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How “export-able” are you? A review of the export readiness literature


The review aimed to provide a holistic review of the existing academic literature on export readiness. Export readiness is defined as the stage at which a firm potentially changes from being a purely domestic to an international company.


The review was conducted through desk research, and examined relevant papers published in influential management journals (in terms of number of times cited), and those located through a keyword search (using terms such as ‘export readiness’, ‘pre-export’ and ‘pre-internationalisation’) of two academic search engines, Google Scholar and ISI Web of Science.


The review suggests that although there has been an increasing number of ‘born global’ firms in recent years, the model depicted in Cavusgil’s I-model still depicts a typical firm’s growth path to internationalisation: domestic marketing, pre-export, experimental involvement, active involvement and committed involvement. It finds that as the internationalisation process has a sequential nature, the pre-internationalisation of a firm can be a critical phase to determine whether it will proceed to internationalise gradually or cease the process. The decision-maker, the environment of the firm, the firm itself, and the interaction effects between these three factors are highlighted as particularly affecting the pre-export activities of a firm, with the characteristics of the decision-maker having the greatest impact on a firm’s export-readiness. The review contends that the stimulation to export should be primarily based on pro-active factors (such as fulfilment of sales or profit) rather than being a reactive response to internal or external pressures (such as a downturn in the domestic economy or a saturated domestic market). Scottish SMEs are found to be slightly below the national average in terms of exporting, and Scotland is highlighted as having the second-lowest number of ‘born global’ firms in the UK. The review finds that although all firms are exposed to factors that can stimulate exporting, not all choose to do so, and it is suggested that this is a significant gap in the existing literature on the export readiness of firms.


The report makes a number of suggestions for policy-making, including: the development of an interactive website to promote international opportunities to domestic SMEs, and provide tailored advice on how to maximise these; the provision of information on overseas trade fairs to domestic SMEs; and the development of a web-based tool to allow SMEs to self-assess their internationalisation readiness.

Author Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow
Published Year 2013
Report Type Research
  • Internationalisation
    Exporting, Internationalisation of Scottish businesses