Vladimirov, Z., Ganeva-Simeonova, R., Ganev, K. (2013). Significance of globalization-specific factors for SME competitiveness: a conceptual model and an empirical test. Business Systems Review, 2 (3), 1-25. [Available here]

On the basis of existing theory we suggest two main types of factors for SME competitiveness. The first type is comprised of the basic factors, including internal, external and entrepreneur-related factors, all well-defined and discussed in the IO and RBV approach and the configuration theory as well. The second type consists of globalization-specific factors, referring to the innovation related processes as a response to the globalization challenges (innovation, internationalization, ICT and quality standards adoption, etc.). Our main research question is: Do globalization-specific factors have a significant impact on SME performance in times of crisis and post-crisis recovery? Using the two types of factors, we develop a conceptual model explaining their role for SME performance. We suggest that globalization-specific factors determine SME performance, and that the configurations of the two types of factors differ in times of crisis and post-crisis recovery.

Research hypotheses are tested through construction of indexes for competitiveness and logit models using data on Bulgarian SMEs for two periods – one of economic crisis, and another of post-crisis recovery. Empirical evidence confirms significant impact of globalization-specific factors in period of post-crisis recovery only. Our findings show that the configuration of basic and globalization-specific factors with respect to business success is dynamic: in times of crises globalization-specific factors have no significant impact while basic factors have dominant role. In times of post-crises recovery both factors seem to be equally important for SME performance.

Vladimirov, Z. (2014). Conceptual Framework of SMEs Competitiveness Factors in the Context of Globalization – paper presented at the International Council of Small Business (ICSB) World Entrepreneurship Conference, Dublin, June, 11-14, 2014. [Available here; Text available here].

The paper aims at providing a theoretically grounded framework for researching the SMEs competitiveness factors under the pressure of globalisation forces. A review of three relevant theories (Porter’s framework, RBV and related to it dynamic capability view, and configurational approach) reveals that these theories converge to some degree in their assumptions, proposals, and recommendations. Taking into account firm’s tangible and intangible assets, employees’ and managers’ ordinary and dynamic capabilities, and the manifestation of these capabilities into respective activities, we propose the logic of “tangible and intangible assets – ordinary capabilities (expressed in generic activities) – dynamic capabilities (manifested in strategy-specific activities)” as encompassing the firm’s internal sources of competitive advantages. It is shown that the concepts of dynamic capabilities, Porter’s system of activities, and configuration approach underline the importance of configurations of firm’s internal and and external factors.

The organisational configurations are divided into ordinary (basic) and innovation-related (specific to the globalisation pressures). In fact these combinations represent two stages of the firm’s adjustment to the environmental changes. That is why the distinguishing feature of the innovation-related combinations is that they assume an organizational change. Based on that a conceptual framework is proposed for investigating the firm level competitiveness factors, which attempts to combine the strong points of Porter’s view, RBV, and configuration approach. It is suggested that strategies to enhance the SMEs development in a globalizing economy have to take greater account of the new roles of ICT, international quality standards, networking and clustering, specific innovations, intellectual property management, and internationalisation. The proposed framework is heuristic and opens new avenues for further research in the field.

Vladimirov, Z. (2015). Main types of SME Innovations and their Interdependence. In K. Todorov and M. Dimitrov (Eds.) Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference “Entrepreneurial/Managerial Innovative Strategies and Behaviour in Global Multicultural Environment”, 9-12/09/2014, Nessebar, Bulgaria, pp. 15-36. [Available here]

Most innovation studies on SMEs are devoted to the determinants and barriers of the new products development, and to a lesser degree to the process innovations, or their combinations. Other types of innovations, and particularly organisational and marketing ones, remained relatively understudied. Additionally, the prevailing literature tends to examine individual innovation in isolation. There are no many studies that investigate the interdependence of different types of innovations.

The goal of this paper is to propose a conceptual model of the interdependence of main types of innovations and their effects on firm performance. It is based on a literature review related to the types of manufacturing SMEs innovations, their interdependence, and combined effects on performance. The key findings are the following.

The innovation typology usually includes product/service, process, organisational, and marketing innovations. Some researchers considered that process innovation include both non-technological (organisational) and technological changes. According to others, however, the distinction between two types of process innovations is difficult to sustain as many process innovations involve both types of changes. The results of several studies demonstrated that there is a strong interdependence and mutual support between product and process innovations. Other studies found that organisational, marketing and service/product innovations are also interrelated and influence each other.

The empirical researches on the relation “innovation – performance” revealed positive, negative, or even lack of such relations. In general product improvements influence positively firm growth, while the effects of process innovations are not so clear. The positive influence of organizational and marketing innovations on performance was also demonstrated in the literature. The challenge for the firms is to find a particular combination of a fixed number of innovation activities, which can bring the highest success.

If internal determinants for innovation refer to firm’s tangible and intangible resources, their combination, and entrepreneur/manager orientations, the external determinants include government regulations, access to finance, property and contract enforcement, labor market, institutional environment, etc. Barriers to innovations represent the back side of the innovation determinants (the same factors with negative sign), and because of that they are classified also as external and internal.

Based on a literature review a conceptual model of the interdependence of four types of innovations (organisational, product, process, and marketing) and their combined effects on firm performance is proposed. It is expected that the model will be tested further on data from a survey of 500 manufacturing SME in Bulgaria.

