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Designing export performance model based on organizational orientations.


This study extends prior researches by exploring the effect of organizational orientations on export performance. Building on the already extensive literature, we developed a model of relationship. A total of 120 usable questionnaires were received from the Iranian food industry SMEs. The results indicated that entrepreneurial orientation, market orientation and learning orientation positively impact export performance. Market orientation positively influences learning orientation. Furthermore, both market and learning orientation positively impact entrepreneurial orientation. Additionally, market orientation indirectly impacts export performance via entrepreneurial and learning performance. Learning orientation also indirectly impacts export performance via entrepreneurial orientation. Most empirical studies have been conducted in developed countries, rather than in developing countries. This is the first examination of the role of three organizational orientations in Iranian SMEs. This study is aimed at companies who wish to increase their performance. Managers can also enhance their chances of success by developing the different orientations.


Entrepreneurial orientation, Export performance, Learning orientation, Market orientation.


Several studies were conducted regarding the factors that affect export performance. In each of these studies, the variables considered directly or indirectly affect export performance. Most of the basic researches were carried out in the field of exports for distinguishing exporters and non-exporters. As a result, they primarily consider the process of the company's internationalization. After that, the researchers of this paper examined the external factors that impact export such as incentive programmes. In the third phase, the researchers examined the factors relating to the behaviour of the companies that contribute to exports and its results. The fourth set of researchers studied the factors that have an impact on the effectiveness or success of export of companies (Ghilani Nia and Zahmatkesh, 2006). An important factor that influences performance is organizational orientation (market orientation, learning orientation and entrepreneurial orientation). Thus, the purpose of this paper was twofold. First, it aimed to integrate EO, MO and LO to explain how they can enhance export performance. The second objective was to present a conceptual model that depicted the proposed relationships among the constructs of interest in this paper. The first research question of this paper was: is there any relationship between MO, LO, EO and export performance? The second was: is the relationship between MO-export performance and LO-export performance mediated through the EO? The next section of this paper discusses, in detail, each of the constructs included. Following this, the proposed relationships are presented, along with the conceptual model. In the final section, discussion and conclusion are provided.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

Market Orientation

Since the 1980s, market oriented research has been used as an effective strategy to influence the performance of companies. 'Market oriented' is a significant concept in marketing theory and a trend in market learning. In other words, it is based on the understanding of the market and using it for marketing activities. Thus, we can consider market orientation as a business philosophy that conducts competitive strategies of organizations. Chirani and Roodsari (2009) noted that market orientation gained more attention than other types of marketing disciplines during the 1990s. This is because market orientations are defined as a company's ability to continuously learn about customers, competitors and environmental factors in existing and potential markets. Although many studies have been carried out regarding market orientation, the two views below are considered to be the most important.

Behavioural Perspective

Behavioural perspective focuses on organizational characteristics such as strategy, structure, processes and activities. We can find various definitions of the behavioural perspective of market orientation in market orientation literature. Kohli and Jaworski's (1990) defined market orientation as the creation of market insight across an organization. It focuses on current and future customer needs, the dissemination of this insight between the departments and the response of all the departments to it. The concept of market orientation directly focuses on the acquiring of information, dissemination of information and its process of application. It further focuses on its relationship with the identification and the effective service to customers' needs and wants.

Cultural Perspectives

The most significant study of this perspective is found in the work of Narver and Slater.

They put forward the idea that market orientation provides a cultural construct that focuses on satisfying the customers' needs and wants and trying to be better than their competitors. The cultural perspective of market orientation defines it as an organizational culture that includes values and norms. It continuously increases values and customer satisfaction.

Narver and Slater (1990) believe that market orientation promotes a cultural environment where customer satisfaction, service quality and maintaining the distinct needs of clients are top priorities. Market orientation is an organizational culture that includes behavioural components such as customer oriented, competitor oriented and coordination between functions. It emphasizes two criteria of decision making: long-term focus and profit focus. Our study focuses on the behavioural perspective.

