Antecedents to Export Performance and How Italian and Slovanian SME's Innovate During Times of Crisis

Maurizio Massaro, Arthur Rubens, Roland Bardy, Carlo Bagnoli


This paper explores how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating in Northern Italy and Slovenia used their innovative potential to expan business across the border while their home markets suffered from the great recession that started in 2007.  The background of the study is an analysis of the antecedents to export performance and internationlization, which specifically asked whether innovating incrementally or innovating radically contributes to export performance in foreign markets and how this ultimately interacts with strategic considerations and the propensity to take risks.  The findings of the study showed that export performance is positively influenced by incremental innovation and risk preference and that there is a relationship between innovation and export performance.  These findings contribute to the question whether classical internationalization theories such as the Uppsala Internationalization Model and the Innovation-related Model, can be applied in contingency situations of economic crisis.


SME; internationalization strategies and theories; entering foreign markets; radical and incremental innovation; risk preference; export performance; strategic intent


Acedo, F.J. & Galan, J.L. (2011). Export stimuli revisited: The influence of the characteristics of managerial decision makers on international behavior. International Small Business Journal, 29(6), 648–670.

Andersen, O. (1993). On the Internationalization Process of Firms: A Critical Analysis.

Journal of International Business Studies, 24(2), 209-231.

Andersen, T.J. & Nielsen, B.B. (2009). Adaptive strategy making: The effects of emergent and intended strategy modes. European Management Review, 6(2), 94– 106.

Anon Higon, D. & Driffield, N. (2011). Exporting and innovation performance: Analysis of the annual Small Business Survey in the UK. International Small Business Journal, 29(1), 4–24.

Ahokangas, P. (1998). Internationalization and resources: an analysis of processes in Nordic SMEs. Doctoral Dissertation, Universitas Wasaensis, Vaasa.

Bagchi-Sen, S. & Kuechler, L. (2000). Strategic and functional orientation of small and medium sized enterprises in professional services: An analysis of public accountancy. The Service Industries Journal, 20(3), 117–146.

Barbosa, S.D., Gerhardt, M.W. & Kickul, J.R. (2007). The Role of Cognitive Style and Risk Preference on Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy and Entrepreneurial Intentions. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 13(4), 86–104.

Basile, R. (2001). Export behaviour of Italian manufacturing firms over the nineties: The role of innovation. Research Policy, 30(8), 1185–1201.

Bell, J. (1995), The internationalization of small computer software firms: A further challenge to ‘stage’ theories. European Journal of Marketing, 29(8), 60–75.

Bell, J., Crick, D. & Young, S. (2004). Small firm internationalization and business strategy: an exploratory study of ‘knowledge-intensive’ and ‘traditional’ manufacturing firms in the UK. International Small Business Journal, 22, 23-56.

Carneiro, J., Rocha, A. Da & Silva, J.F. Da. (2011). Determinants of Export Performance : a Study of Large Brazilian Manufacturing Firms. Brazilian Administration Review, 8(2), 107–132.

Cassar, G. (2007). Money, money, money? A longitudinal investigation of entrepreneur career reasons, growth preferences and achieved growth. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development,19(1), 89–107.

Cassiman, B. & Golovko, E. (2011). Innovation and internationalization through exports.

Journal of International Business Studies, 42(1), 56-75.

Cavusgil, S.T. (1980). On the Internationalisation Process of Firms. European Research, 8(6), 273–81.

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). Cultural intelligence and export performance of small and medium enterprises in Thailand: Mediating roles of organizational capabilities. International Small Business Journal, 36(1), 105-122.

Choi, Y.R. & Shepherd, D.A. (2004). Entrepreneurs’ Decisions to Exploit Opportunities.

Journal of Management, 30(3), 377–395.

Cohen, S., Naoum, V.-C. & Vlismas, O. (2014). Intellectual capital, strategy and financial crisis from a SMEs perspective. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 15(2), 294–315.

