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Organizational determinants of exporting: conceptual, methodological, and empirical insights.


Recent decades have witnessed a growing interest in exporting, on the part of both governments and corporations, attributable to the substantial benefits gained from this activity. At the government level, exporting offers an excellent vehicle for economic development and social welfare; generates sufficient foreign exchange to finance other economic activities; provides a viable means of coping with balance-of-trade deficit problems; creates backward and forward linkages in the economy; and enriches employment opportunities (Onkvisit/Shaw 1993, Czinkota/Ronkainen 1995). At the corporate level, exporting contributes to organisational growth; speeds up technological and marketing innovations; leads to more efficient production; diversifies business risks accruing from domestic market activity; and enhances the company's financial position (Terpstra/Sarathy 1994, Bradley 1995).

In light of these benefits, exporting has attracted significant research attention, as indicated by a substantial volume of publications devoted to the subject (Ford/Leonidou 1991). One stream of this research, perhaps the most sizeable, has focused on elements pertaining to the structure and behaviour of the organisation per se, and how these affect exporting. Organisational factors have often been cited as forces facilitating or inhibiting various facets of pre- and post-export behaviour:(l) for instance, some researchers have seen company characteristics as important in making operative various stimuli and barriers affecting propensity to export (e.g., Olson/Wiedersheim-Paul 1978, Garnier 1982); others have considered organisational factors as critical for the firm's progression along the export development path (e.g., Bilkey/Tesar 1977, Cavusgil 1980); while still others have argued that the nature of the firm affects strategy in overseas markets and this in turn influences export performance (e.g., Holzmuller/Kasper 1991, Axinn 1994).

The rationale behind this type of investigation is, first, to identify those organisational factors with a possible effect on export behaviour, and, subsequently, through appropriate actions, to create a company profile that would be conducive for the initiation, development or sustainment of sound international operations (Cavusgil 1984b). The particular significance of this research within the context of exporting lies in the fact that it deals with parameters that can be controlled by both public and corporate policy-makers. However, whereas the former have an indirect influence on these parameters through the adoption of various macroeconomic measures, such as incentive schemes, financial assistance, and infrastructural support, the role of the latter in shaping organisational parameters is more direct, through the planning, organising, staffing, leading and controlling of enterprise activities.

Although useful in many respects, this line of inquiry can only be described as fragmentary, unsystematic, and, sometimes, conflicting in nature, thus obstructing theory-building on the subject (Axinn 1994). To some extent this can be ascribed to the scant (e.g., Cannon 1980, Cavusgil/Nevin 1981 a, Boddewyn 1981, Douglas/Craig 1992) or marginal (e.g., Bilkey 1978, Miesenbock 1988, Ford/Leonidou 1991, Gemunden 1991) attention given to organisational factors by previous reviewers of the exporting literature, thus preventing the formulation of an adequate framework upon which to build further research. Notably, two other ad hoc reviews of organisational determinants of export behaviour (i.e., Aaby/Slater 1989, Chetty/Hamilton 1993), despite their pioneering character, neither offered detailed insights nor captured recent developments.

This article proposes to address these problems, and thus will systematically review, assimilate and evaluate extant knowledge on organisational determinants of exporting. Specifically, there are four objectives: to provide a theoretical background of the organisational factors associated with export activity; to assess the research methodologies employed to test this association; to synthesise the empirical results derived from this type of research; and, to develop guidelines that would stimulate future research. The paper is formatted as follows: first, the approach used to investigate the subject matter is highlighted; second, the effect of organisational factors on exporting is placed in its theoretical context; third, the methodological procedures adopted to test this association are evaluated; fourth, the empirical findings of the studies conducted are analysed; and finally, a set of conclusions and implications are drawn, as well as ideas for further investigation.

Review Approach

The focus of the review is on organisational determinants of exporting, defined as all those structural and behavioural parameters within the organisation that have a facilitating or inhibiting effect on various aspects of its export behaviour, such as export propensity, development and performance (Olson/Wiedersheim-Paul 1978, Madsen 1994). Although organisational factors might affect various forms of international business, such as licensing, joint venture abroad or wholly owned foreign production, the present investigation is restricted to exporting only,(2) since it attracts the majority of firms worldwide due to the minimal involvement of resources and risks (Young/Hamill/Wheeler/Davies 1989). The review is also confined to manufactured goods, because of their significant contribution to economic activity and dominant position in international trade (World Bank 1995). Although organisational factors might also affect the overseas operations of other types of sellers, such as agricultural firms (Aksoy/Kaynak 1994), service companies (Edvadsson/Edvinsson/Nystrom 1993), and retail institutions (Salmon/Tordjman 1989), these require a separate investigation due to idiosyncratic export behaviour patterns.

The review covered all research conducted in recent decades pertaining to organisational determinants of exporting. For the most part, these were studies carried out at a business level, focusing on manufacturers engaging or planning to engage in export activities. Studies carried out at a higher level of aggregation, such as industries (e.g., Hirsch/Adar 1974) or countries (e.g., Bonaccorsi 1992), were excluded from the investigation because of the broad perspective of their analysis. A basic prerequisite for inclusion in the review programme was a study's empirical nature, particularly concerning the collection, analysis and presentation of primary data; however, these studies also had to provide sufficient information relating to their research methodologies and empirical findings. Research of a purely conceptual nature was not included in the review, but strengthened theoretical background on the subject.

Studies fulfilling the above eligibility requirements were identified, using a combination of a computerized and manual literature search. These were extracted from articles published in academic and professional journals, edited books or conference proceedings. In order to avoid bias caused by linguistic limitations, an effort has been made to include in the review both English and non-English sources. However, the contribution of the latter to the overall literature on the subject was relatively minimal, attributable to both the disproportionately greater number of English publication outlets on international business/management and the fact that most of the researchers in the field were affiliated with English-speaking institutions. The bibliographic search produced 70 studies contained in 67 articles, providing a sufficient base for analytical purposes. The selected papers were published in 27 sources, of which the most frequently cited were the Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Business Research and International Marketing Review.

The content of the studies was scrutinized and analysed along conceptual, methodological and empirical dimensions. Conceptually, the various theoretical backgrounds were synthesised to provide a general framework for examining the relationship between organisational factors and various aspects of export behaviour. Methodologically, the research designs employed to test this relationship were evaluated in terms of fieldwork arrangements, sampling procedures, sample specifications, independent variables, dependent parameters, and statistical analyses. Empirically, the results of each study pertaining to the statistical significance of the hypothesized relationships between organisational factors and export activity were gathered and consolidated to evaluate the current status of the research and establish future trends in this field.