Learning Orientation

The learning organization is largely concerned with scientists, managers, leaders of organizations and companies. With this, individuals and organizations acquire new learning to organize them into a learning organization. The organizational learning issue was raised in the 1970s. The process of individuals learning within an organization is called organizational learning (Rahnavard, 2000). Organizational learning is used for describing certain kinds of activities that are used in organizations. Organizational learning is the process of knowledge acquisition, information distribution, information interpretation and organizational memory that adapt to changing conditions. Learning organization is an organization where learning is considered as a permanent need of employees. Thus, the emphasis is on learning about how to learn: how to acquire and distribute new knowledge, how to create and produce newly acquired knowledge and information and how to manifest this knowledge in behaviour and performance (Ghahremani, 2005).

A company can collect and use the knowledge that is based on organizational learning. Learning orientation examines three components: commitment to learning, shared vision and open mindedness (Sinkula et al., 1997). Commitment to learning highlights the importance of an organization to encourage a learning culture. Committed learning organizations value the need to understand the cause and effects of their performance (Calantone et al., 2002). Open mindedness is associated with knowledge. Companies which are open minded re-evaluate their long-term assumptions and beliefs. This is an organizational value that leads the efforts to avoid forgetting (Sinkula et al., 1997). Shared vision is the centralization of learning that develops commitment, energy and purpose among members. An organization with a learning orientation strategy creates an environment for learning and encourages learning.

Entrepreneurship Orientation

The concept of entrepreneurship closely relates to the encouragement of new opportunities in an innovative, very risky and proactive way. Entrepreneurship orientation is defined as an entrepreneurship in organizational level (Lee et al., 2001).

McDougall and Oviatt (2000) defined entrepreneurship as the ability of managers to take risks, be innovative and more proactive.

Lumpkin and Dess (1996, 2001) defined entrepreneurial orientation as processes and activities that are used by entrepreneurs who decide to enter new markets or support entrepreneurial opportunities. For over two decades, researchers have examined various aspects of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship includes a proactive encouragement of new opportunities, risk taking and innovation (Fredric Kropp et al., 2006).

The Relationship between Market Orientation and Export Performance

Many scholars have focused their studies on the influence of market orientation on consistent performance (Deshpande and Farley, 1998, 2000; Deshpande et al., 2000; Jaworski and Kohli, 1993; Kohli and Jaworski, 1990; Fredric Kropp et al., 2006). Some studies state the negative relationship between market orientation and performance, whilst others do not believe there is a correlation between the two. The majority of studies demonstrate that market orientation is positively associated with organizational performance, as research continues to show (Avlonitis & Gounaris, 1999; Deng & Dart, 1994; Leticia Santos-Vijande et al., 2005; Boohene et al., 2012). Some new researches about the relationship between market orientation and performance are summarized in Table 1.

Taking into account the above literature, we can say:

[H.sub.1]: Market orientation is positively associated with export performance.

The Relationship between Learning Orientation and Export Performance

Numerous studies have examined the relationship between learning orientation and organizational performance (Slater and Narver, 1994; Hurley & Hult, 1998; Leticia Santos-Vijande, 2005).

Many studies regarding learning orientation and export performance have been carried out. Feedback from customers, competitors and channels have been used to develop competency (Sinkula et al., 1997). As Calantone et al. (2002) suggest, adopting just one strategy alone will not result in higher profits. One of the most important characteristics of learning oriented firms is fostering an environment where change and adjustments can be made. Learning oriented firms are even willing to question their well-operated organization systems. These views and strategies result in a better performance. Some new researches regarding the effect of learning orientation on performance are summarized in Table 2.

With this in mind, it can be stated that:

[H.sub.2]: Learning orientation is positively associated with export performance.

The Relationship between Market Orientation and Learning Orientation

Farrell and Oczkowski (2002) reviewed existing literature regarding the relationship between market orientation and learning orientation which suggested three models. The first model showed that organizational learning is the foundation of market orientation and improves organizational performance (Santos, et al., 2005). The second model showed that, in order to improve performance, market orientation has priority over learning orientation (Farrell, 2000; Slater & Narver, 1995).

The final model stated that both concepts of market orientation and learning orientation have a direct relationship with organizational performance (Baker & Sinkula, 1999).

