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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of International Management, Volume 7, Issue 3, Autumn 2001, Pages 191–210
There has been widespread dissatisfaction with step-stage development models of small firm internationalisation, and difficulties in applying comprehensive theories or explanations to the decisions and processes involved, resulting in calls for a return to exploratory research, and for a series of connected submodels covering different stages and dimensions of internationalisation. This paper attempts to address, at least partially, these demands. Empirical evidence from a sample of 213 small high-technology firms, consisting of quantitative data on their first steps in internationalisation, is presented and discussed. Descriptive statistics illustrate the frequency with which each type of cross-border activity is indicated across the sample, the time elapsed before each activity is established, and the combination in which they occur. The results indicate that, as expected from previous empirical evidence, trade-related activities, i.e., importing and exporting, are the modes of activity most frequently reported. Further examination reveals, however, that at least half of the firms in the sample include value chain activities other than trade in their first steps in internationalisation. These results raise questions relating to the conventional categorisations of foreign market entry modes and the design and interpretation of survey research relating to internationalisation.
The first major steps in a firm's internationalisation process are generally held to be trade related, and while import activity is considered to play a role, it is export activity that is most often recognised as being the first real step in the internationalisation process. The definition of exporting is the sale of goods or services in country markets other than that of the exporting firm. Exporting usually involves the physical shipment of goods across national borders. Production takes place in the domestic market and the goods are sold, at arm's length, overseas. Services, in which delivery to the customers may be inseparable from the production process, has never fitted this definition well. Similarly, the business activities of many small firms, where the central activity of the firm is not the manufacture of goods, do not fit neatly into any export-based explanation of the internationalisation process. Conventional wisdom, however, and a plethora of empirical evidence, suggests that many small firms internationalise initially, through some form of exporting activity Bilkey and Tesar, 1977, Cavusgil, 1984 and Johanson and Vahlne, 1977. The globalisation of business, and in particular, the globalisation of technology markets, has meant that small firms in industry sectors subject to globalisation forces may become involved in any number of different types of cross-border business activities (Luostarinen and Welch, 1990). Some of this activity may amount to no more than one-off arrangements or deals with foreign partners, while some will become part of an ongoing process of international growth and development of the firm. All play a role in the learning and development process of the firm Johanson and Vahlne, 1977, Johanson and Vahlne, 1990, Johanson and Vahlne, 1992, Reuber and Fischer, 1997 and Coviello and Martin, 1999. Recent studies have suggested that the international activity of firms is influenced by the extent to which their industry is internationalised, or the level of international activity that exists in a geographically distinct cluster of firms (Brown and Bell, 2000). Other reports indicate that industries have undergone an internationalisation process during which member firms pass through similar stages of international development at the same time (Kirpalani, 1999). Literature on the internationalisation of the firm has been divided into studies that focus on the decisions involved, often relating to entry mode choice and strategy, and those that focus on the process (Benito and Welch, 1997). This division may have emerged as a result of pragmatism in research design and differences in disciplinary approaches rather than for any reasons specific to the firms themselves. Certainly, in reality, firms make or take decisions that result in development processes that together form individual patterns of internationalisation decisions and behaviour Jones, 1999 and Jones and Tagg, 1999. The cross-border business activities that form the building blocks of internationalisation, most commonly referred to as foreign market entry modes, or foreign market servicing modes, are often examined in the literature as static, and often alternative decision choices (Young et al., 1989, p. 267). Alternatively, entry modes, or cross-border business links or connections are viewed as components in a more evolutionary process of international growth and development Johanson and Vahlne, 1977, Johanson and Vahlne, 1990 and Johanson and Vahlne, 1992. From either perspective, an intuitively sensible and widely supported view of the cross-border activity of small firms is that they commence internationalisation through low-risk, low-involvement modes such as indirect exporting. Over time, international activity might evolve through a taxonomy of modes ordered by increasing risk, cost, commitment, return on investment and so on, as the firm's size, experience and knowledge grow. This type of categorisation of modes is widely supported in the literature. Examples include, degree of control Anderson and Gatignon, 1986 and Root, 1987, level of risk and resource commitment (Hill et al., 1990), levels