Theoretical Background

Various organisational factors with a potential or actual facilitating/inhibiting role in the firm's export behaviour have been cited in the exporting literature. Among the numerous organisational parameters reported as possibly affecting export behaviour, seventeen were found to be relevant for the purposes of the present study.(3) Table 1 presents these parameters, as well as the specific export behaviour dimensions affected by them, while a more detailed analysis of how these two sets of constructs were operationalised, as well as the hypothesized associations between them, is provided below.

Organisational Factors

Organisational determinants of exporting can be classified into four broad categories: company demographics, i.e. physical location, organisational age, firm size, business ties, and industry type; operating elements, i.e., product characteristics, domestic expansion, and operating capacity; enterprise resources, i.e. intelligence system, marketing capabilities, financial means, human capital, production technology, and research & development; corporate objectives, i.e., growth, profit, and stability objectives. While the first two categories refer mainly to the structure of the organisation, the remaining two groups are behavioural in nature, in the sense that they include activities and changes in the firm's propensity to act (Rynning/Andersen 1994).

Company Demographics

Physical Location

The firm's location in the domestic market was suggested as an important correlate of export behaviour. Companies located near information centres or close to national borders, for example, are more likely to engage in foreign business activities, because of greater exposure to various export stimuli (Olson/Wiedersheim-Paul 1978). Close proximity to transportation points, such as ports, airports and railway stations, linking the home country with foreign markets, was also said to facilitate export development and performance in overseas markets for cost-effectiveness reasons (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978).

Organisational Age

Two diametrically opposite views exist with regard to the effect of business experience on export behaviour. One group of researchers suggested that younger firms are more interested in foreign operations than older ones, the rationale being that the former find exporting the only feasible strategy available to increase sales and achieve growth, as opposed to the latter which are often well-entrenched in the domestic market (Lee/Brasch 1978, Czinkota/Ursic 1983). The other group posited that established companies are more likely to export, because of extensive experience in handling business operations and saturated home opportunities (Welch/Wiedersheim-Paul 1980).

Firm Size

Many authors conceived organisational size, measured by criteria such as number of full-time employees, annual sales turnover, or value of total assets, to be critical for the firm's engagement, aggressiveness, and performance in export markets (Reid 1982, Rynning/Andersen 1994). Specifically, there is a tendency to assume that the larger the organisation the more likely it is to start exporting. Larger firms are also assumed to be better equipped to perform and develop in foreign business. This export orientation of larger firms is ascribed to at least four major factors: first, to having more competent, dynamic and open-minded management, able to appreciate the usefulness of exporting and perform foreign marketing tasks effectively (Tookey 1964, Bilkey/Tesar 1977, Abdel-Malek 1978); second, to having greater availability of marketing, financial, personnel, production, engineering and other resources that are crucial in supporting and sustaining export programmes (Abdel-Malek 1978, Cavusgil 1980, Garnier 1982, Cavusgil 1984b, Cavusgil/Naor 1987, Calof 1994, Tyebjee 1994); third, to being more competitive in overseas markets due to economies of scale in production and marketing, in addition to having high levels of market power (Hirsch/Adar 1974, Samiee/Walters 1990); and fourth, to being more risk-tolerant due to their easier access to information sources and their ability to withstand the impact of an international mistake (Bonaccorsi 1992, Calof 1994).

Business Ties

The affiliation of the firm with other organisations, through subsidiary, licensing or other arrangements, is another factor affecting propensity to export. It was suggested, for example, that companies with organisational links abroad tended to be very active in exporting, because of the possibility of developing information channels through which export stimuli can be received (McConnel 1979). Once the firm has entered foreign markets, foreign organisational ties can enhance business performance by providing financial, material and human support for designing and implementing export strategies (Dominguez/Sequeira 1991).

Industry Type

The nature of the industry to which the firm belongs was hypothesized to facilitate or inhibit export activity. For instance, firms that produced nondurable consumer goods encountered exporting difficulties, due to the requirements of sophisticated marketing systems, adaptations to foreign customer preferences and short distribution channels for reaching end-users (Christensen et al. 1987). Moreover, firms which operate in seasonal industries, such as beverages, apparel, and leisure goods, are more likely to export to compensate for fluctuations in their production cycle and to secure continued growth and profitability (Albaum et al. 1994). Furthermore, companies producing bulky or perishable products were assumed to view foreign operations with reluctance, and the same was also true of firms manufacturing highly specialised goods (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978, Cavusgil 1980).

Operating Elements

Product Characteristics

Specific characteristics pertaining to the product, such as design, quality and technical structure, were seen to influence the firm's export behaviour (Cavusgil/Naor 1987). For instance, the possession of a unique/technically superior product was regarded as playing a definitive role in stimulating exports (Albaum et al. 1994), while consistent product quality (safeguarded by an appropriate quality control system) was viewed as important for the continuity of the export effort (Daniels/Robles 1982, Christensen et al. 1987). Patented products were also hypothesized to encourage engagement in export activities and secure business performance in foreign markets (Brooks/Rosson 1982).

Domestic Expansion

Previous expansion of the firm in the home market was also indicated as an organisational factor facilitating export initiation (Brooks/Rosson 1982, Cavusgil/Naor 1987). Some writers asserted that exporting organisations usually expand domestically well before their first foreign sale and spread interstate more rapidly than non-exporting firms (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978, Welch/Wiedersheim-Paul 1980). They argue that domestic expansion increases sensitivity to transactions outside the centre of operations, stimulates concern about the limitations of the domestic market and exposes managers to foreign market information and opportunities (Cavusgil 1982, Reid 1983). Moreover, as the firm expands into additional home regions, there is a greater likelihood of exposure to attention-evoking factors (Welch/Wiedersheim-Paul 1980).

Operating Capacity

Some researchers saw the desire to utilise idle operating capacity of various types of resources in the organisation as encouraging managers to examine expansion possibilities through export operations (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978). Once the firm is engaged in exporting, it is expected to make full utilisation of its operating capacity if it is to be considered successful (Ogram 1982, Christensen et al. 1987). Notably, in conceptualizing the effect of this parameter on export behaviour, most researchers ignore issues associated with the national environment within which firms operate, such as domestic market size, economic conditions, and degree of competition.

Enterprise Resources

Intelligence System

The acquisition and use of sufficient information on foreign markets and operations was repeatedly emphasised in international business literature as crucial to the firm's export operations (Kothari 1983). This is because, in comparison with the domestic scene, overseas markets are surrounded by high levels of uncertainty which inhibit export initiation and expansion (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978). Consequently, companies with elaborate information systems can more easily access data relating to foreign market opportunities and, therefore, are more likely to export. An efficient marketing intelligence system may also greatly enhance export performance, by providing timely, accurate and reliable information on overseas corporate strategy.

Marketing Capabilities

A specialised advantage or know-how in one or more marketing activities was often cited as an important catalyst for beginning and sustaining export operations (Johnston/Czinkota 1982). This is particularly true if marketing capabilities were built with the international market in mind. In addition, having a good product, competitive prices, efficient distribution, a competent salesforce, as well as other marketing strengths, can shield the company from competition in overseas markets and, therefore, enhance export performance.

