International Relationships and Resilience of New Zealand SME Exporters during COVID-19

critical perspectives on international business, 17 (2), 359-379. https://doi.org/10.1108/cpoib-05-2020-0061

The University of Auckland Business School Research Paper

29 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2021 Last revised: 20 May 2021

See all articles by Benjamin Fath

Benjamin Fath

University of Auckland Business School

Antje Fiedler

University of Auckland Business School

Noemi Sinkovics

University of Auckland Business School

Rudolf R Sinkovics

University of Auckland Business School

Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor

University of Auckland Business School

Date Written: March 31, 2021

Abstract

Purpose of this paper: This paper aims to empirically investigate how SMEs have engaged with international network partners during COVID-19 and how the crisis has changed network relationships and resilience depending on pre-COVID relationship strength and, secondarily, on opportunity outlook in a market.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on 14 qualitative interviews with managers of New Zealand SMEs from diverse industries and four with industry experts. Rather than generalization, the aim of this exploratory paper is to identify contingency factors, which, under duress, strengthen or break business relationships.

Findings: Four main patterns emerge from the data, with respect to how SMEs engaged with network partners depending on the nature of their pre-pandemic relationships and the extent to which their markets had been affected by the pandemic. During crisis, weak ties either break or remain weak, forcing firms to create new, potentially opportunistic, relationships. Strong ties increase resilience, even under a negative outlook, as network partners support each other, including through the development of new ties. Strong ties can also accelerate business model transformation.

Originality: The paper is an early study on how weak and strong ties influence SME resilience during crisis.

Research limitations/implications: Future large-scale research is needed to test the generalizability of our findings.

Practical implications: Our findings indicate lessons for business-continuation management and future preparedness for major disruptions. Specific insights may help stimulate managerial action to accelerate contingency planning and policy to support SMEs.

Keywords: Crisis, COVID-19, cross-border relationships, weak/strong network ties, resilience, exporters, SMEs, New Zealand, qualitative empirical study, pattern matching

Suggested Citation

Fath, Benjamin and Fiedler, Antje and Sinkovics, Noemi and Sinkovics, Rudolf R and Sullivan-Taylor, Bridgette, International Relationships and Resilience of New Zealand SME Exporters during COVID-19 (March 31, 2021). critical perspectives on international business, 17 (2), 359-379. https://doi.org/10.1108/cpoib-05-2020-0061, The University of Auckland Business School Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3816363 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3816363

Benjamin Fath

University of Auckland Business School ( email )

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Antje Fiedler

University of Auckland Business School

12 Grafton Rd
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, 1010
New Zealand

Noemi Sinkovics

University of Auckland Business School ( email )

12 Grafton Rd
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, 1010
New Zealand

HOME PAGE: https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/noemi-sinkovics

Rudolf R Sinkovics (Contact Author)

University of Auckland Business School ( email )

12 Grafton Rd
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, 1010
New Zealand
+64 9 923 6359 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/rudolf-sinkovics

Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor

University of Auckland Business School ( email )

12 Grafton Rd
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, 1010
New Zealand

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