Cowling, M., Liu, W., Ledger, A., & Zhang, N. (2015). What really happens to small and medium-sized enterprises in a global economic recession? UK evidence on sales and job dynamics. International Small Business Journal, 33(5), 488-513.

Dhanaraj, C., & Beamish, P. W. (2003). A resource‐based approach to the study of

export performance. Journal of small business management, 41(3), 242-261.

Daszkiewicz, N., & Wach, K. (2012). Internationalization of SMEs. Context, Models and Implementation. Gdańsk, Poland: Gdańsk University of Technology Publishers.

Danneels, E. (2002). The dynamics of product innovation and firm competences. Strategic Management Journal, 23(12), 1095– 1121.

DeClercq, D., Dimov, D. & Thongpapanl, N. (2015). Structural and relational interdependence and entrepreneurial orientation in small and medium-sized enterprises: The mediating role of internal knowledge sharing. International Small Business Journal, 33(5), 514-536.

Deng, Z., Guo, H., Zhang, W. & Wang, C. (2014). Innovation and survival of exporters: A contingency perspective. International Business Review, 23(2), 396–406.

Dess, G. and Robinson, R.B. (1984) Measuring Organisational Performance in the Absence of Objective Measures, Strategic Management Journal, 5, 265-73.

Diamantopoulos, A. & Singuaw, J.A. (2000). Introducing LISREL. Sage, Los Angeles, doi:10.4135/9781849209359.

Dilalla, L.F. (2000). Structural Equation Modelling: Uses and Issues, in Tinsley, H.E.A. and Weiss, D.J. (Eds.) Handbook of Applied Multivariate Statistics and Mathematical Modeling, (pp 439–464), Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Douglas, E.J. (2013). Reconstructing entrepreneurial intentions to identify predisposition for growth. Journal of Business Venturing, 28(5), 633–651.

Døving, E. & Gooderham, P.N. (2008). Dynamic capabilities as antecedents of the scope of related diversification: The case of small firm accountancy practices. Strategic Management Journal, 29(8), 841–857.

Dutta, D.K. & Thornhill, S. (2008). The evolution of growth intentions: Toward a cognition-based model. Journal of Business Venturing, 23(3), 307–332.

Elango, B. (2000) An Exploratory Study into the Linkages Between Corporate Resources and the Extent and Form of Internationalization of U.S. Firms, American Business Review, 18 (2), 12-26.

Elliott, L. (2011, August 7). Global financial crisis: five key stages 2007-2011. Retrieved from

European Commission. (2007). The Flash Eurobarometer, Brussels. Retrieved from

European Commission. (2014). Enterprise and Industry 2014 SBA Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

Eurostat (2015) Your Key to European Statistics. Retrieved Oct 20, 2015, from:

Financial Forecast Center (2015) Retrieved Oct 20, 2015, from:;

Gemunden, H.G. (1991). Success Factors of Export Marketing: A Meta-Analytic Critique of the Empirical Studies, in Paliwoda, S.J. (ed.), New Perspectives on International Marketing (pp 33–62), London: Routledge.

Grant, R.M. (1996). Toward a Knowledge-Based Theory of the Firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17, 109–122.

Hamel, G. & Prahalad, C.K. (1989). Strategic intent. Harvard Business Review, 67(7), 63–76.

Harms R, Reschke C.H., Kraus S., & Fink M. (2010). Antecedents of innovation and growth: Analyzing the impact of entrepreneurial orientation and goal-oriented management. International Journal of Technology Management, 52(1–2), 135–152.

Harris, R. & Li, Q.C. (2009). Exporting, R & D and absorptive capacity in UK establishments: Evidence from the 2001 community innovation survey. Oxford Economic Papers, 61(1), 74–103.

Henry, L. (2013). Intellectual capital in a recession: Evidence from UK SMEs. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 14(1), 84–101.

Hsu, I.-C. & Sabherwal, R. (2012). Relationship between Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management: An Empirical Investigation. Decision Sciences, 43(3), 489–524.

