Rapidly internationalising professional service firms: enhancing our understanding of the firm internationalisation process
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 02:18 authored by Murray Taylor
The past two decades have seen a surge of interest in both rapidly internationalising firms and the nature of professional service firms (PSFs). While rapid internationalisation pathways are commonly associated with high-tech manufacturing firms there has been limited research suggesting that PSFs fit this model. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to this discussion and investigate the following Research Problem: 'Why and how do rapidly internationalising professional service firms enter foreign markets?' The nature of PSFs, and their unique characteristics, is discussed and a conceptual framework outlining three specific aspects of the internationalisation process – the drive to internationalise, the choice of markets and the choice of market commitment – is presented. The research problem was investigated by means of a multiple case study design. More specifically, in-depth interviews with founders and key employees of seven Australian PSFs were carried out. By investigating the case firms within a conceptual framework, the internationalisation process of each case study was explored and examined. The findings in this study demonstrate that the case study companies have key differences in their rapid internationalisation processes, particularly the firms' choice of markets and choice of market commitment. The findings present several reasons behind these deviations. Operational knowledge of founders is a key factor in the firms' internationalisation and is considered more important than market knowledge, cultural similarity or founders' previous experience when selecting markets. Entrepreneurs have a critical role to play throughout the internationalisation process as they embody the firms' knowledge enabling them to choose exporting before shifting to higher levels of market commitment. The need for continuous, client interaction combined with specialised complex knowledge presents exceptional challenges for PSFs in their rapid internationalisation and influences their internationalisation strategies. The research findings extended the body of knowledge for both rapid internationalisation and PSF literatures by exploring key factors that are present in rapid PSF internationalisation. Rapid internationalisation theory needs to be updated to account for PSFs and their characteristics, including the need for face to face communication with the client and the importance of client relationships. This will build on the insights and new knowledge found for links between internationalisation processes present in this research and will further benefit service firms and industries looking to internationalise rapidly.