Financial Means

Lack of financial resources was blamed for hindering engagement and performance abroad in a number of ways. Expansion into exporting often requires substantial expenditures for additional production equipment, raw materials, and labour force (Colaiacovo 1982). Once the company operates in foreign markets, financial constraints may inhibit development of export marketing programmes, such as marketing research, product adaptations, price-reduction schemes, improved distribution and promotions, all of which can negatively affect export performance.

Human Capital

Many companies lack sufficient and/or qualified personnel, whether at the managerial, technical or labour level, to handle export operations. According to some writers (e.g., Gomez-Mejia 1988), human resource constraints may constitute a serious barrier to export adoption and expansion and adversely affect corporate performance abroad. This is explained by the fact that exporting is an idiosyncratic business activity, requiring specialised knowledge and expertise with respect to such tasks as documentation handling, logistical arrangements, and communicating with foreign customers.

Production Technology

The nature of the technology employed by the organisation, as well as the extent to which it is used, was associated with success in export markets, the rationale being that technology-intensive companies are in a position to have efficient manufacturing processes and superior products (Garnier 1982, Joynt 1982, Suzman/Wortzel 1984, Cooper/Kleinschmidt 1985). Although the impact of technological intensity on export performance has grown in recent years due to a rise in demand for high-technology goods (Abdel-Malek 1978), it was argued that technology can be a critical competitive advantage only to firms selling to developed rather than to developing countries for reasons associated with cost structures, consumer sophistication and material culture (Christensen et al. 1987).

Research and Development

Research & development was commonly viewed as an important prerequisite to exporting, particularly regarding business performance in foreign markets (Ong/Pearson 1982). The availability of engineering resources in the firm contributes to product uniqueness, technical superiority and advanced production systems, which increase the firm's competitiveness in the international marketplace (Kiraplani/Macintosh 1980, Ong/Pearson 1982). High research & development expenditures are also indicative of the management's intention to produce innovative goods, as well as products adapted to the specific requirements of foreign customers (McGuiness/Little 1981).

Corporate Objectives

Growth Objective

According to some researchers, the degree to which the firm has set growth as one of its primary objectives is of critical importance to export behaviour (Albaum et al. 1994). This is because exporting allows the firm to extend its business to a considerable number of overseas markets, thus providing an excellent opportunity for organisational growth. Consequently, the stronger the company's motivation to grow, the greater the likelihood of exploring exporting as a serious alternative to corporate expansion (McConnel 1979, Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978). Once engaged in exporting, the firm's future attitude towards export-led growth will be influenced by the type of feedback received from previous exporting experience (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978).

Profit Objective

Some scholars adopted the view that although export activity is characterised by higher risks and costs than domestic business, foreign markets might contribute profitable alternatives for many companies (Simpson/Kujawa 1974, Roy/Simpson 1981). As a result, firms guided primarily by profit objectives are more likely to adopt exporting in order to reap the accrued profit-related benefits. Profit goals are usually indicative of active export behaviour, implying that this parameter can also be used to discriminate between passive and aggressive actors in exporting (McConnel 1979).

Stability Objective

Review of the literature revealed another powerful factor facilitating export operations: existence of a stability objective in the organisation. This factor primarily influences firms that perceive variations in their sales performance due to seasonal, cyclical or other effects, thus stimulating concern to find other sources of sales that would insulate them from such potential disruptions (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978). Interestingly, it was asserted that firms guided by stability objectives tended to be more cautious and less aggressive in exporting than companies led by growth and profit objectives (McConnel 1979).

Export Behaviour Dimensions

The above factors were hypothesized to be associated in some way with several dimensions of the firm's export behaviour, the most common being: its propensity to initiate export operations; degree of aggressiveness in tackling overseas markets; stages of the export development process; level of performance achieved in overseas markets; and forces stimulating/obstructing export activity.

Export Initiation

A critical aspect of exporting is that of turning exclusively domestic manufacturers into exporters, who will sell part or all of their production overseas. In fact, the initiation of export operations has been considered as an internal innovation, similar to developing a new product or installing a new management information system (Simmonds/Smith 1968). Many researchers argue that company-specific factors are largely responsible for export engagement, implying that nonexporters suffer from serious organisational handicaps, as opposed to exporters whose organisation is conducive to exports.

Export Aggressiveness

The firm's approach to exporting can be described as either aggressive or passive, depending on whether the firm is driven by proactive/internal or reactive/internal motives, respectively (Tesar/Tarleton 1982). Aggressive exporters are also characterised by a systematic and objective-oriented behaviour, as opposed to passive exporters whose behaviour is opportunistic and half-hearted (Lee/Brasch 1978). Organisational factors were also cited to explain differences in the export behaviour of these two groups of firms; it has been claimed, for example that aggressive exporting firms are larger compared to passive exporters (Da Rocha et al. 1990).

Export Development

The way the firm develops its export business has been the focus of substantial research (Leonidou/Katsikeas 1996). In fact, it has been proposed that the firm's progression along the internationalization path is an evolutionary and sequential process, consisting of several identifiable and distinct successive stages (Bilkey/Tesar 1977, Cavusgil 1980, Czinkota 1982). Certain organisational factors were hypothesized to act as facilitators or inhibitors in this process, while the availability of corporate resources was considered critical in determining the speed and mode of movement from one export stage to another (Welch/Luostarinen 1988, Beamish et al. 1993).

Export Performance

Performance in overseas markets, expressed in terms of such parameters as export sales, ratio of export sales to total sales, profitability in overseas markets, and growth of export sales/profits, has also been seen as an important parameter affected by organisational factors (e.g., Koh 1991, Dominquez/Sequeira 1993). Here, the emphasis was to identify differences between high and low export performance, based on a number of organisational characteristics, and identify the profile most conducive to export success (Diamantopoulos/Inglis 1988).(4)

Export Stimulation/Obstruction

One of the most crucial aspects of the export behaviour of firms concerns the factors that stimulate or obstruct the adoption and expansion of overseas operations (Leonidou 1995 c, d). Some researchers (e.g., Katsikeas/Piercy 1993) hypothesize that the nature of export stimuli/barriers, as well as their impact on export initiation, development and sustainment, could be affected by differences pertaining to the demographics of the organisation.

Miscellaneous Dimensions

Several other dimensions of export behaviour, such as export planning (Samiee/Walters 1990), foreign market expansion (Reid 1983), and international marketing strategy (Lim et al. 1993), were also proposed to be associated with organisational characteristics. However, such associations were reported only rarely in the pertinent literature, so that their individual analysis was deemed unnecessary.

