Creating purposeful networks in the internationalization process
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 09:38 authored by Frances Y. M. Chang
Networks have emerged as an important area of study in the resource-seeking behaviour of international entrepreneurs. For many international entrepreneurs, sourcing and managing resources are key challenges in the pursuit of international markets, and increasingly, a network approach to internationalization is seen by internationalizing entrepreneurs as a means to access vital resources. Studies on a network approach to internationalization tend to focus on the benefits that networks provide but most fall short of describing how networks are developed and the network characteristics that might influence access to network resources. This thesis presents four studies to examine the role of networks as resource providers for entrepreneurs in their pursuit of international markets. Study I explores the processes by which international entrepreneurs develop networks while Study II examines the role of collaboration networks as resource providers. Both Studies I and II are designed to detect structural network characteristics that influence access to network resources. Results suggest that while serendipity might play a role in network development, international entrepreneurs are strategic and intentional in their approach to developing networks. Pre-existing ties are crucial in providing the first connections to many resource opportunities such as information and knowledge but more importantly, pre-existing ties provide vital referral links to other networks which, directly and indirectly, help to expand entrepreneurs’ networks. The social network analyses from Study I and II indicate the importance of both strong and weak ties. Strength of ties is important because different tie strength presents different resource opportunities. Social network analyses also indicate the necessity of multiplex relationships where entrepreneurs engage in building multiple roles through various collaborative activities with actors in the network. This implies strategic economies of network management, as deepening network ties strengthen relationships and strong relationships potentially lead to more efficient exchanges. Despite the many resource opportunities that pre-existing ties provide, there are limits to the breath and diversity of resources available. To expand the range of resource opportunities, public networks such as government agencies and industry associations present viable options for resource-seeking international entrepreneurs. Study III is a qualitative exploration into the role of government agencies and industry associations as resource providers. From interviews with internationalizing entrepreneurs, results suggest that government networks are instrumental in providing information resources but it is industry networks that tend to provide links to knowledge resources. Despite this positive finding, both government and industry associations fall short of entrepreneurs’ expectations in terms of providing experiential knowledge and connections to international markets. Study IV is a quantitative enquiry to obtain statistical evidence of the relationships between networks and export income likelihood. A government dataset comprising 2263 ‘small and medium-sized’ enterprises (SMEs) is used. Results indicate positive and significant relationships between networks and export income likelihood. Specifically, government networks have the most influence on export likelihoods among SMEs, followed by industry networks and professional networks. Furthermore, results indicate that SMEs increase their likelihood to export if allnetworks in the sample are accessed between one to three times a year, controllingfor other factors, such as firm size, firm age, foreign ownership, types of legalorganization and industry segments.From a practitioners’ perspective, this thesis provides meaningful insights for resource-seeking international entrepreneurs. Evidence supports prior studies that networks provide links to resources. Moreover, it is the nurturing of network relations based on mutually beneficial value exchanges that result in multiplex relationships. Multiplex relationships lead to repeated exchanges and vice versa, thus creating a rich pool of network resource opportunities. Theoretical and empirical studies from resource-based views, resource dependency, social exchange and social network analysis provide the underpinning for this thesis. This integrated approach contributes to knowledge and offers a wider research framework for future studies of networks as a means to resourceopportunities for internationalizing entrepreneurs.