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Entrepreneurs’ Features Affecting the Internationalisation of Service SMEs



Objective: To analyse the internationalisation of SMEs from the perspective of the entrepreneur and the special characteristics and traits that influence internationalisation while dealing with parsimony of financial assets, country of origin liability and other institutional voids.

Research Design & Methods: 11 Colombian SMEs were observed and studied on a case-by-case basis, using a methodology inspired by the phenomenological interpretative analysis (IPA).

Findings: The coding and analysis of the collected empirical data highlighted five main features that positively influence the internationalisation of the observed SMEs: technical expertise of an entrepreneur, opportunistic behaviour towards internationalisation, international focus from inception, an ability to build networks and value creation based on personal traits of the entrepreneur.

Implications & Recommendations: The findings of this study contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the behaviour, rationality and distinctive entrepreneur’ traits that influence the internationalisation of service SMEs.

Contribution & Value Added: This study observes the internationalisation of SMEs from a region that is underrepresented in the literature, furthermore, it uses an entrepreneur-level approach and IPA methodology that is novel in international entrepreneurship studies.



Emerging markets, internationalisation, IPA, international entrepreneurship, service SMEs.


Author Biography

Maria Alejandra Gonzalez-Perez

Maria-Alejandra Gonzalez-Perez (PhD, MBS, Psy) is Full Professor of Management at Universidad EAFIT (Colombia). Maria-Alejandra is the Vice-President of Administration at the Academy of International Business (AIB) (2015-2018), coordinator of the Colombian universities in the virtual institute of the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) since 2009, Distinguished Fellow of the Association of Certified Commercial Diplomats; Research Partner at the CEIBS Center for Emerging Market Studies (CEMS), and Editor-in-Chief of the business journal AD-minister. Dr. Gonzalez-Perez holds a PhD in Commerce (International Business and Corporate Social Responsibility), and a Master’s degree in Business Studies in Industrial Relations and Human Resources Management from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She also did postdoctoral research at the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) in NUI Galway. Prof. Gonzalez-Perez was the Head of the Department of International Business (2009-2013) and Director of the International Studies Research Group (2008-2013) at Universidad EAFIT (Colombia). Prior to her positions in Colombia, she worked as a researcher in various organisations such as the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC), Irish Chambers of Commerce, and the Economics of Social Policy Research Unit (ESPRU) in Ireland.  She also has been a Visiting Professor at ESAN (Lima, Peru); Foreign Trade University (Hanoi, Vietnam); and the Universidad de Granada (Ceuta, Spain). Dr. Gonzalez-Perez has published 12 books, over 40 academic peer-reviewed papers and several book chapters in the areas of internationalisation, sustainability, corporate social responsibility and international migration. She is a regular contributor to Latin American business media. Her research results have been presented in nearly 90 international academic conferences in all the continents. Also, she was trained as a Clinical Psychologist at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) in Colombia. Maria-Alejandra has lived, studied or worked in the UK, USA, Ireland, France, Spain, and Colombia, and have travelled as a tourist to over 70 countries.

Juan Velez-Ocampo

PhD student at Universidad EAFIT

Carolina Herrera-Cano

Carolina Herrera-Cano (MIB) holds a master’s degree in International Business from Universidad EAFIT (Colombia) and a bachelor degree in International Business from the same institution. Carolina is a full time professor at Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana (UNAULA) (Colombia) and works as an adjunct lecturer at Universidad EAFIT in the area of International Business. She has been linked to the study of issues regarding international trade, development, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and gender from various research projects in academia and private sector. She also has experience in consulting services for governmental and international institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Ministry of Environment and Development of Colombia. She is a founding member of the ‘Trade, Investment and Development Observatory’ – a seedbed research group devoted to the analysis of issues concerning developing countries. She has been linked to the study of issues regarding international trade, development, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and gender from various research projects in the academic sector. She served as conference manager of the 32nd Regional P166 UNCTAD course on key issues on the international economic agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean – a project at Universidad EAFIT with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia. Furthermore, she is has participated in international conferences and courses especially in gender studies topics, in which she is a passionate researcher.


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