Export Barriers for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: A Literature Review based on Leonidou's Model
Objective: The purpose of this article is to understand the barriers faced by small and medium-sized enterprises in their path to internationalization. The intention of this paper is to provide an overview about the barriers faced by SMEs in their path to internationalization and discuss in detail different approaches taken by SMEs to overcome these barriers.
Research Design & Methods: This article is a literature review on the barriers faced by SMEs in internationalization and new approaches in this domain based on Leonidou’s (1995, 1998, 2004) model of export barrier classification.
Findings: Modern approaches by SMEs are effective in handling most of the traditional challenges posed in internationalization. Firms have evolved in handling internal barriers by finding dynamic solutions from within. SMEs need support from governmental and policy makers to overcome external barriers.
Implications & Recommendations: Indications on the work to be done in overcoming certain barriers which impede the internationalization of SMEs are more in the context of external barriers.
Contribution & Value Added: The originality of this work is in creating a framework of barriers and finding solutions to some of the identified barriers
internationalisation; international business; export barriers; export obstacles; small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
Agndal, H., & Chetty, S. (2007). The impact of relationships on changes in internationalisation strategies of SMEs. European Journal of Marketing, 41(11/12), 1449-1474.
Ahmed Z.U., Julian, C.C., Baalbaki, I., & Hadidian, T.V. (2006). Firm internationalisation and export incentives from a Middle Eastern perspective. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 13(4), 660-669.
Al-Hyari, K., Al-Weshah, G., & Alnsour, M. (2012). Barriers to internationalisation in SMEs: evidence from Jordan. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 30(2), 188-211.
Arndt, C., Buch, C. M., & Mattes, A. (2012). Disentangling barriers to internationalization. Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, 45(1), 41-63.
Arteaga-Ortiz, J., & Fernández-Ortiz, R. (2010). Why Don’t We Use the Same Export Barrier Measurement Scale? Journal of Small Business Management, 48(3), 395-420.
Athanassiou, N., & Nigh, D. (2000). Internationalization, tacit knowledge, and the top management teams of MNCs. Journal of International Business Studies, 31(3), 471-487.
Baumol, W.J., Nelson, R.R., & Wolff, E.N. (1994). Introduction: the convergence of productivity, its significance, and its varied connotations. In Baumol, W.J., Nelson, R.R., & Wolff, E.N. (Eds.) Convergence of Productivity (pp. 3-19). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bartlett, C.A., & Ghoshal, S. (1987). Managing across borders: New organizational responses. Sloan Management Review, 29(1), 43-53.
Beamish, P.W. (1999). The role of alliances in international entrepreneurship. Research in Global Strategic Management, 7(1), 43-61.
Bilkey, W.J., & Tesar, G. (1977). The export behavior of smaller-sized Wisconsin manufacturing firms. Journal of International Business Studies, 8(1), 93-98.
Casillas, J.C., Barbero, J.L., & Sapienza, H.J. (2015). Knowledge acquisition, learning, and the initial pace of internationalization. International Business Review, 24(1), 102-114.
Cavusgil, S.T., & Nevin, J.R. (1980). A conceptualization of the initial involvement in international marketing. In Lamb, C.W. & Dunne P.M (Eds.), Theoretical Developments in Marketing, (pp. 68-76). Phoenix, AZ: American Marketing Association.
Cavusgil, S.T., & Naor, J. (1987). Firm and management characteristics as discriminators of export marketing activity. Journal of Business Research, 15(3), 221-235.
Coviello, N., & Munro, H. (1997). Network relationships and the internationalisation process of small software firms. International Business Review, 6(4), 361-386.
Daszkiewicz, N., & Wach, K. (2014). Motives for Going International and Entry Modes of Family Firms in Poland. Journal of Intercultural Management, 6(2), 5-18.
Eisenhardt, K.M., & Schoonhoven, C.B. (1996). Resource-based view of strategic alliance formation: Strategic and social effects in entrepreneurial firms. Organization Science, 7(2), 136-150.
Eusebio, R., Llonch, A.J., & Belbeze, M.P.L. (2007). Internal key factors in export performance: a comparative analysis in the Italian and Spanish textile-clothing sector (part 1). Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 11(1), 9-23.