Hutchinson, Fleck and Lloyd‐Reason, (2009) An investigation into the initial barriers to internationalization: Evidence from small UK retailers. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 16(4), pp.544 - 568.

Iacobucci, D. & Spigarelli, F. (2010). Internationalization in Italian Medium Sized Firms: Does Stage Theory Explain the Observed Patterns. In Internationalization, Technological Change and the Theory of the Firm. Editors Nicola De Liso and Riccardo Leoncini. London: Routledge.

Ibeh, K., Johnson, J.E., Dimitratos, P. & Slow, J. (2004). Micromultinationals: Some Preliminary Evidence on an Emergent ‘Star’ of the International Entrepreneurship Field. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 2(4), 289–303.

Johanson, J. & Vahlne, J.-E. (1975). The internationalization process of the firm- Four Swedish case studies. Journal of Management Studies, 12(3), 305–323.

Johanson, J. & Vahlne, J.-E. (1992). Management of Foreign Management Entry.

Scandinavian International Business Review, 1(3), 9–27.

Kraus S, Rigtering JP, Coen JP, et al. (2012). Entrepreneurial orientation and the business performance of SMEs: A quantitative study from the Netherlands. Review of Managerial Science, 6(2), 161–182.

Kline, R.B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling, Second Ed. The Guilford Press, New York.

Lefebvre, É., Lefebvre, L.A. & Bourgault, M. (1998). R&D-Related Capabilities as Determinants of Export Performance. Small Business Economics, 10(4), 365–377.

Leonidou, L.C. & Katsikeas, C.S. (1996). The Export Development Process: An Integrative Review of Empirical Models. Journal of International Business Studies, 27, 517–551.

Love, J.H., Roper, S. & Du, J. (2009). Innovation, ownership and profitability. International Journal of Industrial Organization, 27(3), 424–434.

McDougall, P.P. and Oviatt, B.M. (1996) New Venture Internationalization, Strategic Change, and

Performance: A Follow-up Study. Journal of Business Venturing, II, 23-40.

Masum, M., & Fernandez, A. (2008). Internationalization Process of SMEs: Strategies and Methods. Master Thesis, Mälardalen University, School of Sustainable Development of Society and Technology, Västerås, Sweden.

Medsker, G.J., Williams, L.J. & Holahan, P.J. (1994). A review of current practices for evaluating causal models in organizational behavior and human resources management research. Journal of Management, 20(2): 439–464.

Minguela-Rata, B., Fernández-Menéndez, J. & Fossas-Olalla, M. (2014). Cooperation with suppliers, firm size and product innovation. Industrial Management & Data Systems, 114(3), 438–455.

Moini, H. & Moini, A.H. (1995). An Inquiry Into Successful Exporting: An Empirical Investigation Using A Three-Stage Model. Journal of Small Business Management, 33(3), 9–25.

Morgan, N.A., Kaleka, A. & Katsikeas, C.S. (2004). Antecedents of Export Venture Performance: A Theoretical Model and Empirical Assessment. Journal of Marketing 68, 90-108.

Nakos, G., Brouthers, K.D. and Brouthers, L.E. (I 998). The Impact of Firm and Managerial

Characteristics on Small and Medium-Sized Greek Firms' Export Performance. Journal of Global Marketing, 11 (4), 23-47.

Nguyen, A.N., Quang Pham, N., Nguyen, C.D. & Nguyen, N.D. (2008). Innovation and exports in Vietnam’s SME sector. The European Journal of Development Research, 20(2), 262–280.

Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company. How Japanese companies create the dynamic of innovation, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

O'Cass, A., & Weerawardena, J. (2009). Examining the role of international entrepreneurship, innovation and international market performance in SME internationalization. European Journal of Marketing, 43(11/12), 1325-1348.

OEC (Observatory of Economic Complexity, (2016, July 30). Italy. Retrieved from

OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009). OECD Economic Surveys: Slovenia 2009, OECD, Paris.