Methodological Aspects

In this section, the methodological aspects of empirical research conducted on organisational determinants of exporting are examined. Specifically, the emphasis is on the fieldwork year, geographic location, industrial focus, unit of analysis, company size, sampling procedures, sample size, data gathering, key informant, independent parameters, dependent variables, and analytical methods used by the studies under review. All these issues are summarized in Table 2, while a more detailed analysis is provided below.

Fieldwork Year

While empirical research on the subject dates from the early 1960s, more than two-thirds of the studies were conducted in the last 15 years. This implies a growing interest among researchers around the world in conceptualising the influence of firm-specific factors on exporting. With a few exceptions (e.g., Tesar/Tarleton 1982, Kaynak/Kothari 1984, Christensen et al. 1987, Beamish et al. 1993), the research suffers from the lack of replication studies, thus hindering verification of research findings. Further, the absence of longitudinal research implies that most researchers conceive the effect of organisational factors on export behaviour as a static, rather than a dynamic, phenomenon.

Geographic Location

Most of the studies were conducted in the USA and Canada, although European research has also made a significant contribution to the subject. The remaining studies took place in several other developed and newly industrialised parts of the world. Notwithstanding the cosmopolitan nature of this topic, the overwhelming majority of studies had an ethnocentric orientation, and in some cases this was restricted to specific states within a country. Although multicultural research suffers from high contextual, material and human complexity, in addition to excessive time and money requirements (Douglas/Craig 1983, Holzmuller/Stollnberger 1994), this methodological approach is imperative for testing the validity of the concepts raised and verifying research findings in different environments (Sullivan/Bauerschmidt 1989). For instance, differences in economic conditions, social levels and infrastructural bases might have serious effects in shaping organisational factors, and these in turn can affect export behaviour patterns differently.

Industry Focus

The majority of the studies covered a variety of industries, usually ranging between five and ten. A quarter of them focused on two-three industry groups, while the remainder were single-industry investigations. The fact that most research findings came from many diverse industries puts their validity in question, since it does not account for possible industry-specific influences, such as technological standards, resource intensity, and cost structures. These influences are of particular importance for this type of research, because they are quite likely to shape such organisational characteristics as production technology and research & development (Cavusgil/Naor 1987). The nature of the industries studied was rarely reported; those cases in which it was disclosed, concerned industrial goods and to a lesser extent consumer products.

Unit of Analysis

All studies employed the manufacturing concern as the principal unit of analysis, which was further broken down into firms currently selling part or all of their goods abroad and those not engaged in export activities at all. Exporters provided the sole base of investigation in two-thirds of the studies, while nonexporters were the exclusive unit of analysis in only four studies. The remaining research focused on both exporters and nonexporters, essentially to identify organisational differences between these two broad segments. However, the exporter/nonexporter dichotomy was criticised by some researchers as too rigid, because it neglects variations within each segment, such as inexperienced versus experienced exporters and passive versus active nonexporters (Cavusgil/Naor 1987).

Company Size

Company size constitutes a crucial methodological parameter for this type of research, since it indirectly affects various other organisational factors, such as corporate resources, with possible effects on export behaviour. Small- and medium-sized firms were the focus of almost all studies, while only few incorporated large companies in their samples. However, the terms small, medium and large are very [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] relative within an international context, which creates comparability problems among the empirical findings of the studies under review (Reid 1982, Czinkota/Johnston 1983, Calof 1994). The overemphasis on smaller manufacturing units can be justified on the grounds that, on the one hand, they account for the largest part of most nations' production base, offering opportunities for job creation, technological innovation and economic rejuvenation (Dichtl et al. 1984, Birch 1988, Yeoh 1994) and, on the other, they suffer most from serious handicaps in exporting due to their inherent demographic, behavioural and other organisational constraints (Yaprak 1985).(5)

Sampling Procedures

Probability sampling designs were used by half of the studies investigated, and these usually took the form of simple random samples. However, no evidence was given in any study as to the randomised technique used to select these samples. One-fifth of the studies employed non-probability methods, particularly judgement samples and to a lesser extent quota and convenience samples. The rest offered no information on the specific sampling method employed, thus making sample reliability assessment difficult. The average response rate was 41 percent, which can be regarded as satisfactory, taking into account the heavy reliance on probability sampling procedures. Sample representativeness, however, is questionable since only a small proportion of studies reported a non-response validation (e.g., Ong/Pearson 1982, Czinkota]Ursic 1983, Culpan 1989, Samiee/Walters 1990, Katsikeas/Morgan 1994).

Sample Size

Sample sizes in the studies investigated ranged from 34 to 1,156 units, and although, prima facie, this is a satisfactory sampling base, sample appropriateness has to be seen within the context of the parent population from which it was drawn (Douglas/Craig 1983). Indeed, taking this factor into consideration, research samples were in most cases appallingly small, thus casting doubts on their representativeness. Altogether, 13,977 firms were used for the empirical validation of the organisational determinants of exporting, of which more than three-quarters were firms currently engaged in export activities and the remainder nonexporters. This disproportional emphasis between the two segments is somewhat paradoxical, in view of the fact that in most nations the population of nonexporters is predominantly larger than that of exporters.

Data Gathering

More than half of the studies used mail interviews for data collection purposes, probably for reasons of cost-effectiveness. However, it is generally accepted that this technique suffers from a number of shortcomings concerning speed, flexibility and amount of data gathering (Douglas/Craig 1983). Personal interviews, which could offer better insights into the subject, were used by only a third of the studies, particularly those having small sampling frames. Finally, telephone interviews played only a complementary role, assisting in the arrangement for study participation or the acquisition of supplementary information.

Key Informant

In gathering data, most studies assumed a single decision-maker in the organisation, usually the chief executive officer or the export manager. Often, however, more than one individual is involved in the decision-making process, particularly in larger organisations (Olson/Wiedersheim-Paul 1978). Notably, very few studies used the key informant technique, that is, gathering data from more than one informant in the same company and then assessing the relative equivalence of their responses, thus leaving open the possibility for respondent bias in the research findings (Phillips 1981). Moreover, the nature of the subject is such that in most cases respondents were asked to recall prior events or, even to record situations which they had never experienced, yielding information tinged with ambiguities and inaccuracies (Dichtl et al. 1983).

Independent Parameters

The number of organisational characteristics examined by the studies in the field ranged from as low as one to as many as nine. On average, each study explored 3.5 variables, indicating only partial coverage of organisational effects on exporting. Independent variables employed most frequently include company size, product characteristics, organisational age, and production technology. With respect to organisational variables, the heterogeneity in the definitions used in the various studies gives rise to serious linguistic confusion and conceptual misunderstandings (Ford/Leonidou 1991). A case in point is the definition of organisational size, which some researchers define in terms of number of full-time employees (e.g., Tookey 1964, Cavusgil 1982, Axinn 1989), others as annual sales turnover (e.g., Abdel-Malek 1978, Daniels/Robles 1982, Czinkota/Ursic 1983), and yet others as capital employed in the firm (e.g., Ong/Pearson 1982, Moon/Lee 1990, Tseng/Yu 1991).