of fixed and variable cost and return on investment Buckley and Casson, 1985 and Luostarinen, 1980, levels of involvement and organisational commitment Johanson and Vahlne, 1977, Welch and Luostarinen, 1988 and Burgel and Murray, 2000, and locus of control Luostarinen, 1980 and Young et al., 1989. Recent evidence from around the world indicates that there is an emerging group of small firms, which internationalises very rapidly, using a diverse range of market entry modes Lindqvist, 1997, OECD, 1997, Bloodgood et al., 1996, McDougall et al., 1994 and Turnbull, 1987. Such evidence challenges not only incremental approaches to internationalisation but also some of the conventional assumptions and measures relating to the way in which entry modes should be categorised. The challenge is not levelled so much at the comparative risk, cost, levels of control or return on investment of individual foreign market entry modes, but at the implicit treatment of entry modes as discrete, or alternative modes of entry commonly applied in survey research on internationalisation. Explanation of the internationalisation of entrepreneurial firms has tended to be drawn from several, rather than single, theoretical approaches Bell et al., 1998, McDougall and Oviatt, 1991, McDougall et al., 1994 and Oviatt and McDougall, 1994.The currently popular focus on start-ups and entrepreneurial internationalisation, may shift attention away from individual entry modes and sequences. Alternatively, it is suggested that the often complex decisions and processes involved in internationalisation together form a wide range of different patterns of firm internationalisation behaviour Jones, 1999, Jones and Tagg, 1999 and Jones and Tagg, 2000, and different patterns of export competitiveness (Wolff and Pett, 2000). It could be argued that internationalisation in today's context is less about entering foreign markets than it is about increasing the firm's exposure and response to international business influences, opportunities, threats, and imperatives. The small firm, in markets that are characterised by international competition, and open to products from around the world, is exposed to a much wider operating domain than the small firm in markets with predominantly local parameters (Luostarinen and Hellman, 1994). Much of the literature that takes a process view of internationalisation acknowledges the process as consisting of both inward and outward directed business activities, and among small firms at least, international development is seen as dependent on the establishment and development of relationships with intermediaries, other, already international firms, or foreign firms in their own, or home market Bell, 1995, Coviello and Munro, 1995, Liang, 1995, Tyrri, 1994, Welch and Luostarinen, 1993, Hakansson, 1982 and Hakansson, 1989. On that point, exposure to international business activity, examined in a recent study as cluster effects, is bound to have some influence on the internationalisation of small firms, the ways in which they commence international business, and in the speed and the nature of the process of development (Brown and Bell, 2000). Accepting that firms respond in a proactive as well as reactive way to their environment, driving the process, is the entrepreneur, or managerial team with their own agenda for the firm's growth and development. The assumption made here is that the types of cross-border activities established by small firms will reflect the nature of the firm's business, and its resource and growth needs and goals. The types of cross-border activities established will also reflect the role played by small firms in an industry cluster or international community, and its relationship to other firms in that community (Brown and Bell, 2000). First steps in internationalisation, therefore, will occur in response to both internal and external factors in addition to foreign market factors. The types of cross-border activities undertaken are likely to correspond to the firm's own imperatives and influences from its industry or cluster rather than exclusively from the foreign market. Small firms' first steps in internationalisation therefore, may be characterised by packages of cross-border links or activity types (Benito and Welch, 1997) suggesting that internationalisation behaviour is specific to individual firms, or groups of firms sharing similar circumstances, threats and opportunities. Research might usefully attempt to cluster or differentiate firms by patterns of internationalisation behaviour (Jones and Tagg, 1999). The examination of the starting point of the international activity of small firms within specific industries, clusters, or business communities would provide a solid empirical foundation.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
A challenge for survey research on small and entrepreneurial firm internationalisation is to accommodate the diversity of internationalisation behaviour in the research design, and to devise appropriate means of analysis in order to take full advantage of the richness of data generated. This paper has made a small contribution in that respect by examining internationalisation data at two levels and exploring practical application of a holistic and behavioural approach to the topic. Based on the analysis in this paper, recommendations are that future survey research includes as wide a range of internationalisation possibilities as possible. These should be examined within a narrowly defined, relatively heterogeneous sample of firms from an industry or an industrial or geographical cluster. General, cross-sectoral surveys, which cover a wide range of firm types and sizes, tend to