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Behavioral patterns in born-again global firms: Towards a conceptual framework of the internationalization activities of mature SMEs

Patrick Schueffel (Institute of Finance, Hochschule für Wirtschaft Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland)
Rico Baldegger (Institute of Entrepreneurship and SME, Hochschule für Wirtschaft, Fribourg, Switzerland)
Wolfgang Amann (HEC Paris, Paris, France)

Multinational Business Review

ISSN: 1525-383X

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to identify factors that influence so-called born-again global firms’ internationalization behavior. Specifically, this article explores the following questions: why do mature, domestically focused firms suddenly turn into born-again global firms, how do they do so and what elements are needed for born-again global firms to be sustainable.


Using an established international entrepreneurship model as a starting point, we extract relevant factors for a conceptual framework on born-again global firms’ internationalization activities. Case study research among a cross-sectional sample of born-again global firms is being applied for that purpose.


Driven by the insufficient size of their domestic market, born-again global firms typically embark on internationalization after a generational change at the chief executive officer level. Throughout their internationalization journey, they flexibly adapt toward new needs of their foreign environments. Due to their idiosyncratic characteristics, born-again global firms deserve consideration as a separate group of research objects in the field of international entrepreneurship.

Research limitations/implications

The investigated sample of case study firms was drawn across a variety of industries. As such, industry-specific conditions could not be observed and the findings from case study research run the risks of being generalized too broadly. In addition, the accuracy of the case study results may suffer from a certain degree of hindsight bias as the internationalization event took place in the past.

Practical implications

Openness to learning from other markets and the flexibility to modify products according to client needs strengthen born-again global firms’ competitiveness. To endure, born-again global firms have to be innovative in adapting to changes, which makes it easier for them to launch their products in new markets.


To date, international entrepreneurship has focused on the activities of small and newly established firms, largely neglecting the behavior of somewhat larger and established firms in traditional sectors. This study shows that established companies can exhibit the same innovative, proactive and risk-seeking behavior across borders as new ventures do. Despite their strongly rooted structures, strategies and cultures, born-again globals can flexibly adapt to new environments.



Schueffel, P., Baldegger, R. and Amann, W. (2014), "Behavioral patterns in born-again global firms: Towards a conceptual framework of the internationalization activities of mature SMEs", Multinational Business Review, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 418-441.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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