Title: The role of trust in the internationalisation of knowledge-intensive small and medium enterprises

Authors: Luz Marina Ferro-Cortés; Dorra Skander; Lise Préfontaine

Addresses: Strategy Department, Administration Faculty, University of Los Andes, Calle 21 No. 1-20, Bogota, Colombia ' Management Department, School of Management of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres, 3351, Des Forges Blv., C.P. 500, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, G9A 5H7, Canada ' Management and Technology Department, University of Quebec at Montreal, Montreal, Canada

Abstract: In the internationalisation of knowledge-intensive SMEs, or KI-SMEs, trust can play a significant role in facilitating the introduction of these SMEs to a complex constellation of networks and relationships. This study of four contrasting cases, two from Quebec and two from Bogota, takes an in-depth look at the role of trust in their internationalisation processes. Results emphasise the primary role of trust in all of its forms: interpersonal, interorganisational, institutional and competence-based. All KI-SMEs used trust to gain legitimacy in new markets. Certain disparities have been identified. Firms from 'low-trust societies' (Colombia) privileged a gradual process of legitimacy-building based on certified competencies, successful experiences and the establishment of interpersonal trust relationships at the international level. Entrepreneurs from 'high-trust societies' (Canada) tended to rely on experts to help them more rapidly gain legitimacy in international markets. The path to internationalisation was even longer for young, inexperienced entrepreneurs, notwithstanding their origin and is industry driven.

Keywords: internationalisation; international entrepreneurship; interpersonal trust; interorganisational trust; institutional trust; competence-based trust; comparative research; intercultural research; knowledge-intensive SMEs; small and medium-sized enterprises; Colombia; Canada; legitimacy building; entrepreneurship.

DOI: 10.1504/IJBG.2017.083201

International Journal of Business and Globalisation, 2017 Vol.18 No.3, pp.291 - 317

Received: 06 Aug 2015
Accepted: 01 Sep 2015

Published online: 22 Mar 2017 *

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