Gençtürk, E.F., & Kotabe, M. (2001). The effect of export assistance program usage on export performance: a contingency explanation. Journal of International Marketing, 9(2), 51-72.
Gulati, R., Nohria, N.,& Zaheer, A., (2000). Strategic networks. Strategic Management Journal, 21(3), 203-215.
Hogan, P. (1991). Some institutional aspects of export promotion in developing countries. In: Hogan P., Keesing D.B., Singer A., (Eds.). The Role of Support Services in Expanding Manufactured Exports in Developing Countries (pp. 39-56). Economic Development Institute of The World Bank.
Inkpen, A.C., & Tsang, E.W. (2007). 10 learning and strategic alliances. The Academy of Management Annals, 1(1), 479-511.
Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.E. (1977). The internationalization process of the firm-a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. Journal of International Business Studies, 8(1), 23-32.
Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.E. (2009). The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: From liability of foreignness to liability of outsidership. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(9), 1411-1431.
Johanson, J., & Wiedersheim‐Paul, F. (1975). The internationalization of the firm—four Swedish cases. Journal of Management Studies, 12(3), 305-323.
Julien, P.A., & Ramangalahy, C. (2003). Competitive strategy and performance of exporting SMEs: An empirical investigation of the impact of their export information search and competencies. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 27(3), 227-245.
Kahiya, E.T., Dean, D.L., & Heyl, J. (2014). Export barriers in a changing institutional environment: A quasi-longitudinal study of New Zealand’s manufacturing exporters. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 12, 331-364.
Karajz, S., & Gubik, A.S. (2014). The Choice of Foreign Market Entry Modes: The Role of Resources and Industrial Driving Forces. Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 2(1), 49-63.
Keesing, D.B., & Singer, A. (1991). Development assistance gone wrong: Failures in service to promote and support manufactured exports. In Hogan P., Keesing D.B., Singer A., (Eds.). The Role of Support Services in Expanding Manufactured Exports in Developing Countries (pp. 1-18). Economic Development Institute of The World Bank.
Klein, S., & Wöcke, A. (2009). Protective incubators and South African MNEs. Thunderbird International Business Review, 51(4), 341-354.
Kneller, R., & Pisu, M. (2011). Barriers to exporting: what are they and who do they matter to? The World Economy, 34(6), 893-930.
Kogut, B. (1988). Joint ventures: Theoretical and empirical perspectives. Strategic Management Journal, 9(4), 319-332.
Köksal, M.H., & Özgül, E. (2010). The export competitive advantages of Turkish manufacturing companies. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 28(2), 206-222.
Korth, C.M. (1991). Managerial barriers to US exports. Business Horizons, 34(2), 18-26.
Kotabe, M., & Murray, J.Y. (2004). Global sourcing strategy and sustainable competitive advantage. Industrial Marketing Management, 33(1), 7-14.
Kubíčková, L., Votoupalová, M., & Toulová, M. (2014). Key Motives for Internationalization Process of Small and Medium–Sized Enterprises. Procedia Economics and Finance, 12(5), 319-328.
Lages, L.F., & Montgomery, D.B. (2004). Export performance as an antecedent of export commitment and marketing strategy adaptation: Evidence from small and medium-sized exporters. European Journal of Marketing, 38(9/10), 1186-1214.
Lederman, D., Olarreaga, M., & Payton, L. (2010). Export promotion agencies: Do they work?. Journal of Development Economics, 91(2), 257-265.
Lee, H., Kelley, D., Lee, J., & Lee, S. (2012). SME survival: the impact of internationalization, technology resources, and alliances. Journal of Small Business Management, 50(1), 1-19.
Leonidou, L.C. (1995). Empirical research on export barriers: review, assessment, and synthesis. Journal of International Marketing, 3(1), 29-43.
Leonidou, L.C. (1998). Organizational determinants of exporting: conceptual, methodological, and empirical insights. Management International Review, 38, Special Issue, 7-52.
Leonidou, L.C. (2004). An analysis of the barriers hindering small business export development. Journal of Small Business Management, 42(3), 279-302.
