Study results

How Swiss companies are approaching the issue of internationalization

Expanding abroad is considered more and more as a fundamental strategic option for gaining a competitive advantage, even for SMEs. The “Swiss International Entrepreneurship Survey 2016” (SIES 2016) examined the current approach of Swiss SMEs to internationalization, and identifies new trends.

Experience is the key to success

The entrepreneur was at the center of the survey with his global vision and the acknowledgement that the required skills of a management team differ at every stage of a company’s life cycle. This is why it is important to recognize early on which skills are essential for the current situation, act accordingly and acquire any lacking expertise. The key to successful internationalization is without a doubt the entrepreneur or management team and their international experience. In the present survey, the known influence of international experience is underlined. The study also recommends employing a leadership team with such international experience for the planned move across the border, as this affects not only the speed of internationalization but also its success.

Investment in areas with a direct competitive advantage

The survey clearly demonstrates the importance of adequate preparation for the internationalization process as well as a strategy which is based on the company’s own expertise. By assessing how other companies look to innovatively position themselves in the international value chain, decision-makers can learn how to maintain a competitive advantage in foreign markets. The results suggest that entrepreneurs and SME managers invest less in material assets and more in sectors which directly generate a competitive advantage. That includes, for example, research and development or the creativity of employees. Practical examples show the many modes of internationalization available for SMEs and clearly demonstrate to managers that internationalization does not necessarily result in the export of market services, but rather that internationalization can help to achieve a specific position in the international value chain.

  • SMEs choose global cities as their starting point for world regions (hub strategy)
  • Companies operating in foreign trade are optimistic about the development in the number of employees
  • Direct export is the most popular and successful form of foreign trade

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