Profiting from Modesty: a big global advantage for Flemish companies

It takes more than entrepreneurial talent to penetrate a foreign market dominated by muscular competitors. A new study suggests small players need to think about how they are perceived – but that it may pay to be a small fish in a big pond.

One of the most critical challenges facing entrepreneurial companies expanding abroad may also be one of the most subtle: fitting in. A failure to win acceptance both internationally but also with a parent company at home can slam the door on capital, technology, skilled labour and, above all, customers. Researchers call this quality of being seen as a trustworthy partner “legitimacy”, and a pioneering study of small and medium-sized enterprises emphasizes the crucial role it can play in cross-border expansion.
One key finding of “The Legitimation Strategies of Internationalizing Flemish SMEs and their Subsidiaries” is that, when it comes to legitimacy, Flemish companies from Belgium may be at an advantage over rivals from larger countries with historical baggage such as the US and Germany that enter markets wagging their fingers.
By scrutinizing the strategies of successful players, researchers Christopher Voisey, Jonas Onkelinx, Leo Sleuwaegen and Reinout Buysse (Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School) conclude that a perception of Belgium as neutral can be a valuable asset in a foreign market.

Flanders District of Creativity is the Flemish organisation for business creativity. It was founded by the Flemish Government as a non-profit organization and enjoys broad support. Flemish businesses, academics, and public institutions use Flanders DC as a platform for cooperation and for building a more creative region. Creativity is the key ingredient in making companies more successful and in helping regional governments fuel a healthy economy with more jobs.

Download the full article: 'Profiting for Modesty'

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