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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Business Review, Volume 17, Issue 6, December 2008, Pages 663–675
This paper explores the dynamics of social capital in 121 new foreign market entries (FMEs) of 24 Swedish and New Zealand small- to medium-sized enterprises in the early and later phases of their internationalization. Its main contribution is the systematic assessment of the roles and forms of social capital over time and across countries, thus providing greater insight into the social capital concept. We separate social capital into efficacy and serendipity roles (economic dimension) and direct and indirect relationships (structural dimension). Efficacious and direct social capital is associated with early FMEs, while serendipitous and indirect social capital is more prevalent with later FMEs, indicating that social capital changes with (and is dependent on) FME. Moreover, while geographical proximity does not appear to affect the economic dimension of social capital, it is important for the structural dimension.
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often have limited financial and managerial resources available for international expansion (Chetty & Campbell-Hunt, 2003). They also often lack knowledge about foreign markets and have few international contacts. Consequently, SMEs may have to enter foreign markets consecutively rather than simultaneously, and may have to limit the number of foreign markets in which they operate. Therefore, the decision about which foreign markets to focus on is among the most pivotal for long-term success of internationalizing SMEs ( Ellis, 2000). One important explanation for how SMEs overcome resource limitations in order to internationalize is that they use relationships they have with other firms (Chetty & Wilson, 2003; Wilson, Chetty, & Shergill, 2004). For example, it is frequently argued that to succeed internationally firms must acquire information about foreign markets from external parties (Majkgard & Sharma, 1998; Presutti, Boari, & Fratocchi, 2007; Wilson et al., 2004). Relationships may then be used to identify and exploit specific business opportunities. Drawing on the expertise of other firms in a relationship network can, thus, improve international performance (Blomstermo, Eriksson, Lindstrand, & Sharma, 2004). A firm's network of relationships and the resources that can be acquired from the network may be referred to as the social capital of the firm ( Adler & Kwon, 2002; Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992; Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998; Yli-Renko, Autio, & Tontti, 2002). There is a substantial number of studies that address how social capital impacts on SMEs’ internationalization, not the least foreign market entries (FMEs), although not all studies actually use the term social capital. Some of this research focuses specifically on how social capital enables internationalization (e.g., Agndal & Chetty, 2007), while other studies look at the importance of social capital relative to other factors in explaining FME (e.g., Andersen & Buvik, 2002; Ellis, 2000; Ellis & Pecotich, 2001). Arguably, social capital is dynamic as it may increase as well as decrease over time. This happens as firms deepen existing relationships, establish new ones and terminate problematic ones (Rauch, 2001). For the internationalizing SME, this means that the social capital available when doing business only domestically is likely to be different from the social capital available when the firm has extensive international sales (Chetty & Wilson, 2003). While the dynamic nature of social capital is often implied in internationalization research, it should be highlighted that few studies explicitly consider how the social capital of the firm changes during the internationalization process (cf. Coviello, 2006). Consequently, there is a dearth of research on the dynamic interplay between social capital and international growth ( Yli-Renko et al., 2002). Social capital can both affect and be affected by FMEs, depending on when it is employed in the firm's internationalization process. To our knowledge, few—if any—studies approach social capital and international expansion in this way. Our aim is to address this gap. More precisely, the purpose is to study the dynamic influence of social capital on SMEs’ FME at different points in the internationalization process. In addition, we extend our exploration of social capital dynamics by comparing Sweden and New Zealand, two small export-dependent countries with quite different spatial implications in terms of multinational investment and access to markets. The remainder of this article is divided into six main sections. The next section reviews the literature on social capital and SME internationalization and develops five propositions. Here we contribute to the literature by combining theory of social capital, its dynamics, roles and forms, with the FME literature into one framework. The propositions are summarized in a theoretical model. To test the robustness of this framework, we undertake a systematic process of case study analysis and coding, as well as conducting exploratory statistical analysis on the sample comprising our study. This is described in the subsequent sections focusing on method of research and presentation of results. The major themes emerging from our data are further illustrated by exemplar case studies of FMEs. The final part of the article contains discussion, conclusions, implications and limitations of the study.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper makes several contributions. First, it combines theory of social capital with the FME literature into one framework to provide deeper insight into how social capital allows SMEs to enter new markets. Second, it develops new operationalizations for social capital by providing a structured analysis of this elusive concept. Third, it shows that social capital is dynamic in nature by systematically assessing the roles and forms of social capital in different phases of internationalization. The findings show that social capital can play serendipitous and efficacious roles, and it can reside both in indirect and direct relationships. In the early phase of internationalization, these SMEs primarily draw on the social capital residing in direct relationships to enable FMEs. Later on, the serendipity role of social capital becomes more prominent, increasingly occurring through indirect relationships. The prominence of the serendipity role of social capital implies that managers need to keep an open mind and be flexible when they encounter opportunities, especially for entering remote markets that they may have never considered before. Since indirect relationships could be less costly to maintain than direct relationships (cf. Hansen, 1999) an important implication for SME managers is that they should maximize their use of, and exposure to, indirect relationships; these may provide unexpected opportunities as managers obtain new information from previously unconnected networks. Our findings show that existing direct relationships are important as bridgeheads into new markets, and that they serve as the basis for forming new direct relationships. An implication for managers is that, since relationships are costly to build and maintain, they need to use existing relationships effectively. We also propose that the benefits from new relationships are not infinite. One explanation for this may be an inverted U curvilinear association between the number of relationships and the effectiveness of social capital. As the firm creates more new relationships in more diverse foreign markets in later phases of its internationalization, it may experience information overload and increasing costs of maintaining relationships. Therefore, SMEs have to be efficient in building and maintaining relationships that augment their social capital. As our findings show, social capital can be used efficiently by entering several foreign markets simultaneously through single relationships. As firms internationalize, managers can get distracted from building social capital as they get trapped in day to day routines. The question then arises; is there a positive association between FME in a diversity of markets and social capital, or is there a curvilinear effect between diversity of markets and social capital? In addition, future research could consider the dynamics, role and form of social capital when a firm expands within existing markets. One limitation of this research is that it can make only analytical generalizations as it is a qualitative study based on theoretical sampling of 24 firms. Future research could use a structured questionnaire with a priori measurement of constructs to test social capital dynamics in a quantitative study to achieve statistical generalization. Another limitation of this study is that it focuses on SMEs in two small developed countries. Future research could test these findings in other countries, including developing and large ones, to determine whether the economic dimension of social capital on FME can be generalized across countries, and whether the structural dimension is context dependent. In addition, although the sample permits comparisons between two countries to explore and explain variance in the empirical material, there are other “control variables” that should be recognized in future research. Some examples of these include, industry context, different modes of international operations and variations in export intensity.