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Small Business Leadership: Demands and Opportunities in the Global Marketplace

Sat, October 14, 10:30 to 11:45, SQUARE, Studio 315

Short Description

Presenters will focus on globalization for small business owners as a gradual process that incorporates cognitive complexity and global competencies. Entrepreneurial leadership strategies will be shared that reflect on situational leadership, entrepreneurial and experiential learning, and global literacy as methods for expanding into the global marketplace over time.

Detailed Abstract

Technological advances and the emergence of a global worldview affords businesses the ability to connect, collaborate, and navigate new borderless realities in ways that were only science fiction decades ago. International communities and markets that were considered out of reach now freely participate in the geographically dispersed marketplace. Policy makers from around the globe are focusing efforts on expanding global opportunities for small businesses and creating best practices for internationalizing small business growth efforts (SBA, 2016). Yet, the uncertainty of the United States in regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA questions the fate of these efforts.

Global engagement and entrepreneurial leadership requirements need to take on new challenges, meet the cultural demands, and seek new opportunity in times of uncertainty. Our research focuses on strategies to assist small business owners with the development of global competences, building expanded community, and creating new pathways for women and other underrepresented communities.

The successful operation of business in the international arena depends on cross-cultural business leadership strategies (Caligiuri and Tarique, 2012; Stahl and Brannen, 2013) and the cognitive capacity to move a firm in a new direction takes leadership skills and approaches to manage the multiple layers of complexity inherent in globalization (Conger, 2014; Lane, 2004; Levy et al., 2007; Mendenhall et al., 2012; Pless, Maak, and Stahl, 2011).

The rate of change in today’s global economy makes it challenging for small businesses to stay competitive. But small business owners (SBOs) with the knowledge, skills, attitude and behavioral characteristics (Caligiuri, 2006; Caligiuri and Tarique, 2009; Conger, 2014) to manage complexity, ambiguity, and interdependences may have the capability to successfully expand internationally (Lane, 2004; Mendenhall et al., 2012; Osland et al., 2013). Mastering global competencies (Bird and Osland, 2004; Caligiuri and Tarique, 2012), cultural literacies (Alon and Higgins, 2005; Conger, 2014; Rosen et al., 2000), and intercultural perspectives (Levy et al., 2007; Reiche et al., in press) are crucial to grow a business beyond national borders. Furthermore, global leadership capabilities and an openness to learn are required to transform oneself (Conger, 2014; Mendenhall, 2006) and one’s business over time.


The potential for economic growth exists for those prepared to expand their view and vision for internationalization. Earning and wages for the service sectors have risen considerably (Delehanty, 2015), and as global demand for service exports increase, companies within the service sector are encouraged to expand internationally. Understanding how to leverage global relationships could potentially provide entrepreneurs access to 95 percent of the world’s international consumers (SBA, 2016). In the United States as of 2013, 33.6 percent of the known export value stemmed from small firms; entrepreneurs have yet to fully tap the potential for growth in the export arena according to the SBA global perspectives (Delehanty, 2015).

The growing demand for global leadership creates an opportunity for those with the entrepreneurial experience and openness to learning to fill gaps left open by those unprepared for the new world economy or the changing public policy landscape. Through international trade, small businesses have access to new customers and suppliers of which to sell, partner, and learn from if they have the ambition to participate. Small business owners with a global mindset (Conger, 2014) and a higher level of cognitive ability can take leadership roles and build relationships in industries and professional circles worldwide (Alon and Higgins, 2005; Caligiuri, 2006; Conger, 2014; Mendenhall, 2006; Mendenhall et al., 2012; Pless, Maak, and Stahl, 2011; Salicru et al., 2016).

The goal of our research is to assist SBOs and their employees to strategically examine their capacity to successfully enter and lead internationally. Drawing from situational leadership theory, this research embodies adaptability within leadership to achieve objectives utilizing goal setting, capacity, education, and experience as primary success factors. A leader’s style is important for successful leader-led situations, yet the ability or maturity of those being led is equally as critical.

Target Audience

This research targets small enterprises that have been successful at managing the complexity of domestic operations. The ability to operate in local or national market conditions is a pre-requisite—essentially those entities that have passed the initial start-up phase and the hurdle of being in business competitively for more than three years (as 40% of companies close before year four due to economics, resources, or other factors (Delehanty, 2015)).

This presentation draws upon the research conducted by O’Cass and Weerawardena (2009) that suggests entrepreneurs are not “born” as suggested in conventional theories; rather firms can be guided and educated to become entrepreneurial in their decision-making through strategic leadership. Therefore, we will include serial small business owners with a cumulative small business experience of three plus years.
The cognitive complexity and global competencies needed to be successful in the global marketplace influences our research on processes for globalizations to provide small business owners the opportunity to reflect upon their own abilities and skills, develop new knowledge and mental models, and create a process for expanding into the global marketplace over time (Mendenhall, 2006); allowing them to build upon current mindsets, learn to act and lead in turbulent times when global opportunities arise.