Leonidou, L.C., & Katsikeas, C.S. (1996). The export development process: an integrative review of empirical models. Journal of International Business Studies, 27(3), 517-551.
Leonidou, L.C., Katsikeas, C.S., Palihawadana, D., & Spyropoulou, S. (2007). An analytical review of the factors stimulating smaller firms to export: Implications for policy-makers. International Marketing Review, 24(6), 735-770.
Levin, R.C., Klevorick, A.K., Nelson, R.R., Winter, S.G., Gilbert, R., & Griliches, Z. (1987). Appropriating the returns from industrial research and development. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 3, Special Issue, 783-831.
Liesch, P.W., & Knight, G.A. (1999). Information internalization and hurdle rates in small and medium enterprise internationalization. Journal of International Business Studies, 30(2), 383-394.
Lu, J. W., & Beamish, P.W. (2001). The internationalization and performance of SMEs. Strategic Management Journal, 22(6-7), 565-586.
Madsen, T.K., & Servais, P. (1997). The internationalization of born globals: an evolutionary process?. International Business Review, 6(6), 561-583.
Matanda, J.M. (2012). Internationalization of established small manufacturers in a developing economy: A case study of Kenyan SMEs. Thunderbird International Business Review, 54(4), 509-519.
McDougall, P.P., & Oviatt, B.M. (2000). International entrepreneurship: the intersection of two research paths. Academy of Management Journal, 43(5), 902-906.
Meredith, L. (1984). US multinational investment in Canadian manufacturing industries. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 66(1), 111-119.
Miesenbock, K.J. (1988). Small businesses and exporting: a literature review. International Small Business Journal, 6(2), 42-61.
Morgan, R.E. (1997). Export stimuli and export barriers: evidence from empirical research studies. European Business Review, 97(2), 68-79.
Mowery, D.C., Oxley, J.E., & Silverman, B.S. (1996). Strategic alliances and interfirm knowledge transfer. Strategic Management Journal, 17, Winter Special Issue, 77-91.
Namiki, N. (1988). Export strategy for small business. Journal of Small Business Management, 26(2), 32-37.
Neupert, K.E., Baughn, C.C., & Thanh Lam Dao, T. (2006). SME exporting challenges in transitional and developed economies. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 13(4), 535-545.
Onkvisit, S., & Shaw, J.J. (1988). Marketing barriers in international trade. Business Horizons, 31(3), 64-72.
Oviatt, B.M., & McDougall, P.P. (1994). Toward a theory of international new ventures. Journal of International Business Studies, 25(1), 45-64.
Oviatt, B.M., & McDougall, P.P. (1999). A framework for understanding accelerated international entrepreneurship. In W. Newburry (Ed.), Research in Global Strategic Management (pp.23 – 40), Volume 1. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Pinho, J.C., & Martins, L. (2010). Exporting barriers: Insights from Portuguese small-and medium-sized exporters and non-exporters. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 8(3), 254-272.
Pointon, T. (1978). Measuring the gains from government export promotion. European Journal of Marketing, 12(6), 451-462.
Ramaswami, S.N., & Yang, Y. (1990). Perceived barriers to exporting and export assistance requirements (chapter 17). In S.T. Cavusgil & M.R. Czinkota (Ed.). International Perspectives on Trade Promotion and Assistance (pp. 187-205). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group
Reid, S.D. (1981). The decision-maker and export entry and expansion. Journal of International Business Studies, 12(2), 101-112.
Ren, S., Eisingerich, A.B., & Tsai, H.T. (2014). How do marketing, research and development capabilities, and degree of internationalization synergistically affect the innovation performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? A panel data study of Chinese SMEs. International Business Review, 24(4), 642-651.
Reuber, A.R., & Fischer, E. (1997). The influence of the management team's international experience on the internationalization behaviors of SMEs. Journal of International Business Studies, 28(4), 807-825.
Ruzzier, M., Antoncic, B., Hisrich, R.D., & Konecnik, M. (2007). Human capital and SME internationalization: A structural equation modeling study. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, 24(1), 15-29.