The main objective of research regarding learning orientation and market orientation is to explore how the successful acquisition of knowledge can assist organizations in understanding their customers' needs and improve their performance (Deshpande et al., 1993; Slater & Narver, 1995).

These concepts are not similar. Firstly, organizational learning impacts on creation and uses a broad range of knowledge, not just market-based knowledge (Farrell, 2000).

Market orientation is reflected in the acquisition of knowledge and implies the processing of market information (Baker & Sinkula, 1999).

Learning organizations are characterized by their use of internal and external resources. However, market orientation focuses on customers and competitors, outside of company boundaries (Jimenez-Jimenez and Cegarra-Navarro, 2007).

Market orientation acquires information about current and latent customer needs. It also predicts what competitors are doing to increase customers' value.

Jimenez-Jimenez and Cegarra-Navarro (2007) noted that all acquired knowledge of market orientation can be organizational knowledge. However, this cannot be said for the reverse. Intelligent generation and dissemination are two sub-variables of market orientation which can impact knowledge production. Other new studies regarding the relationship between market orientation and learning orientation are shown in Table 3.

Taking Table 3 into consideration, the following hypothesis is proposed:

[H.sub.3]: Market orientation is positively associated with learning orientation.

Relationship between Market Orientation and Entrepreneurial Orientation

Numerous studies have examined the relationship between market orientation and entrepreneurial orientation (Grant et al., 2006; Grinstein, 2005). They found a positive relationship between MO and EO. Taking this into account, we can say:

[H.sub.4]: Market orientation is positively associated with entrepreneurial orientation.

Relationship between Learning Orientation and Entrepreneurial Orientation

Hurley and Hult (1998) designed a model that defines the relationship between learning orientation and innovation. This view is in accordance with Perez-Bustamante (1999). He suggested that innovation is a result of learning orientation. These concerns support the relationship between innovation and learning orientation. Additionally, recent studies show that there is a significant relationship between learning orientation and innovation. A firm with an EO must learn to innovate and act ahead of their competitors. Thus, a firm's LO is antecedent to an EO and may shape the actions that firms take (Pitt and Wolff). According to the above:

[H.sub.5]: Learning orientation is positively associated with entrepreneurial orientation.

Entrepreneurial Orientation and Export Performance

Some research has found a positive relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and performance (Covin et al., 2006; Ezirim and Maclyton, 2010). Such studies argue that EO helps firms to be more efficient in their activities, notice customer needs and be better than their competitors. As a result, it has competitive advantages and increases performance. Table 4 shows new researches about the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and performance.

With this, we can say:

[H.sub.6]: Entrepreneurial orientation is positively associated with export performance.

Theoretical Framework and Conceptual Model

Combing the study of similar patterns with the results of previous research, the conceptual model for this study consisted of six hypotheses. Figure 1 shows their formulation.



This study was a questionnaire survey that combined a statistical treatment. The sample was composed of firms that were registered as food SMEs in the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran. Firms with less than 100 employees were selected as SMEs, as defined by the Ministry of Commerce of Iran. We randomly selected 150 firms. We requested their participation in our research by means of letter, email or fax. A total of 120 usable questionnaires were received.


For the measurement of market orientation, we used Kohli et al., 1993 scale to assess the three behavioural components (intelligence generation, intelligence dissemination and responsiveness). Learning orientation scales were adapted from Calantone et al., 2002. We use three components of learning orientation (commitment to learning, shared vision and open mindedness).

To measure the entrepreneurial orientation of the firm, we used the scales developed by Covin and Slevin (1989) and Miller and Toulouse (1986). The three components used for measuring EO were named proactiveness, innovativeness and risk taking. Export performance was also measured by the items from the IMP Project Group survey. Items were measured on 5-point Likert scales.


Factor Analysis

A factor analysis was carried out to confirm the reliability of the scale. The single factor loading of items ranged from 0.701 to 0.844 (see Table 5). Coefficient alpha (Cronbach, 1951) for constructs ranged from 0.703 to 0.762. This indicated a moderate to strong level of internal consistency and was an important indication of reliability (Kuratko, Montagno and Hornsby, 1990).