Dependent Variables

Most researchers attempted to associate organisational parameters with dependent variables measuring aspects of the firm's export activity. The most frequent examples were: categorisation of manufacturing units into exporters and nonexporters; export performance, usually expressed as the ratio of export sales to total corporate sales; and, classification of companies according to their stage of export development process. Several other measures of export activity were also employed, such as degree of export aggressiveness and export stimulation/obstruction. The above dependent variables were criticised as too narrow to capture the varying dimensions of export behaviour, often resulting in misleading associations with organisational factors (Reid 1981, Aaby/Slater 1989, Bodur 1994, Rynning/Andersen 1994). For instance, the measurement of performance in overseas markets in terms of export sales intensity ignores other important performance-related dimensions, such as the rate of new market expansion and rate of new product introduction abroad (Reid 1981).

Analytical Method

Hypothesized associations between organisational factors and export behaviour were validated using a variety of statistical tools. Depending on whether the data were of a nominal or ordinal nature, absolute/percentage frequency distributions and mean values provided the principal analytical methods. Univariate and bivariate analysis constituted the second most frequently used technique, the major ones being one-way ANOVA, Chi-square, Student's t, and regression analysis. Multivariate analytical methods were rarely employed, usually taking the form of factor analysis, discriminant analysis, and regression analysis. A serious methodological artifact pertaining to statistical analysis is the possible existence of multicollinearity effects between several organisational determinants (Madsen 1989). For example, while firm size and business experience might affect exporting in different ways, they are likely to be highly interrelated because large firms have usually been in business for many years. Another statistical flaw is the lack of effort made to test cause-and-effect relationships between organisational and exporting variables. For instance, most researchers assume that the causal direction is from organisational attributes, such as company size, to the actual export behaviour, such as export intensity, while the reverse might also be true.

Empirical Results

Table 3 summarises the empirical results of the studies investigating organisational effects on exporting. These are expressed in terms of the direction of the relationship between organisational parameters and various aspects of export behaviour, as well as its statistical significance. The empirical analysis pursued here corresponds to the categorisation of organisational factors proposed earlier, namely company demographics, operating elements, enterprise resources, and corporate objective, as well as the specific export dimensions investigated.

Organisational Factors

Corporate demographics attracted most research attention, as indicated by the fact that approximately two-thirds of the studies attempted to test empirically the association between parameters in this category and export behaviour. Enterprise resources was the second most widely studied group of organizational factors (focusing particularly on production technology and research & development), closely followed by operating elements. Corporate objectives received relatively scant empirical attention, since only a sixth of the studies attempted to validate their association with export behaviour dimensions.


Company Demographics

Physical Location

The effect of the firm's physical location in the home market on export behaviour was empirically tested by six studies. Of these, two studies attempting to relate this organisational variable with export propensity found no significant association (McConnel 1979, Cavusgil/Nevin 1981 b). Weak results were also found as to the effect of company location on export performance (Hansen et al. 1994). The remaining studies focused on locational differences between aggressive and passive exporters, with two of them concluding that these are statistically valid (Tesar/Tarleton 1982).

Organisational Age

Seventeen studies investigated the relationship between the company's experience in business and export behaviour. Of the eight studies which attempted to link this variable with export propensity, six reported no such association, one revealed that older firms tend to be more export-oriented than younger companies (Cheong/Chong 1988), while the other study yielded opposing results (Tseng/Yu 1991). Conflicting results emerged when business experience was related to performance in overseas markets, with four studies indicating no relationship. Surprisingly, three studies concluded that there is a negative correlation between organisational age and the contribution of export sales to total sales volume, attributable mainly to experience curve effects (Czinkota/Ursic 1983, 1991, Ursic/Czinkota 1984).

Firm Size

In investigating the effect of organisationai size on exporting, researchers employed several size criteria, namely number of full-time employees, annual sales turnover and value of total assets. The results relating to each of these criteria are examined separately below.

a) Number of employees: This variable received maximum empirical attention, as demonstrated by the fact that 44 studies research its association with several aspects of exporting, especially export propensity, performance and development. With regard to export propensity, 11 out of 12 studies found that exporting firms are more likely to have a greater number of full-time employees than domestic-oriented ones. Results regarding intensity of export activities were inconsistent: of the 14 studies focusing on this association, four concluded that there is a positive relationship between number of employees and export intensity; one study revealed a negative correlation; the remainder determined no link at all. Moreover, only one of the five studies examining the effect of this variable on export development reported significant results (Cavusgil 1984a).

b) Sales turnover: The effect of corporate sales turnover on export behaviour was the focus of 42 studies, thus this parameter was the second most frequently examined. Eleven of the twelve studies investigating the effect of this variable on export engagement consistently found a strong positive relationship, implying that the larger the sales turnover of the company, the greater the likelihood of exporting. Fourteen other studies attempted to link this variable with export performance, but the majority found weak nor no associations at all. Inconclusive findings were also observed when sales turnover was related to other export behaviour dimensions, namely aggressiveness, development and stimulation/obstruction of exports.

c) Total assets: Total assets provided the least popular method for measuring firm size; in fact, only eight studies tested the effect of this organisational determinant on export behaviour and in most cases concluded that there was no consistent relationship. Specifically, one study claimed that exporters possess more assets than nonexporters (Cheong/Chong 1988); another study concluded the opposite (Tseng/Yu 1991); while yet another found no significant differences between the two sets of companies (Cavusgil/Nevin 1981b). Two studies attempted to associate the possession of sizeable assets with export aggressiveness, but only one confirmed such an association (Tesar/Tarleton 1982). Two studies examining the effect of corporate assets on export development resulted in no significant findings (Reid 1983, Moon/Lee 1990). Finally, another study found a strong association between this variable and export performance (Ong/Pearson 1982).

Business Ties

The hypothesis that a firm is more likely to engage in exporting if it is affiliated with other organisations, particularly those of foreign origin, received relatively weak empirical validation by the six studies investigating this issue. Specifically, of the four studies examining the differentiating effect of this variable between exporting and nonexporting firms, only one reported statistically significant results (Keng/Jiuan 1989). Of the two remaining studies, one concluded that this variable has no effect on export intensity (Dominguez/Sequeira 1991), while the other found strong associations with the firm's expansion into international markets (Rao/Naidu 1992).

Industry Type

The nature of the industry in which the firm operates was researched by nine studies, six of which concluded that this organisational parameter had no influence on export performance, stimulation or obstruction. Two other studies found strong, but inconsistent associations: while Das (1994) reported that firms producing consumer products performed better in overseas markets, Christensen et al. (1987) found that industrial goods producers are more likely to be successful in exporting. An issue related to industry type is that of product seasonality, which has been researched by a number of studies reporting a relatively weak impact of this factor on stimulating initial and subsequent export development (Leonidou 1995c).