produce results that mask real differences in internationalisation behaviour. Studies of more narrowly defined groups of firms should generate richer data from which to develop explanation and theory. Similarly, the development of a flexible contingency framework accommodating a number of mutually supporting theoretical explanations and interlocking conceptual models is likely to be more useful than comprehensive or eclectic models. The approach taken here is that internationalisation is a firm level behaviour that can be typified and measured by evidence of behavioural manifestations such as cross-border links, as they occur over time, and in space (location). As suggested by Preece et al. (1998), however, traditional theories and approaches to internationalisation should not be abandoned. Rather, their insights and explanations should be accommodated within emerging conceptual developments. Data and analysis in this paper were confined to empirical description and conceptual discussion on the types of links formed by firms and the ways in which these were found to be combined by the firms within the sample. A number of interesting issues emerge that could take the research further. Entry modes, or cross-border business activities to take a more holistic perspective, are at least half of the time not discrete activities. Therefore, it is not so much the individual type of cross-border link that is important, but the contribution it makes, alone or in conjunction with other modes of activity, to the business as a whole. For small entrepreneurial firms this contribution might include access to resources, knowledge and so on, as well as revenue-generating activities such as services, export sales, management, manufacturing and other types of contractual arrangement. Inclusion of the inward dimension of internationalisation expands the opportunity of exploring resource-based, as well as market-based explanations. Detailed knowledge on how firms commence internationalisation is important in relation to the type of advice offered by governments and consultants. Much advice is provided for exporters, but exporting is not the only, and may not be the best, mode of international business activity for small firms at early stages of development. This may especially be the case for technology firms with little or embryonic manufacturing capabilities, for knowledge intensive and other service firms etc. Advice must extend to other aspects of a firm's business. Crick and Jones (2000) identified that managers themselves perceived a need to be advised on the basis of the experience of other small firms that may have recently embarked on modes of cross-border activity such as joint ventures, technology licensing and so on. The preponderance of inward cross-border links in this study suggests that inward activity is a fundamental part of the internationalisation process. Korhonen et al. (1996) caution governments against ignoring inward stages lest they miss the opportunity to develop or promote potential exporters. The firms in this study were high-technology firms in new and emerging technologies, firms known to internationalise rapidly or immediately. Such firms are often headed by scientists, technologists and engineers with considerable expertise in the technological aspects of their business, but as Oakey and Mukhtar (1999) suggest, their business capability and know-how may be less well developed. Such firms are vulnerable in many respects to the risks of product development as well as to those presented by rapid expansion into international and global markets. The risk associated with the international venture and the holistic development of the firm may be of more concern than the risk associated with discrete, individual foreign market entry modes. Complex combinations of contacts and links may be formed and modes combined and merged to suit the needs of the business. High-technology firms too, may be faced with the need to develop contacts and links in relation to the precompetitive development of their technology. Cross-border links may enable firms to tap into a foreign science base thus augmenting their technology-based resources. EU innovation policy encourages and often supports such collaborations, providing contact networks and events for the purpose. Without appropriate advice, however, firms are vulnerable to exploitation and the potential loss of unprotected technology. Advice on internationalisation needs to extend beyond export support and bridge the gap between the precompetitive and competitive stages of technology development where these take place cross-nationally. Examination of the type of cross-border contacts and links made by small firms, at first and subsequent steps in internationalisation, will help identify where advice and support needs to be given. Identification of the composite behaviours of firms in relation to internationalisation, and determination of the effect of specific behavioural patterns on subsequent firm performance, would seem to be a useful direction for internationalisation research to take. From a managerial perspective, first steps in internationalisation may need to include business activities complementary to, or in addition to export sales and are likely to be an important part of the growth process of high-technology firms, particularly those in international or global markets. Cross-border activity may add to the challenge, excitement and experience faced, and often sought by entrepreneurs. Advice levelled at such firms needs to explore a wider range of possibilities in internationalisation but should emphasise synergy and controlled growth through appropriate combinations of cross-border links.