Statistical Analysis

We conducted a variable path analysis to test the various hypotheses formulated (Bentler, 1986). This allowed us to test the specified a priori model and the validity of relationships among variables, set within theoretical structures.

The method of estimation was a robust maximum likelihood with an asymptotic covariance matrix of the sample variances and covariances.

Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS 15.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) and LISREL 8.80 (Scientific Software International Inc., 2007). P- Values less than 0.05 were considered as significant.


The goodness-of-fit values (Table 6) suggested that the research model is reasonably consistent with the data. To assess how these models represented the data, we used absolute fit indices such as the [chi]2 statistic and the goodness-of-fit index (GFI). We also used incremental fit statistics such as the comparative fit index (CFI) and the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA). For both GFI and CFI, values> 0.95 constituted a good fit and values> 0.90 constituted an acceptable fit (Medsker, Williams & Holahan, 1994). For the RMSEA, it was suggested that values< 0.05 constituted a good fit, values in the 0.05 to 0.08 range indicated an acceptable fit. Furthermore, values in the 0.08 to 0.10 range were considered a marginal fit and values> 0.10 were a poor fit (Browne & Cudeck, 1992).

The results of the parameter estimates of the measurement and structural models are shown in Figure 2. The hypotheses results are shown in Table 7.

Path Coefficients and the Results of Significance Tests

Discussion and Conclusion

Organizational orientations have been described as important factors for a firm's success. Reviews of relevant literature showed that the majority of studies on organizational orientations and performance have been conducted in the West. However, any research carried out on this topic has been from Iran. In an effort to bridge this gap, as well as increase our understanding of this important topic, our paper investigated the relationship among organizational orientations and performance indicators of Iranian food industry firms. The results suggest that entrepreneurial (like: Pirrala, 2012; Rauch et al., 2009), market (like: Boohene et al., 2012; Huhtala et al., 2011; Singh and Mahmood, 2012) and learning orientations (like: Ismazlm, 2011; Li and Li, 2010; Frananz-Mesa and Alegre-Vidal, 2013) positively relate to overall export performance. Results indicated that learning orientation has a greater impact on export performance. However, if organizations consider entrepreneurial orientation, they can improve the impact of learning and market orientation. Our results also suggested that market orientation and learning orientation can improve export performance via entrepreneurial orientation, as previously discussed by Perez-Bustamante (1999), Grant et al. (2006) and Grinstein (2005). With regard to organizational orientations in exporting, in order to enhance a firm's market, learning and entrepreneurial orientation appear to be worthwhile. If Iranian food industry firms are to be successful in exporting, their managers need to devote their efforts to develop higher levels of market, learning and entrepreneurial orientation. This greater level of commitment and effort may provide Iranian food industry firms with an additional opportunity to enhance their competitive advantages, as well as to achieve better export performances.

This study has some implications for managers and practitioners. It will help managers to better understand how to manage the entrepreneurial orientation, market orientation and learning orientation in order to improve the performance. The success of MO and LO also lies in their fulfilment of the EO process. When managers want to pursue the performance by being innovative, risk taking and proactive, they should also concern the MO and LO departments.

Research Limitation

There are a number of possible limitations of this research that need to be considered. The first relates to the sample. The sample size was too small- only 120 firms satisfactorily completed the survey instrument.

The research was conducted in Iran, which is a developing country. As such, the results should be applied to developed countries with caution. There is a need to replicate this study in a developed country where the business environment is more stable. Cross-national studies should be conducted to compare the strength of the framework and assess its generalizability across varying business systems and organizational forms.

Future Research Directions

In conducting this study, we uncovered numerous questions that were beyond our scope. However, we would like to see them examined in future studies. Some of these aspects are offered below:

Firstly, even though a direct correlation between EO and export performance was found, we realized some moderators and mediators of the relationship. Future research should explore the complexity of the relationship between EO and export performance. Constructs, such as environmental dynamism, may shed additional light on the results found here.

Secondly, though the complementary effect of EO, MO and LO on export performance are shown here, these effects have contingent factors such as firm environment and organizational demographics.