Operating Elements

Product Characteristics

The facilitating or inhibiting effect of various product characteristics on exporting was the focus of considerable research, as demonstrated by the fact that 15 studies dealt with this issue. Within this context, product uniqueness was the most widely studied aspect; however, although this organisational parameter was important in stimulating and developing exports (Cavusgil/Nevin 1981 b, Cavusgil 1982, Moon/Lee 1990), it had an ambiguous role with reference to export performance, as only two out of the total six studies reported significant findings (Beamish/Munro 1986, Czinkota/Ursic 1991). Some efforts were also made to examine product quality, but surprisingly this was found to conclusively explain export behaviour in one study only (Da Rocha 1990). Weak findings were also observed with respect to the facilitating role of patents held by the company on initiating and sustaining exports (Brooks/Rosson 1982, Cooper/Kleinschmidt 1985, Cavusgil/Naor 1987).

Domestic Expansion

The hypothesis that the firm's expansion into the domestic market can enhance export engagement and development was validated empirically by two of the five studies investigating this issue (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978, Cavusgil/Naor 1987). In other words, exporting firms expanded interstate well before their first export sale and spread in the domestic market more quickly than did nonexporting firms. Another study showed that this variable had a facilitating role in export market expansion, although not in export commitment (Reid 1983). The remaining study found no association between this variable and export adoption (Rynning/Andersen 1994).

Operating Capacity

The effect of operating capacity on export behaviour was investigated by only three studies. One study concluded that firms are driven to exporting because of excess capacity (Daniels/Goyburo 1976), while another found that this organisational parameter cannot serve as a discriminator between exporters and nonexporters (Garnier 1982). The third study investigated several characteristics among successful exporters and ex-exporters, and revealed that the former have less idle capacity compared to the latter (Christensen et al. 1987). A plethora of studies examined this variable from the perspective of stimulating initiation and development of exports and an analysis at an aggregate level ranked this factor among the top three export stimuli (Leonidou 1995 c).

Enterprise Resources

Intelligence System

The importance of the organisation's information system was examined by only one study, which concluded that this was positively related to export development (Cavusgil 1982). However, information was well researched from the perspective of factors stimulating or obstructing export activity. Interestingly, whereas the possession of exclusive information on foreign markets was found to have relatively little stimulating effect overall, most studies indicated that lack of this type of information constitutes a major barrier encountered in international business by both would-be and actual exporters (Leonidou 1995 d).

Marketing Capabilities

The company's specialised capabilities in one or more marketing resources were examined by only two studies, which determined no significant association between this variable and export propensity (Brooks/Rosson 1982) and intensity (Abdel-Malek 1978). Some researchers saw the possession of marketing strengths as a stimulus to export; an analysis of their empirical findings, however, revealed that the stimulating effect of this variable is relatively moderate, particularly during the initial export phases (Johnston/Czinkota 1982, Koh 1989, Albaum et al. 1994).

Financial Resources

The influencing role of corporate financial resources on export behaviour was examined by three studies. One study concluded that financial robustness is not an important differentiator between exporting and nonexporting firms (Brooks/Rosson 1982), while the remaining two found a high correlation between this variable and export involvement (Tyebjee 1994) or expansion (Rao/Naidu 1992). Notably, the possession of a financial competitive advantage was also investigated from the perspective of export stimulation, but this proved to be relatively weak (Leonidou 1995 c). In contrast, financial constraints were reported by a large number of studies as causing a serious barrier to exporting, particularly among firms currently engaged in export operations (Leonidou 1995 d).

Human Capital

The hypothesis that the existence of adequate and qualified personnel in the organisation is conducive to exporting was the object of four studies. Of these, three studies examined the effect of this variable on export intensity/profitability and achieved significant results (Gomez-Mejia 1988, Beamish et al. 1993), while the remaining study found a strong association between human resources and the development of exports (Rao/Naidu 1992). Possible impediments to export initiation and expansion related to this variable were also investigated by a considerable number of studies, concluding that the existence of an inadequate and untrained staff can be a serious barrier to exporting (Leonidou 1995 d).

Production Technology

Twelve studies attempted to associate the company's production technology with various aspects of exporting, but the majority did not achieve significant results. Specifically, only one of the four studies relating this variable to export propensity concluded that exporting firms are more technologically intensive than their nonexporting counterparts (Cavusgil/Nevin 1981b). Moreover, three studies investigated the effect of technological intensity on export performance, but only one verified a positive relationship (Beamish/Munro 1986). Two other studies concluded that production technology is not a good predictor of the firm's progression along the internationalization path (Cavusgil 1982, Moon/Lee 1990), while another found a strong link between this variable and export aggressiveness (Cavusgil 1984b).

Research and Development

The effect of this organisational parameter on export behaviour received attention by seven studies. Of these, three studies tried to connect this variable with the firm's propensity to export, but produced insignificant results (McConnel 1979, Brooks/Rosson 1982, Ogram 1982). Interestingly, all remaining studies reported a significant association between research & development and export performance (Abdel-Malek 1978, Ong/Pearson 1982, Cooper/Kleinschmidt 1985, Gomez-Mejia 1988).

Corporate objectives

Growth Objective

The premise that the existence of a growth objective in the company might be a positive determinant of exporting was researched by ten studies. Four of these studies examined the effect of this variable on the export adoption process, two finding that exporters are more likely than non-exporters to have a growth objective (Cavusgil/Nevin 1981 b, Tesar/Tarleton 1983). Another three studies tried to establish a link between the possession of growth objective and advances in export development, but only one found a positive correlation (Moon/Lee 1990). The remainder focused on the relationship of this variable with export aggressiveness and performance, but results were not statistically significant.

Profit Objective

Nine studies tried to empirically test the link between the existence of profit objectives in the company and various aspects of export behaviour, but seven of them concluded that such an association does not exist. Of the two remaining studies, one found a strong positive association between this variable and export aggressiveness (Piercy 1981), while the other confirmed that a profit objective acts as a discriminator between exporters and nonexporters (Tesar/Tarleton 1983).

Stability Objective

The association of a stability objective with exporting was investigated by eight studies, but only three studies produced affirmative findings. Analytically, two studies found that this factor has a differentiating effect between exporting and nonexporting firms (Cavusgil/Nevin 1981 b, Tesar/Tarleton 1983), while another study revealed that a stability objective can facilitate the firm's move towards more advanced pre-export stages (Wiedersheim-Paul et al. 1978).

