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Coping with uncertainty in the internationalisation strategy: An exploratory study on entrepreneurial firms

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 15:42 authored by Giovanna Magnani, Antonella Zucchella
Internationalisation decisions are a paradigmatic case of strategising under conditions of uncertainty (Vahlne et al., 2017). This is particularly evident in the case of smaller entrepreneurial firms (Laufs and Schwens, 2014; Cavusgil and Knight, 2015). The International Entrepreneurship literature reports ample evidence of small and young firms venturing successfully in international markets (Crick and Jones, 2000; Ibeh, 2003; Keen and Etemad, 2012), notwithstanding their supposed paucity of resources. Constraints in terms of resources prevent them from engaging extensively into data analysis and planning activities, a strategy that can revert a situation of uncertainty into a situation of risk (Li et al., 2004). If so, how do smaller firms approach foreign markets under conditions of true Knightian uncertainty? And which strategic options fit better in the case of entrepreneurial internationalisation (Autio, 2017) in smaller firms? This contribution aims at providing some answers to this question, addressing a gap in studies, and encompassing different typologies of international ventures, from born globals and international new ventures (INVs), to enduring established internationalisers, old born globals, born-again global firms, and micro-multinationals (mMNEs)1. In addressing this gap, we combine the entrepreneurial decision-making perspective under Knightian uncertainty with international marketing (IM), international entrepreneurship (IE) and international business (IB) studies. Authors have called for research about the strategies pursued by entrepreneurial firms to achieve a global reach (Autio, 2017; Knight and Liesch, 2016; Love and Roper, 2015) and about their international marketing approaches (Styles and Seymour, 2006; Zou et al., 2015). In particular, the investigation at the intersection of the Marketing and Entrepreneurship interface (Fillis, 2001) improves our understanding of smaller firms’ internationalisation. The paper is structured as follows. First, we review the strategic responses to risk and uncertainty in the internationalisation process. Then we present and discuss the exploratory research, based on 10 case studies. We apply a grounded theory approach, following a call for the adoption of this method in IB research (Gligor et al., 2015), uncovering how firms understand and deal with uncertainty in their international growth. The conclusions illustrate the implications of this work for the literature, some future research directions, and the main limitations. This contribution has managerial implications as well, inasmuch as it highlights some practices adopted to successfully deal with uncertainty, for smaller firms in particular.



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International Marketing Review





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Faculty of Business & Law

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