Establishing new, international business relationships is a highly relevant and critical issue for many firms that want to go abroad, as international business relationships are a rapidly growing attested by the increased importance of conducting business across national borders. However, the risk for failing in initiating new, international business relationships is significant; giving the rise for a need to increase the knowledge about such processes and those circumstances that may affect it along the way. Despite the addressed need, the literature on the area of international business relationship initiation processes has been recognized as scarce. Thus the purpose of this study is therefore to enrich the research area with an increased understanding of the phenomenon of international business relationship initiation processes.
The purpose is achieved by combining empirical findings with theories from the disciplines of internationalization, business relationships, and networking. Relationships are bridges to new markets, and thus initiations of international business relationships may be regarded as the internationalization process of a firm. Third actors are a part of the dyad?s network, and by merging its networking effect on the dyad, new theory is new theory is developed concerning initiations of international business relationships and third actors? influence on these.
The empirical findings are deducted from a case study of the relationship initiation process between the software supplier Powel and the engineer consultancy firm Norconsult Andina in Chile. Through the case study, the study will i) provide a description of the characteristics of the international business relationship initiation process, ii) explain how third actors may influence this process, and iii) identify how the difference in the third actors? nationality influence the relationship initiation process.
The choice of using a case study design reflects upon the complexity of business relationships, whose initiation is extensively subjected to dynamism. Drawing on the strengths of such a research design, the study employs multiple source of evidence by collecting data from participating-observations, direct observations, semi-structured interviews, and documentation. Based on the findings of the study, it is suggested that those factors regarded as influential for the process can be divided into internal, relational, and external factors, respectively extracted from the firm, the relational, and the environmental level of the business relationship to be initiated.
Third actors are suggested to belong to the relational factor category, and can take the forms as persons, organizations, artifacts and piece of work, solely or multiple. Together with the internal and external factors, they have a relative influence on the relationship initiation process, upon which sum decides the outcome; whether the process decreases or increases its closeness to a business agreement, linger for a period of time, or even stop. The study suggests that the relationship initiation process is even more dynamic than previously found in the literature, which is further emphasized by seeing the process from the perspective of both parts of the dyad: The process patterns may differ, however, they do converge as the closeness to the business agreement decreases, which is reached simultaneously in time.
Further, vertically linked third actors are found to be particularly influential for the process, especially if they are linked to both of the companies of the dyad. Concerning their international dimension, they can be seen in terms of not only their nationality, but also their international experience and country of presence. Indeed, the two latter dimensions appear to be most important in terms of reaching the business agreement, implying that managers should focus their efforts on those customer companies that are common for the two firms, have international experience, and have local presence in the country where the future business is supposed to take place.
Based upon the findings of the study, the thesis contributes to the theory by suggesting a new conceptual model on international business relationship initiation processes. However, as this thesis is merely based on a single case study, the new model should be tested in future studies by the use of a higher number of cases across industries and national borders.
Institutt for industriell økonomi og teknologiledelse , 2013. , 136 p.