Export Behaviour Dimensions

Export Initiation

This export dimension attracted most of the empirical attention, as indicated by the fact that approximately one-third of the studies tested possible associations with organisational factors. Emphasis was placed primarily on the effect of company demographics, where it was revealed that firm size (whether this is expressed in terms of number of employees or sales turnover) has a significant discriminating effect between exporters and nonexporters. However, other demographic parameters exhibited no serious effect on export initiation. With a few exceptions, namely domestic expansion and intelligence system, all other organisational variables were weakly associated with this dimension of export behaviour.

Export Aggressiveness

Only a few studies focused on the relationship between organisational factors and the firm's aggressiveness in international markets. The emphasis here was on both the demographics and objectives of the firm, which, however, did not have a meaningful differentiating effect between aggressive and passive exporters. This can be partly ascribed to the findings being thinly spread over many variables in these two categories. Regarding the two remaining groups of organisational factors, only a few attempts were made to associate them with this export dimension.

Export Development

In relating organisational factors with the firm's export development process, company demographics again attracted the most empirical attention. In fact, the thrust of interest was on company size, which, however, demonstrated an insignificant effect on export development, thus diluting the myth that only large firms can progress to more advanced stages of exporting. On the contrary, certain organisational resources seem to be strongly associated with this dimension of export behaviour, while the influence of corporate objectives was inconclusive.

Export Performance

The second most widely studied export dimension was that of performance in overseas markets, usually expressed as the contribution of export sales to total corporate sales. The majority of the organisational factors revealed inconclusive associations with this dimension of exporting, particularly in relation to company size (whether measured in terms of number of employees, sales turnover, or total assets). Relatively strong results were found with respect to human and research & development resources, while certain product characteristics and corporate objectives seem to have no effect whatsoever on export intensity.

Export Stimulation/Obstruction

The discriminating effect of company-specific factors on export stimulation/obstruction received scant empirical attention, as it was examined by only four studies. Interestingly, the whole analysis concentrated on demographic parameters, indicating, however, an inconclusive association with factors stimulating or obstructing export activity.

Miscellaneous Dimensions

Organisational factors were also associated with an array of export behaviour elements, such as foreign market expansion, export planning, and international marketing strategy. In the majority of cases, no associations or weak ones were observed between corporate demographic factors and these aspects of export behaviour, this being more evident for firm size. The influence of various operating elements and enterprise resources on exporting was generally inconclusive.

Conclusions, Implications and Guidelines

Three major conclusions can be drawn from the previous assessment of the literature of organisational determinants of exporting. First, most of the findings in this stream of research are inconclusive, in the sense that fewer than half of the empirically tested associations between organisational parameters and export behaviour were validated. Second, with the exception of a few organisational factors which systematically showed either no (e.g., organisation age) or strong (e.g., human resources) associations, on aggregate, all remaining factors revealed inconsistent relationships to exporting. Third, some organisational characteristics exhibited a significant influence on certain aspects of export behaviour, but no effect at all on others; for instance, firm size (expressed in terms of either number of employees or sales turnover) was an important discriminator between exporters and nonexporters, but had a questionable influence on the firm's export performance.(6)

Research on the subject also suffers from serious conceptual, methodological and empirical gaps, indicating that this line of investigation is still immature. From the conceptual standpoint, the major drawbacks centred on: the lack of a sound framework providing a full list of both organisational parameters and export behaviour dimensions; linguistic confusion caused by the different terminologies used to define the variables involved in the analysis; arbitrary selection of concepts and ideas from other business disciplines, without first testing their validity within an export management setting; little attempt to systematically group organisational parameters into meaningful categories; incomplete recording and superficial substantiation of hypothesized associations between organisational factors and dimensions of the export behaviour; and, failure to see these associations within the broader context of forces internal or external to the firm.

The methodological assessment of this stream of research also revealed a number of weaknesses 7, the major ones being: lack of replication at different time periods or absence of longitudinal assessment; tendency to focus on certain geographic regions, avoiding verification of the results in different environmental/contextual settings; ignorance of the effect of industry-specific factors on organisational parameters; failure to use a more diversified unit of analysis; questionable sample representativeness because of scant evidence as to randomised selection and nonresponse validation; possibility of informant bias due to emphasis on mail surveys and concentration on single decision-makers for data gathering; poor operationalisations of both dependent and independent variables; and, potential statistical artifacts due to intercorrelations between organisational characteristics.

As far as shortcomings in the empirical testings are concerned, these could be summarised as follows: duplicative efforts due to an unwillingness to build upon the findings of previous investigations; unbalanced treatment of organisational parameters and exporting dimensions, primarily focusing on corporate demographic factors and organisational differences between exporters and nonexporters, as well as low and high export intensifiers; failure to test concurrently the full set of organisational factors against the full range of export behaviour aspects; inability to investigate the effect of contextual (e.g., overall corporate strategy) or environmental factors (e.g., economic situation) on empirical findings; and, lack of interest in investigating issues of causality between organizational and exporting parameters, as well as potential interactions among variables in each construct.

Practical Implications

Several practical implications for both managers and government officials can be drawn from this review, although these should be regarded with caution and within the context of the above limitations. The fact that firm size, as this is measured in terms of number of employees and sales turnover, was found to have the highest explanatory power of export behaviour, especially regarding differences between exporters and nonexporters, implies that export promotion measures should particularly target firms of smaller size; this could be achieved for example, through financial incentives, information assistance and guidance provided by government agencies. Some enterprise resources were also found to be conducive to successful export development, namely intelligence system and human capital. Consequently, export managers should enhance the status of these resources in their organisations by establishing effective management information systems and personnel recruitment/training policies designed with the international market in mind. The fact that the company's previous extra-regional expansion was a relatively good predictor of export initiation and development implies that managers (particularly those of smaller size) should first have to gain business experience in other states of their home country before entering overseas markets. Finally, corporate and public policy-makers should be aware that certain organisational parameters, such as product nature, production technology, and research and development, under certain circumstances, could enhance export activity, while others, such as organisational age, industry type, and product nature, should not be considered as taboos to exporting.

Future Research Guidelines

Future research on organisational determinants of exporting should follow a number of directions that would avoid the conceptual, methodological and empirical pitfalls identified in this assessment, while at the same time allow for more reliable, generalisable and integrative findings. These are summarised in Table 4, and are further explicated below.

Conceptually, the framework developed in this review, which encompasses all known organisational factors with potential links to the various dimensions of export behaviour, could serve as a point of departure for future studies. This could be enriched by examining both various unexplored organisational parameters, such as the structure, culture, and life-cycle of the company, and certain export behaviour aspects, such as foreign market entry modes, overseas market expansion, international marketing strategy, and determining possible links between them. Moreover, the effect of organisational attributes on exporting should be seen within the context of other internal company factors and behaviours, such as domestic [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 4 OMITTED] marketing strategy, sourcing arrangements or diversification into other business fields. Furthermore, other external factors, both microenvironmental (e.g., market structure, type of competition, and customer sophistication) and macroenvironmental (e.g., economic situation, industrial policy, and national culture), should be considered very seriously, since to a great extent they shape the nature of organisational characteristics.

