International business competence and the contemporary firm

Gary A. Knight, Daekwan Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Citations (Scopus)


The trend of increasing internationalization of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is noteworthy, because such firms typically have far fewer financial and tangible resources than large multinational enterprises. As a result, international business is often more challenging for smaller firms. In this study we investigate the widespread internationalization of SMEs, and specific factors that support their superior performance abroad. We uncover a collection of intangible capabilities that are especially salient to these firms and their growing international involvement. We identify international business competence (IBC) as an intangible, overarching firm resource that engenders superior international performance in the international SME. Through case studies and a comprehensive literature review, we identify four dimensions of IBC. We devise and assess a model that links IBC to SME international performance. Results suggest that international orientation, international marketing skills, international innovativeness, and international market orientation are all significant dimensions of IBC, and that IBC is instrumental in SME international performance. We discuss resultant findings and offer managerial implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-273
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2009


  • Capabilities view
  • International business competence
  • International performance
  • Resource-based view
  • Small and medium enterprise


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