foreign operations (Kuivalainen and Bell 2004). This dissertation aims to address this gap in the literature and provides two major contributions. First, a conceptualization of the AC of export information adapted in the case of SMEs is proposed, based on Zahra and George's (2002) re-lecture of the AC concept. Second, insights from the AC, marketing, international business, market orientation (MO) and knowledge management literature were combined to develop and test a research model for describing the export information state evolution in SMEs and its impact on their international performance. The causal nature of the research question led us to the retaining of a quantitative methodology. Nonetheless, taking into account the preponderant qualitative and multi-dimensional nature of information, a first qualitative preliminary research has been undertaken aiming to explore whether the use of insights from the KBV, MO and AC literature for describing the impact of the evolution of export information state in SMEs on their levels of international performance was consistent with the managerial perceptions. To this end, 24 semi-structured interviews were realized with French and Romanian SMEs' managers. Furthermore, based on the literature review and the preliminary qualitative investigation, a questionnaire was developed. The questionnaire was pre-tested and then sent to the managers of exporting SMEs from the steel industry. 107 usable questionnaires were gathered, yielding for a response rate of 19,1%. The estimation of the causal relationships of influence composing the research model with PLS path modeling (XLSTAT software) led to the validation of nine out of the ten research propositions composing the research model. The results suggest that the AC perspective of Zahra and George (2002) is an appealing and efficient framework for exploring the dynamics associated with export information processing in small firms and their impact upon SMEs' international performance levels. The results suggest that the richness of export information sources, the real export experience of SMEs, and the richness of the international experiences of export employees positively and significantly influence the efficiency of export information acquisition in small firms. Furthermore, the efficiency of export information acquisition and assimilation practices, namely knowledge transfer and integration and coordination efficiency, determine the export responsiveness capacity of SMEs. In turn, the export responsiveness capacity has a strong impact upon the SMEs' positional advantage in terms of international marketing competences. The results suggest that by means of responding and taking corrective action in order to better manage foreign market shifts, firms appear to build superior levels of positional advantage in terms of foreign market-related competences compared to their competitors. The real international experience of small firms also significantly and positively impacts the degree of positional advantage in terms of international marketing competences that SMEs achieve in export markets. Surprisingly, the richness of the export experiences of export employees does not have a significant influence upon the positional advantage in terms of international marketing competences. Finally, detaining a positional advantage in terms of foreign market-related marketing competences drives SMEs to be more successful in international settings. This result suggests that the main KBV assumption is strongly validated by the current study. The exporting SMEs attain high levels of international performance if they achieve superior levels of positional advantage in terms of international marketing competences compared to their competitors in foreign settings.
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Raluca Descotes. The valorization of export information and its impact upon the international performance of SMEs. Business administration. Université Nancy 2, 2009. English. ⟨NNT : 2009NAN22001⟩. ⟨tel-01749051⟩

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