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Entrepreneurs' relationships for internationalization: Functions, origins and strategies

Harris, S.G.S. and Wheeler, C.N. (2005) Entrepreneurs' relationships for internationalization: Functions, origins and strategies. International Business Review, 14 (3). pp. 187-207. ISSN 0969-5931

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The importance of inter-personal relationships has increasingly been acknowledged in entrepreneurship and international business research. This paper focuses on the role of entrepreneurs' inter-personal relationships in the internationalization process, addressing three broad questions: what are the functions of relationships in the internationalization process; from where do the important relationships originate; and what strategies of relationship development do entrepreneurs pursue? These issues are explored in the important relationships of three successful international entrepreneurs that are examined in depth. The cases indicate that the functions of inter-personal relationships in the internationalization process are much more profound than previous research would indicate. They can direct strategy and transform the firm, not just provide information and access to networks. The origins of the relationships are wide, spanning social/personal and business situations. For entrepreneurs, the planned approach of relationships and network development in foreign markets advocated in much of the normative marketing literature may not be relevant. Instead, entrepreneurs might look to strong, deep, inter-personal relationships from which to build transformational international development of their firms.