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Elaheh Taghavi Shavazi, Asghar Moshabaki (*), Seyed Hamid Khodadad Hosseini, Asadollah Kordnaeij

Faculty of Management and Economics, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

(Received: 1 February 2014; Revised: 1 July, 2014; Accepted: 9 July, 2014)

(*) Corresponding Author, Email:

Table 1. New researches about the relationship between market
orientation and performance.

Authors                Result

Boohene et al., 2012   Positive relationship between market
                       orientation and
                       financial performance
                       Positive relationship between market
                       orientation and business
                       performance via mediated role of innovation
                       Positive relationship between market
                       orientation and
                       financial, strategic and product performance
                       Positive relationship between export market
                       orientation and
                       export performance
Miocevic & Crnjak      Positive relationship between export market
Caranovich, 2012       behaviour and export performance
                       Positive relationship between export market
                       behaviour and export performance
Gudlaugsson &          Positive effect of market orientation on
Schalk, 2009           business performance
Vijande et al., 2005   Market orientation has an impact on

Table 2. New researches about relationship between learning orientation
and performance

Author                    Result

Ismazlm 2011              Learning orientation has a positive direct
                          effect on export performance
Frananz-Mesa and          Organizational learning capability has a
Alegre-                   positive
Vidal, 2013               direct effect on export intensity
Li and Li, 2010           Learning orientation has an indirect effect
                          on export performance via knowledge
                          management Learning orientation has a
                          positive effect on firm performance
Calanntone et al., 2002   Learning orientation has an impact on
Aragon-Correra et al.,    Learning orientation and performance are
2007                      directly related

Table 3. New researches about relationship between market orientation
and learning orientation

Author              Result

Keskin, 2006        Market orientation has a positive impact on
                    learning orientation
Eris and Ozmen,     Market orientation has a positive
2012                impact on learning orientation
Chien-Huang, 2008   Market orientation is positively associated with
                    learning orientation
Rupcic, 2006        Market orientation has a positive relationship with
                    learning orientation

Table 4. New researches about relationship between entrepreneurial
orientation and performance

Author                 Result

Pirrala, 2012          Entrepreneurial orientation has a positive
                       relationship with firm performance
Rauch et al., 2009     There is a positive direct effect between EO and
                       organizational performance
Patel, D Souza, 2009   EO has a direct effect on export performance EO
                       and performance are positively associated with
                       each other
Jalali, 2012           EO has a direct relationship with export