Ruzzier, M., Hisrich, R.D., & Antoncic, B. (2006). SME internationalization research: past, present, and future. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 13(4), 476-497.
Schweizer, R., Vahlne, J.E., & Johanson, J. (2010). Internationalization as an entrepreneurial process. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 8(4), 343-370.
Shaw, V., & Darroch, J. (2004). Barriers to internationalisation: a study of entrepreneurial new ventures in New Zealand. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 2(4), 327-343.
Sleuwaegen, L., & Onkelinx, J. (2014). International commitment, post-entry growth and survival of international new ventures. Journal of Business Venturing, 29(1), 106-120.
Su, S. (2003). Export Barriers Insights from Small and Medium-Sized Firms. International Small Business Journal, 21(4), 403-419.
Sullivan, D., & Bauerschmidt, A. (1990). Incremental internationalization: a test of Johanson and Vahlne's thesis. MIR: Management International Review, 30(1), 19-30.
Uner, M.M., Kocak, A., Cavusgil, E., & Cavusgil, S.T. (2013). Do barriers to export vary for born globals and across stages of internationalization? An empirical inquiry in the emerging market of Turkey. International Business Review, 22(5), 800-813.
Vahlne, J.E., & Ivarsson, I. (2014). The globalization of Swedish MNEs: Empirical evidence and theoretical explanations. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(3), 227-247.
Vozikis, G.S., & Mescon, T.S. (1985). Small exporters and stages of development: An empirical study. American Journal of Small Business, 10(1), 49-64.
Wach, K. (2014a). Familiness and Born Globals: Rapid Internationalisation among Polish Family Firms. Journal of Intercultural Management, 2(3), 177-186.
Wach, K. (2014b). Internationalisation and Globalisation as a Wider Context of Europeanisation from Micro and Macroeconomic Perspective. Horyzonty Polityki, 5(10), 11-30.
Wach, K. (2014c). Theoretical Framework of the Firm-Level Internationalisation in Business Studies (chapter 1). In A. Durendez & K. Wach (Eds.). Patterns of Business Internationalization in Visegrad Countries – In Search for Regional Specifics (pp. 13-30). Cartagena: Technical University of Cartagena.
Wach, K. (2014d). The Role of Knowledge in the Internationalisation Process: An Empirical Investigation among Polish Businesses (chapter 7). In D. Kiendl-Wendner & K. Wach (Eds.). International Competitiveness in Visegrad Countries: Macro and Micro Perspectives (pp. 143-158). Graz: Fachhochschule Joanneum.
Wach, K. (2015), Impact of Cultural and Social Norms on Entrepreneurship in the EU: Cross-Country Evidence based on GEM Survey Results. Zarządzanie w Kulturze, 16(1), 15-29. doi: 10.4467/20843976ZK.15.002.3037
Wach, K., & Wehrmann, C. (2014). Entrepreneurship in International Business: International Entrepreneurship as the Intersection of Two Fields (chapter 1). In A.S. Gubik & K. Wach (Eds.). International Entrepreneurship and Corporate Growth in Visegrad Countries (pp. 9-22). Miskolc: University of Miskolc.
Wach, K., & Wojciechowski, L. (2014). The Size and the Strategic International Orientation: The Use of EPRG Model among Polish Family and Non-Family Firms. Przedsiębiorczość i Zarządzanie, XV(7), 143-156.
Westhead, P. (2008). International opportunity exploitation behaviour reported by “types” of firms relating to exporting experience. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 15(3), 431-456.
Wilkinson, T., & Brouthers, L. E. (2006). Trade promotion and SME export performance. International Business Review, 15(3), 233-252.
Yener, M., Doğruoğlu, B., & Ergun, S. (2014). Challenges of Internationalization for SMEs and Overcoming these Challenges: A Case Study from Turkey. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 150, 2-11.
Zhao, F. (2014). A holistic and integrated approach to theorizing strategic alliances of small and medium-sized enterprises. Business Process Management Journal, 20(6), 887-905.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a CC BY-ND licence that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are asked to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) only the final version of the article, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access). We advise using any of the following research society portals: