Internal Determinants of the Internationalization Behavior Dynamics of Young Firms

Maha Ayadi-Frikha

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Internal Determinants of the Internationalization Behavior Dynamics of Young Firms

Maha Ayadi-Frikha

University of Tunis, National Engineering School of Tunis, Lp 37, Belvedere, 1002, Tunis, Tunisia

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to identify the internal determinants of the firms’ dynamics behavior at the international level. In particular, we have analyzed separately the impact of the dynamic resources of the entrepreneur-manager and the impact of the firm strategic orientation on the nature of the international commitment behavior. The results show that the fundamental role played by the entrepreneur both in the precocious starting phase and in the rapid speed of international expansion of his young enterprise. Moreover, the strategic skills linked to the international affairs, the past experiences and the social networks constitute, along with the international view of the entrepreneur-manager, the key variables for crossing the frontiers as well as the accelerating variables of the speed of the future international commitment.

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Cite this article:

  • Ayadi-Frikha, Maha. "Internal Determinants of the Internationalization Behavior Dynamics of Young Firms." Journal of Behavioural Economics, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Accounting and Transport 3.1 (2015): 32-38.
  • Ayadi-Frikha, M. (2015). Internal Determinants of the Internationalization Behavior Dynamics of Young Firms. Journal of Behavioural Economics, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Accounting and Transport, 3(1), 32-38.
  • Ayadi-Frikha, Maha. "Internal Determinants of the Internationalization Behavior Dynamics of Young Firms." Journal of Behavioural Economics, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Accounting and Transport 3, no. 1 (2015): 32-38.

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1. Introduction

As new observable phenomenon, early and rapidly internationalizing firms has attracted interest of academics and researchers since the early 90s. Indeed, the awareness on the existence of this significant and growing proportion of companies which have a rapid international expansion, have been synonymous with the emergence of a new academic discipline which is positioned as the intersection of the field of business strategy, international management and entrepreneurship.

For twenty years, work on the businesses internationalization, and more specifically SME, were largely influenced by the «Process Model of Internationalization (PMI)» (Johanson and Vahlne, 1977). They have developed an internationalization model characterized by the importance of the progressiveness in the international expansion of firms. The main objective of the progressive expansion was to reduce or to control the specific uncertainty in foreign markets. In addition, for these organizational structures with limited resources, the progressive internationalization favors prudence and risk minimization in the selection and approach foreign markets. The result is that the internationalization follows a stepwise process that starts with the input of SMEs in foreign markets with low psychic distance. This gradual expansion is considered the key success of SME internationalization.

However, the business environment has changed in the course of the 90s, including improved information flows from foreign markets, a reduction in transport and communication expenditure and wider dissemination of the internationalization experiences of firms (Autio, 2005). The changing of the environmental condition has led to the emergence of a growing number of young firms internationalizing in the world from their formation, with the ability to grow faster abroad. All these changes have made the basic assumptions of the Process Model of Internationalization and created the need to formalize an alternative model of internationalization.

In light of previous developments, the objective of this paper is to determine the internal factors of the internationalization dynamic behavior of young Tunisian manufacturing firms. Specifically, it seeks to identify the factors that influence the behavior of international start and the internationalization speed of the Tunisian firms. For this purposes, we rely in this work on the definition of internationalization given by Beamish (1990) and cited by Coviello and McAuley (1999, p. 225): «(…) the process by which firms both increase their awareness of the direct and indirect influence of international transactions on their future, and establish and conduct transactions with other countries». This definition conceptualizes the globalization as a process and recognizes its dynamic and evolving dimension.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 is devoted to present the literature review and the research hypotheses. The methodology and results will be presented respectively in Sections 3 and 4. Section 5 concludes the article and offers some policy implications.

2. Literature Review and Hypotheses

2.1. The Internal Factors of Dynamic Internationalization Behavior

Research in international entrepreneurship has sought to explain the causes of the early internationalization of small businesses. They were thus able to determine that the factors are of two kinds: external factors or "pull" factors and internal factors or "push". The "pull" factors generally consist of a set of forces in the firm external environment, which increases the competitiveness of the firm and provide stimulation internationalization. First, globalization implies a decrease barriers, an acceleration of business opportunities, and increasing competition. Then, easy and inexpensive use of transport and communication technology facilitates logistics. Internet plays a major role in the internationalization of companies since it allows dissemination, acquisition and sharing of information that respectively affect international growth, increased market knowledge and social capital. Governments are also implementing various measures enhancing expansion abroad. In addition, external factors are relating to market conditions such as market size, competitive pressure, the saturation of the domestic market.