Table 5. Item wording and results of factor analysis

Construct        Component         Indicator                    Factor

MARKET           Intelligence      -In our business             0.772
ORIENTATION      generation        unit, we conduct a
(0.714)                            lot of inhouse
                                   market research.             0.710
                                   -We talk with or             0.732
                                   survey individuals
                                   who can
                                   influence our                0.791
                                   -We collect industry
                                   information by
                                   means.                       0.760
                                   -In our business
                                   unit, intelligence on
                                   competitors is
                                   independently by
                                   -We have
                                   meetings at least
                                   a quarter to discuss
                                   market trends and
                                   - Marketing
                                   personnel in our
                                   business unit spends
                                   time discussing              0.721
                                   customers' future
                                   needs with
                                   other functional             0.801
                 Intelligence      - Our business unit          0.719
                 dissemination     periodically circulates
                                   documents (e.g.,             0.794
                                   reports, newsletters)
                                   that provide
                                   information on our
                                   - When something             0.701
                                   important happens
                                   to a major
                                   customer of market,
                                   the whole business
                                   knows about it
                                   within a short
                                   period of time.
                                   - Data on customer
                                   satisfaction are
                                   at all levels in this
                                   business unit on a
                                   regular basis
                                   - For one reason or
                                   another, we tend to
                                   changes in our
                                   customer's product
                                   or service
                                   needs (R).
                                   -We periodically             0.809
                                   review our product
                                   efforts to ensure that
                                   they are in line with
                                   customers want.              0.821
                                   departments get
                                   periodically to
                                   plan a response to
                                   changes taking place
                                   in our business              0.799
                                   -If a major
                                   competitor were to
                                   launch an
                                   intensive campaign           0.786
                                   targeted at our
                                   customers, we
                                   would immediately
                                   implement a
                 Responsiveness    -The activities of           0.774
                                   the different
                                   departments in this
                                   business unit are
                                   well coordinated.
                                   - Customer                   0.718
                                   complaints fall on
                                   deaf ears in this
                                   business unit (R).           0.811
                                   -We are quick to
                                   respond to
                                   significant changes
                                   in our competitors'          0.777
                                   pricing structures.
                                   - When we find out
                                   that customers are
                                   with the quality of          0.792
                                   our service, we
                                   take corrective
                                   - When we find that
                                   customers would
                                   like us to
                                   modify a product or
                                   service, the
                                   involved make
                                   concerted efforts to do so.
Learning         Commitment to     -Management                  0.771
orientation      learning          basically agree that
(0.703)                            our organization's
                                   ability to learn is the
                                   key to our
                                   competitive                  0.793
                                   -The basic values of
                                   this organization
                                   learning as the key          0.774
                                   to improvement.
                                   -The sense around
                                   here is that
                                   employee learning
                                   is an investment, not        0.743
                                   an expense.
                                   -Learning in my
                                   organization is seen
                                   as a key
                                   necessary to
                                   -There is a
                                   commonality of
                                   purpose in my
                                   organization.                0.813
                                   -There is a total
                                   agreement on our
                                   vision across all            0.844
                                   levels, functions and
                 Shared vision     divisions.
                                   -All employees are
                                   committed to the
                                   goals of this
                                   organization.                0.703
                                   -Employees view              0.710
                                   themselves as
                                   partners in
                                   charting the
                                   direction of the
                                   - We are not afraid
                                   to critically reflect
                                   on the
                                   shared assumptions           0.782
                                   we have made about
                 Open              our
                 mindedness        customers.
                                   - Personnel in this          0.773
                                   enterprise realize
                                   that the very
                                   way they perceive
                                   the marketplace
                                   must be
                                   We normally initiate         0.722
                                   changes upon
                                   which our
                                   competitors react.           0.731
                 Proactiveness     - We are very often
                                   the first to introduce
                                   products/services.           0.781
                                   - We normally try to
                                   avoid overt
                                   -We normally take a          0.721
                                   very competitive
                                   "beat the
                                   - We strongly                0.703
                                   emphasize R&D,
                                   leadership and               0.711
                 Innovativeness    - We search for new
                                   practices all the
                                   - We are among the           0.780
                                   first to implement
Entrepreneurial                      -We actively               0.701
orientation                        observe and adopt
(0.762)                            the best practices
                                   in our sector.
                                   -We have a strong
                                   tendency toward
                                   projects with
                                   low risk.                    0.802
                                   -We have a strong            0.733
                 Risk taking       tendency towards
                                   projects with
                                   -In our business,            0.780
                                   fearless measures
                                   are needed to
                                   be successful.
                                   -In our business, it         0.745
Export           - Export sales.   is better to explore it
performance      - Export market   gradually
                 share.            to be successful.
(0.712)          -Export profits.  During the past five
                                   years, how do you
                                   your export                  0.701
                                   regarding the
                                   items?                       0.708
                                   - Export sales.              0.705
                                   Export market
                                   Export profits.

Table 6. The fit indices of the models

x2      df   RMSEA   CFI    GFI

87.94   48   0.080   0.91   0.90

Table 7. Results of hypotheses.

Relationship                  Coefficients  T value  Hypothesis

Market orientation-           0.46          3,95     Accepted
>Entrepreneurial orientation
Market orientation-           0.44          3.24     Accepted
>Export performance
Market orientation-                         2.96
>Learning orientation
Learning Orientation-         0.43          3.18     Accepted
>Entrepreneurial orientation
Entrepreneurial orientation-  0.41          2.80     Accepted
>Export performance
Learning orientation--        0.46          3.56     Accepted
>Export performance
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Author:Shavazi, Elaheh Taghavi; Moshabaki, Asghar; Hosseini, Seyed Hamid Khodadad; Kordnaeij, Asadollah
Publication:Iranian Journal of Management Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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