Andrea Kuiken (2019)

Exploring the internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises as a discontinuous process

Internationalization is an important growth strategy for small and medium-sizedenterprises (SMEs). Yet, it is also a complex process since it involves a large variety of decisions and addressing the diverse nature of and unfamiliarity with foreign markets can especially be challenging for SMEs. Because SMEs have fewer resources they tend to be less equipped for internationalization and become more vulnerable to changes in the external environment. Therefore, continued growth in foreign markets is not easy nor guaranteed and instead, SMEs can de-internationalize and potentially re-internationalize. Thus, internationalization can be described as a discontinuous process.

Overall, the dissertation responds to a call for research on the dynamics in the internationalization process and makes four important contributions to the literatures on SME internationalization, family business and internationalization performance. First, it shows how family control can influence intermittent exporting. Second, it adds to the discussion on de-internationalization of SMEs by highlighting the role of attitudinal commitment in the de-internationalization process. Third, it extends the socioemotional wealth perspective by adding a real options lens to it. Fourth, a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between exit from exporting and performance is provided by proposing that exit from exporting can have costs as well as benefits and showing empirically that under certain circumstances exit from exporting can be beneficial for SME performance.