The "push" factors are a set of factors that come from within the firm and from the motivation for internal internationalization. These factors are different components connected to the characteristics and resources of the contractor and other characteristics and strategic direction of the firm.

In what follows, we analyze in depth the literature on two groups of internal factors influencing the rapid internationalization of enterprises. These two groups of factors are partly on the personal resources of the contractor and the strategic direction of the company. These factors are well documented in the literature on international entrepreneurship and are known as factors differentiating the two models of the process of internationalization that are most known model of early and rapid internationalization and progressive internationalization model provided by PMI.


2.1.1. The Impact of Personal Resources of the Contractor

In the literature on international entrepreneurship, different personal resources have been identified as influencing the early and rapid internationalization of new firms. Thus, it is possible to identify the formation of the entrepreneur, his international vision, its international past experiences, social networks and skills related to international activities. Beyond that required identification of these inseparable in the strategic process of internationalization resources, it is even more important to understand how they influence and determine the behavior of the young international business. Then study the influence of personal resources of the Contractor on the early and rapid international expansion process returns to find their actions in conducting this strategic process.

The owner-manager is more likely formed to pursue an internationalization strategy that is less trained; training is generally associated with a more entrepreneurial behavior. A leader who has a higher education is in principle more likely to adopt innovative behavior or adhere to a new idea. Several studies indeed observe a positive impact of education level leader on the international growth of the company. Subsequently, several researchers agree on the importance of international vision of the leaders in driving the rapid and early internationalization. In this context, Oviatt and McDougall (1994) were the first who sought explanations for the internationalization of new enterprises. They noted that from the outset, entrepreneurs have an international vision and a constellation of unique skills that enable them to discover, identify and exploit international opportunities as other national entrepreneurs do not foresee. The researchers add that these entrepreneurs are showing interest and proactive motivation to work abroad (McDougall et al, 1994).

McDougall et al. (1994) provide one of the most important sources of competitive advantage of international new ventures at the entrepreneur lies in its past international experience. Indeed, they stress the importance of the experience of entrepreneur in the international affairs, in the detection of international opportunities and the business creation that will immediately abroad. They also showed that new businesses run by managers with experience abroad were able to internationalize their business faster and more successful. Similarly, Fischer and Reuber (1997) companies whose management team already has international experience would be able to avoid some intermediate steps. Shrader et al. (2000) add that the higher the level of experience of the entrepreneur are high plus they are a major asset to overcome the constraints factor "foreignness" and consequently ensure the company to better results in the international '.

Thus, Sapienza et al. (2006) recognize the role played by the entrepreneurial skills of the management team in the early internationalization decision. The authors admit that entrepreneurs as "opportunity seekers" are the true internationalization apart engines capabilities and dynamic capabilities they hold.

Networking capabilities are also a resource for entrepreneurs seeking international adventure. That is how, studies of Coviello and Munro (1995) and Julien and Martin (1996) showed that the ability of leaders to establish contacts explanatory was the propensity to internationalize their firm. Therefore, the distinctive competence of the contractor must consider in relation to its ability to integrate into networks and enrich (Julien, 2005). Dynamic networking skills added to entrepreneurial behavior research opportunities then reduce the risk associated with decisions to enter foreign markets. The relationship between early and rapid internationalization and social networks of the entrepreneur is largely developed in the literature on international entrepreneurship (Oviatt and McDougall 1994; Coviello and Munro 1995). Empirical researches in international entrepreneurship show that entrepreneurs use their highly personal and business networks to internationalize (Rialp et al., 2005). Similarly, Zahra et al. (2003) argue that networks are a source of information for identifying opportunities in the internationalization context of SMEs. Julien and Martin (1996), entrepreneurs who want to improve their competitiveness must better organize their networks and fit into smarter networks capable of supporting, that is to say, to help them develop their skills and provide them with regular information-rich, supporting innovation and new opportunities. Networks exert leverage on both the tangible and intangible resources held by the SMEs in promoting their development and exploitation. Thus, it lacks the new international business resources to control a number of assets across the property. The network is a way to overcome the lack of resources and access specific assets for the business (Oviatt and McDougall, 1994). In this context, Oviatt and McDougall (1994) predict that the network is a way to access resources abroad without owning. In fact, the contractor may rely on various "hybrid governance structures" (Oviatt and McDougall, 1994) promoted by the networks to control the most vital assets for the company to better manage a situation of scarce resources or limited.

Our goal, through this discussion, is to check the importance of the resources of the contractor in the international startup behavior and the speed of internationalization of young firms. The hypotheses we test in this regard are:

H1: Personal resources of the contractor have positive effects on the internationalization behavior at startup.

H2: Personal resources of the Contractor have a positive impact on the speed of internationalization.


2.1.2. The Impact of Strategic Orientation of the Firm

Strategic orientation, concept heavily used in strategic management research, entrepreneurship and marketing reflect implemented by a firm strategic direction to create his own behavior in order to achieve superior performance (Narver and Slater, 1990). The strategic orientation is a very useful concept in the study of strategies for international business growth. They are part of the dynamic capabilities of a firm (Jantunen et al. 2008). Jantunen et al. (2008) report it as “(…) processes, practices, principles and decision-making styles (…) that guide firm’s activities, especially in the context of the external environment and corporate development”.

At this level, to assess the impact of the firm strategic orientation, we distinguish between international entrepreneurial orientation, organizational learning orientation and market orientation. For Knight and Cavusgil (2004), entrepreneurial orientation in terms of propensity to take risks, proactivity and product-market innovation, start-up assistance and promotes international success. Entrepreneurial orientation thus exerts a great influence on the development of the company internationally; Businesses involved in a very entrepreneurial innovation policy in order to strengthen their competitiveness in foreign markets significantly influence the speed of internationalization and thus ensure their sustainability. Similarly, Zahra and George (2002) have shown that there is in the field of international entrepreneurship as a positive effect of entrepreneurial orientation on the internationalization of SMEs. In addition, literature amply demonstrates the importance of learning in the internationalization process, particularly in companies’ early and rapid internationalization (McDougall and Oviatt, 2003). Several authors have studied the impact of different learning factors on a firm commitment in international activities (Autio et al., 2000). McDougall and Oviatt (2003) add that learning is a critical element in international entrepreneurial firms because knowledge is often the most critical resource available to the company and is the first base to gain a competitive advantage. Finally, although studies tend to confirm the impact of market orientation on the internationalization behavior are rare, however, the literature provides evidence supporting their relevance as a basis for theoretical explanation for the early and rapid internationalization of young business. Indeed, the ability of SMEs to foreign markets is increasingly associated with their ability to acquire information and knowledge (Johanson and Vahlne, 1990). This information as well as the ability to locate and highlight them are ways for businesses to identify new opportunities, new ways to export and acquire new knowledge (Knight and Cavusgil, 2004). The company must develop specific skills in their ability to feel the market, anticipate changes and respond to changes which promotes the creation of competitive advantages, which remain the unifying elements of the explanation for the early and rapid internationalization of young firms.

This discussion suggests that the strategic orientation of the firm is dynamic determinants of the internationalization behavior. Our goal, through this discussion, is to check the importance of these guidelines in the conduct international startup and speed of internationalization of young firms. The hypotheses we test in this regard are:

H3: The strategic directions of the company have positive effects on the internationalization behavior at startup.

H4: The strategic directions of the firm have a positive impact on the speed of internationalization.

2.2. Variables Operationalization and Conceptual Model of the Study
2.2.1. Dependent Variables

Different measures have been attributed to the "internationalization behavior" variable in the literature review: age of internationalization, internationalization degree, the extent of internationalization, and psychological distance.

Table 1. Operationalization of dependent variables

The second dependent variable is the "internationalization speed". We measure the internationalization speed by the ratio of total number of countries penetrated since the first international transaction divided by the number of years since the first international expansion of the company. The higher the ratio, the greater the speed of internationalization is high. Table 1 shows the dimensions and scales on these two variables.


2.2.2. Operationalization of the Independent Variables

We present now the modalities for operationalization of the different "characteristics of leader-entrepreneur". So the international vision, experience international move, social networks, international skills and level of training are related to the five dynamic resource manager that will be evaluated in this study and dimensions that constitute the first group of independent variables. The dimensions and scales of each variable are summarized in Table 2.

Table 2. Operationalization of the independent variables: dynamic resources of the Contractor

On "strategic directions of the company", the second group of independent variables, we used the entrepreneurial orientation, organizational learning orientation and market orientation as the modalities for operationalization. Table 3 summarizes the different dimensions and scales relevant.

Table 3. Operationalization of the independent variables: strategic orientation of the firm


2.2.3. Conceptual Model of the Study

Based on the arguments presented above, the conceptual model of this study is given in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Conceptual model of the study

3. Methodology

3.1. Data

This field study is to develop a survey on a sample of 56 Tunisian SMEs in the manufacturing sector, with 20 fully and 36 partially exporting exporting. The sample consisted of SMEs in the following sectors: Food, Mechanics and Metallurgy, Building Materials, Ceramics and Glass, Chemicals, Leather and Footwear; Various Industries (see Table 4).

3.2. Econometric Models

The objective of our empirical investigation is to study the relationship between personal resources of entrepreneurs and strategic direction of the firm with international startup and speed of internationalization. To test these interactions, we consider two models (1) et (2):

(1)
(2)

Were

I_BEHi: is the internationalization behavior of the firm i.

I_VIS: is the internationalization speed of the firm i.

IVIS: is the international vision of the entreprenur.

IEXP: is the international experience of the entrepreneur.

RES: is the social networks of the entrepreneur.

ISKL: is the international skills of the entrepreneur.

TRAIN: is the training of the entrepreneur.

EORI: is the international entrepreneurial orientation of the entrepreneur.

LORI: is the learning orientaion of the entrepreneur.

MORI: is the market orientation of the entrepreneur.

ε: is the error term.

4. Results and Discussion

Before performing the regressions, we checked the conditions for its use ie the linearity of the model (the variables are related linearly to explain each of the explanatory variables), the minimum number of participants, the lack of multi-collinearity between the explanatory variables, and finally, the absence of self-correlation of the error through the Durbin-Watson.

Table 5 presents the results of regression analyzes of both models (1) and (2). The results of the first model show that the international vision significantly influences the behavior of internationalization of young firms. This result justifies the work of Oviatt and McDougall (1994) and those of Weerawardena et al. (2007) that demonstrate the vision and perception of the leader with respect to the international is one of the decisive factors for the adoption of an approach to rapid development and early international. Thereafter, the past experience of the international entrepreneur determines the behavioral nature of the internationalization of the company. This result is in line with several studies that have shown that new businesses run by managers with experience abroad were able to internationalize their business faster and with a more active behavior than those whose leaders lack knowledge and past experiences and that reactively rather commit abroad (McDougall & Oviatt, 1997; Bloodgood et al, 1996, Weerawardena et al, 2007.). Second, social networks have a positive and significant effect on the change in behavior of the SME International. In this sense, more leaders, entrepreneurs have social networks, more foreign markets will be addressed proactively. This result is in line with the theory of social capital and network of internationalization (McDougall and Oviatt, 1994; McDougall and Oviatt 2003; Coviello & McAuley, 1999 Coviello, 2006) approach.

Table 5. Résultats de la régression des deux modèles (1) et (2)

Similarly, the international expertise of the ruling group positively and significantly influences the behavior of SME internationalization. This implies that the international expertise of the management team determines the behavior model of internationalization so that businesses run by managers with expertise in the conduct of international affairs act proactively to International '(Sapienza et al., 2006). Finally, the variable training positively affects the internationalization behavior of the firm. These results verify our first hypothesis about the positive relationship between personal resources of the entrepreneur and the internationalization behavior of the young SMEs.

On the other hand, all variables related to the strategic orientations have significant influences on the internationalization behavior of the young SMEs confirming the third hypothesis and the results generated by Cavusgil and Knight (2004).

The results of the regression analyzes on the internationalization speed are presented in Model 2. The results of this model show that the signs of links between personal resources and strategic orientations with the internationalization speed (hypotheses 2 and 4) are statistically significant. As it is found in the modelfive variables related to personal resources of the entrepreneur are statistically significant (hypothesis 2). As expected, the international vision of the entrepreneur influences the internationalization speed of young firms. Thus, an officer who has a past international experience positively influences the rate of internationalization in the early years of international development. This result is in line with several studies that have shown that new businesses run by managers with experience abroad were able to internationalize their business faster than those whose leaders lack knowledge and previous experiments (McDougall and Oviatt, 1994; Bloodgood et al., 1996; McDougall and Oviatt, 2005). Then, social networking has a positive and significant impact on the speed of SMEs internationalization. This result is in line with the theory of social capital and network approach to internationalization (McDougall and Oviatt, 1994; McDougall and Oviatt 2003; Coviello and McAuley, 1999; Coviello, 2006), and corresponds well to the finding that relational resources entrepreneurs play a key role in the internationalization process. Similarly, the international skills variable is an important determinant of the speed of SMEs internationalization. This result implies that international skills of the management team determines the internationalization model so that businesses run by managers with expertise in the conduct of international affairs and actively engage quickly international leaders lack these skills (Sapienza, et al., 2006; Weerawardena et al., 2007; Knight and Cavusgil, 2004). Finally, the variable training of the entrepreneur has a positive influence on the internationalization speed of the firm. These results verify our first hypothesis about the positive relationship between personal resources of the entrepreneur and the internationalization speed of the firm. Subsequently, all variables related to the strategic orientations have a significant and positive impact on the internationalization speed of SMEs which confirms hypothesis 4 and the results generated by McDougall and Oviatt (2005).

5. Conclusion

The objective of this study is to identify factors that influence the dynamic behavior of internationalization of young Tunisian manufacturing firms. In this context, our research contributes to the identification of internal behavioral determinants of entrepreneurial internationalization of young firms in an economic context of potential carriers pressures. It shows a strong interrelation between proactive behavior, dynamic resources and experience of the firm. This interaction aims to enrich the traditional framework of the internationalization behavior analysis, taking into account the personal resources of the entrepreneur-manager and the strategic direction of the firm.

Taking into account the dynamics of the international involvement of SMEs process, we analyzed firstly the impact of explanatory factors on the internationalization behavior at startup. More specifically, we analyzed separately the impact of dynamic resources of the entrepreneur-leader and the impact of the strategic orientations of the firm on the nature of the behavior of the initial commitment of the SME. We next examined the factors influencing the internationalization speed of the firm. Thus, this study was subject to a sample of 56 young manufacturing firms in the region of Sfax, chosen according to well-defined criteria.

The results unambiguously mark the role of the entrepreneur in the early start and fast speed of international expansion of his young business. Thus, we find that strategic skills related to international business, international past experiences, social networks, are with the international vision of the leader-entrepreneur are the key variables of border crossings and the actual speed accelerators subsequent international commitment. However, it turned out from the empirical study that the entrepreneur training is a main determinant of the early and rapid internationalization, but with a low level of significance. Furthermore, our study shows that proactive behavior and the rate of presence in foreign markets are motivated by internal factors related to the strategic orientations of the firm. Indeed, the dynamic behavior of young companies in the early stages of internationalization is influenced significantly by the international entrepreneurial orientation on the initial commitment and the penetration speed of foreign markets. Learning orientation and international market orientation have also been identified as determinants of behavior dynamics of internationalization of young firms in the sample. Our results confirm the role of these three types of guidance in the early start and fast speed of international expansion.

To pursue this idea, we recommend new avenues of research on the nature of the impact of internationalization on the performance. More specifically, we suggest considering the performance for different types of internationalization process based on the combination of the two dimensions that are the age and the speed of internationalization. This allows to distinguish different internationalization process for which we recommend to test their impact on the growth of international sales. Therefore, studying the impact of these processes on performance discusses the relationship between internationalization and performance in a new light by including temporal variables are age and speed of internationalization.

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