Methodologically, it is recommended that longitudinal and replication studies be undertaken, in order to ascertain the effect of organisational factors on export behaviour at different time and spatial frames. Cross-national research would also test the validity and generalisability of findings under different sociocultural, political and economic systems. The use of a multidimensional approach for data-gathering purposes, combining both quantitative and qualitative techniques, would increase both the amount and the reliability of information on the subject. Particular attention should be given to sample representativeness through the employment of nonresponse tests, key informant techniques, and data validation reports. Concerning statistical analysis, more multivariate analytical techniques should be employed (such as canonical correlation and loglinear models), so that the associations between organisational factors and export parameters can be measured.

Empirically, a tradition of building on previous research should be developed, and this could be facilitated by establishing an information bank containing all research on the subject that would be updated at regular intervals. Future empirical efforts should provide a holistic testing of the associations between organisational factors and export behaviour dimensions, and the conceptual framework proposed earlier would prove useful in this effort. In this respect, the full set of possible associations between organisational and export variables could be tested concurrently, while at the same time the effect of possible interrelationships within each construct on the findings could be assessed, using, for example, multicollinearity techniques (e.g. variance inflation factors). The direction of causality between organisational and exporting parameters (as in the case of firm size with export development) could also be investigated using, for example, structural equation modelling (e.g., path analysis and LISREL). Finally, it is important for the generalisability of the findings, to proceed with empirical testings under different environmental/contextual settings, focusing, for example, on countries with different levels of industrial development, cultural patterns and factor endowments.

Implementation Issues

Obviously, the implementation of the above research guidelines is not an easy task, nor one which can be undertaken by a lone researcher, especially considering the financial, time, communication and other difficulties inherent in international business research, attributable mainly to physical and psychological distances between nations (Douglas/Craig 1983). It is recommended, therefore, to take the following steps:

First, to formulate a research team consisting of researchers with a strong interest in the subject - whether business, public-policy or scientific. This team should have a multicultural nature, and its members should be based in different countries and have a good understanding of domestic conditions. 8 Team members should represent different backgrounds relating to both business (e.g., organisational studies, international business, and marketing management) and nonbusiness (e.g., industrial economics, international trade, and statistics) disciplines, in order to achieve research synergies. Moreover, this team should include not only academics, but also business managers from different industries who can provide practical input. The research team could also involve officials from government ministries, chambers of commerce, and other parastatal organisations that have a vested interested in promoting national exports.

Second, to design a research agenda with a consensus on the research frame, construct operationalisation, and survey method. The cross-cultural nature of this research necessitates the establishment of equivalence of various aspects of the data collection process, namely on constructs (e.g., terminology of variables, category definitions), measures (e.g., instrument translation, measurement scales), and samples (e.g., sampling techniques, sample size). It also makes imperative checking for possible cross-cultural bias in research design (e.g., differences in attitudes expression, behaviour manifestations), communication with respondents (e.g., linguistic barriers, different frames of references), and interpretation of results (e.g., information misinterpretation, data misunderstanding).

Third, to coordinate the whole research effort by setting up a research venture along the lines of the International Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) Group or the Consortium for International Marketing Research (CIMaR). The management of this venture should be responsible, inter alia, for obtaining agreement among team members on research design issues (e.g., objectives, constructs, operationalisations), monitoring research progress and providing feedback to participant researchers using various means (e.g., regular meetings, progress reports, and newsletters), and disseminating findings to interested parties through publication in reputable outlets (e.g., special journals, edited books, or conference proceedings). Most important, such a consortium would be in a position to ensure an institutionalised, ongoing and evolutionary interest in investigating the subject.

Finally, to guarantee the viability and feasibility of such a cross-national and longitudinal research programme, substantial financial resources are required. These could be obtained, for example, from grants provided by the institutions or universities where researchers of the team are affiliated. Sponsorships by indigenous manufacturing firms located in the countries under investigation, as well as employers' associations, trade unions and chambers of commerce, could also enhance the research effort financially. Finally, funds could be obtained from local. regional, and international bodies with an interest in developing exports, such as ministries of commerce, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization. By undertaking this collaborative effort, it is hoped that research in this crucial area of exporting can become more systematised and less ambiguous, and establish solid conclusions that would guide further investigating efforts.


1 Facilitating or inhibiting effects on export behaviour can be derived not only from company-specific factors, but also from managerial (e.g., international orientation, entrepreneurial skills, and risk perceptions) and environmental (e.g., economic conditions, legal system, and degree of competition) parameters (Ford/Leonidou 1991). However, there is a plethora of factors in each of these groups requiring separate review efforts.

2 One aspect of international trade involves firms with multinational locations that export to other firms within or outside the organisation. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the majority of actors in international business are not multinational enterprises with manufacturing facilities across many countries, but rather are small- to medium-sized (Grosse/Kujawa 1992, Kaynak 1992). In relation to this, there are only a few studies on intracompany transfers as exports, while the effect of organisational factors on the export behaviour of firms belonging to a multinational organisation has not yet received empirical attention.

3 Overall, 25 different organisational parameters explaining export behaviour were identified, which were subsequently narrowed down to 17 items. The remaining eight factors were either repetitive expressions of the same issue or had an ambiguous organisational status. This denotes a linguistic and terminology diversity in this field of research, causing unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding.

4 Some researchers define export performance in a much wider context, including, for example, export propensity, barriers to export, and level of export development (e.g., Aaby/Slater 1989). However, for the purposes of this study, it was deemed more appropriate to incorporate under this category only those dimensions associated with financial measures.

5 Emphasis on smaller firms could also be attributed to the fact that they are more likely to be found at the exporting phase of the internationalisation process, in order to avoid the high levels of risk and costs accompanying the foreign direct investment phase (Root 1987).

6 An attempt was made to analyse the results according to time, spatial and industry differences, without obtaining any consistent findings. For example, no systematic variations were observed in the results between studies conducted before and after 1985 (the median year), between American and European research, or between studies focusing on consumer and industrial goods.

7 The author knowledges the relevance of an anonymous MIR reviewer's comment that most of the methodological shortcomings identified in this review are not endemic to this stream of exporting research alone, but also to most empirical studies investigating organisational phenomena.

8 In cross-cultural research, countries are usually selected based on opportunistic or convenience factors, without theoretical background. To counter this problem, Holzmuller and Stollnberger (1994) recently proposed a detailed methodology for country selection in cross-national export studies.


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Title Annotation:Challenges and Solutions for International Marketing Management
Author:Leonidou, Leonidas C.
Publication:Management International Review
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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