Paci, R., & Usai, S. (2000). Technological enclaves and industrial districts: an analysis of the regional distribution of innovative activity in Europe. Regional studies, 34(2), 97-114.

Papadopoulos, N. & Martín Martín, O. (2010). Toward a model of the relationship between internationalization and export performance. International Business Review, 19(4), 388–406.

Pla-Barber, J. & Alegre, J. (2007). Analysing the Link between Export Intensity, Innovation and Firm Size in a Science-based Industry. International Business Review 16(3), 275–293.

Reeb, D., Sakakibara, M., & Mahwood, I.P. (2012). From the Editors: Endogeneity in international business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 43(3), 211-218.

Reynolds, P.D. (1997). New and Small Firms in Expanding Markets. Small Business Economics, 9(1), 79–84.

Robb, D.J., Xie, B. & Arthanari, T. (2008). Supply chain and operations practice and performance in Chinese furniture manufacturing. International Journal of Production, Economics 112(2), 683–699.

Ruzzier, M., Antončič, B., & Konečnik, M. (2006). The resource-based approach to the internationalisation of SMEs: Differences in resource bundles between internationalised and non-internationalised companies. Zagreb International Review of Economics and Business, 9 (2), 95-116.

Ruzzier, M., Hisrich, R. D., & Antoncic, B. (2006). SME internationalization research: past, present, and future. Journal of small business and enterprise development 13(4), 476-497.

Shamsuddoha, a. K., Ali, M.Y. & Ndubisi, N.O. (2009). Impact of government export assistance on internationalization of SMEs from developing nations. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 22(4), 408–422.

Sharabati, A.A., Jawad, S.N. & Bontis, N. (2010). Intellectual capital and business performance in the pharmaceutical sector of Jordan. Management Decision, 48(1): 105–131.

Shih, K.-H., Chang, C.-J. & Lin, B. (2010). Assessing knowledge creation and intellectual capital in banking industry. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 11(1), 74–89.

Shrader, R.C. (2001). Collaboration and Performance in Foreign Markets: The Case of Young High-Technology Manufacturing Firms. Academy of Management Journal, 44 ( 1), 45-60.

Slovenia Times (2015, December 01). Slovenia at Bottom of EU Rankings in Inward FDI. Retrieved from

Spanos, Yiannis E. and Lioukas, Spyros (2001). An Examination into the Causal Logic of Rent

Generation: Contrasting Porter's Competitive Strategy Framework and the Resource-Based Perspective. Strategic Management Journal, (22), 907-934.

St-Pierre, J. & Audet, J. (2011). Intangible assets and performance: Analysis on manufacturing SMEs. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 12(2), 202–223.

Straub, D.W. (1989). Validating instruments in MIS research. MIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems, 13(2), 147–165.

Svetlicic, M. (2004). Outward foreign direct investment by enterprises from Slovenia. Transnational Corporation 16(1), 55-87.

UNCTAD (2004), World Investment Report, 2004: The shift toward Services. United Nations, New York and Geneva,

Wakelin, K. (1998). Innovation and export behaviour at the firm level. Research Policy, 26(7-8), 829-841.

Westland, C.J. (2012). Modern path analysis and structural equation models. CreateSpace

Independent Publishing Platform, London.

Wolff, J.A. & Pett, T.L. (2000). Internationalization of Small Firms: An Examination of Export Competitive, Patterns, Firm Size and Export Performance. Journal of small Business Management, 38(4), 34–47.

Wright, M., Westhead, P., & Ucbasaran, D. (2007). Internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and international entrepreneurship: A critique and policy implications. Regional Studies, 41(7), 1013-1030.

Yi, J., Wang, C. & Kafouros, M. (2013). The effects of innovative capabilities on exporting: Do institutional forces matter? International Business Review, 22(2), 392–406.

Zikmund, W.G. (2003). Business Research Methods. Thomson/South-Western, Mason, USA.

Full Text: Article.PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The IEECA Press

ISSN 2328-8272 (print)   ISSN 2328-8280 (online)