When Small Businesses Go International: Alliances as a Key to Entry

Haase, H., M. Franco (2015), "When Small Businesses Go International: Alliances as a Key to Entry", Journal of Business Strategy, 36(3), 37-45.

– The purpose of this study is to identify the reasons for the internationalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through strategic alliances and to understand how this internationalisation process evolves.


– For this purpose, the authors decided on a qualitative approach and performed exploratory case studies of two SMEs in Portugal.


– The authors found that in forming alliances, SMEs aim to increase sales and reduce costs. After the analysis, the authors believe that learning about other markets and cultures as well as having appropriate national partners are the key aspects in the internationalisation of SMEs through strategic alliances.

Practical implications

– The authors revealed the influence of national partners in the internationalisation process. The firms in the study established alliances with national firms to facilitate international market entry. This holds in particular for partners that already have some international experience. Building partnerships with national firms allows the combination of competencies and requires a lower amount of internationalisation know-how on the part of the cooperating firms.


– In spite of the opportunities going along with strategic alliances, there is only limited empirical evidence of their impact on the internationalisation process and vice-versa. This holds particularly true for the realm of SMEs.