Vladimirov, Z. (2014). Configurations of the Manufacturing SMEs Competitiveness Factors under Globalization.  The Journal of Small Business Innovation, 17(4), pp. 19-48. [Available here; Text available here]

The goal of this paper is to reveal the configurations of the manufacturing SMEs competitiveness factors. These factors differ from the operational ones in the sense that they are innovation related and assume significant organisational changes. Such factors refer to product and process innovations, use of advanced technology, implementation of the IT and international standards, creation of own trademarks and patents, internationalisation, networking, use of marketing strategies, etc. By developing these factors SMEs could follow the low cost strategy, the differentiation strategy, or their combination.

The research is based on the Porter’s framework, RBV, and configuration approach. Building on these theories, the paper aims to answer the research questions, related to the main factors, which determine the manufacturing SMEs competitiveness under globalization; factors’ configurations in clusters; and characteristics of firms from the respective clusters.

The paper use the data of standardized questionnaire from a sample of 500 SMEs from 18 manufacturing activities in Bulgaria. The factors are extracted by exploratory factor analysis (EFA), and successively used for subsequent cluster analyses. The EFA resulted in ten factors, while the cluster analyses provided four clusters. The findings reveal that the third cluster exhibits the highest competitiveness and performance, while the fourth cluster takes the last place on all competitiveness indicators, including performance. The other two clusters occupy the second and the third place on competitiveness, and the third and the second place on performance respectively.

The main conclusion from the cluster analysis is that the SMEs, which wish to be competitive and to perform well, need to develop not an isolated competitiveness factors, but many of these factors together, e.g. they should follow the combination strategies. Particularly important is the use of a bundle of several strategic (innovation-related) factors. Namely the combination of well-developed factors above a certain degree could assure a sustainable level of competitiveness and performance.

Vladimirov, Z. (2015). Interdependence of types of innovations and their effects on performance in the manufacturing SME. Paper presented at the 60th Annual ICSB World Conference, June 6-9, 2015 – Dubai [Available here]. 

Based on the literature review a conceptual model of the interdependence of four types of innovations and their combined effects on firm performance is proposed. The model contains five blocks, of which four blocks for the four types of innovations (organisational, product, process, and marketing), and the fifth block for the overall firm’s performance. The interdependence of innovation types and their effects on performance are reflected by nine hypotheses, which are derived from the literature review.

The main findings reveal a relatively low level of innovativeness in respect to organisational, process, and marketing innovations. More than 50 percent of the firms have not done organisational improvements, and in total more than 70 percent have low values on the index of organisational innovations.  The figures for technology process and marketing innovations are similar. The level of product innovativeness is a little bit higher, but it is not related strongly with the R&D activities, which suggests that these are mainly small and incremental product innovations. These findings suggest that the manufacturing SMEs belong to the category of “modest innovators”, which is similar to the country place in the Innovation Union Scoreboard (EC, 2014).

The acceptable level of the goodness of fit indices of the model allows for analyses of paths structure among different innovations and their effects on performance. All of the hypotheses have been confirmed except for two hypotheses. The organisational type of innovations seems to be most important as it influence directly and positively other types of innovations, and indirectly and positively the firm performance. Both process and marketing innovations play a mediating role between organisational and product ones. Product type of innovations exercises a direct positive impact of firm performance, and it mediates the influence of marketing innovations on performance. The technology process innovations also impact positively both product innovation and performance, but these impacts are not statistically significant. The data show that a small share of performance variance is explained by all types of innovations (only 11 percent). It means that other, more traditional factors, are of greater importance for the manufacturing SMEs performance.

Vladimirov, Z. 2015.  SME Innovation and Performance: the Mediating Role or Product Innovation, paper presented in the REDETE 2015 International Scientific Conference Economic Development and Entrepreneurship in Transition Economies: Assessment of the last 25 years, going beyond the “transition”, Graz, Austria, October 22-24, 2015 [Available here]

The goal of this study was to investigate the mediating role of product innovations in the SME “innovations-performance” relationship. It was found that the R&D has the highest direct and positive effects on product innovations, followed by the firm export orientation, commitment to learning, and access to information. Access to finance and marketing innovations impact also positively and significantly product innovations, although not very strongly. The firm size influences significantly, but negatively product innovations, which suggest that smaller firms in this sample are more likely to be innovative.

The product innovations is the only factor which impacts directly and positively the SME performance, while other process innovations and external factors have positive and significant, but indirect influence on performance. Therefore product innovations turned to mediate fully the effects of process innovations and external factors on performance. At the same time product innovations mediate partially the effects of the firm size and export orientation on performance. The last two factors have also the strongest total effects on performance, which means that the firm resources and export capabilities are more important for performance than innovations.

Other publications

Vladimirov, Z. (2015).  Factors for the e-business adoption by small tourism firms and the role of shadow economic practices. European Journal of Tourism Research, 10, pp. 5-34 [Available here]

The goal of this study is to reveal the main factors influencing the e-business adoption by the small tourism firms in Bulgaria with a special attention on the role played by the informal economic practices on this process. These practices relate to undeclared work, undeclared deals, and sales under reporting by legally registered firms. The research is based on data gathered from 282 small tourism firms’ managers through a structured questionnaire. The exploratory factor analysis provided five factors as antecedents to the e-business adoption. These factors reflect the perceptions of environmental pressure, organisational readiness, informal economic practices in the sector, and managers’ attitudes (positive and negative) towards the e-business. The effects of the factors on the e-business adoption are assessed by a multiple regression model, which include also manager experience and firm size as control variables.

The findings suggest that environmental pressure, organisational readiness, and positive expectations are more likely to enhance the e-business adoption. The manager experience and the firm size influence positively this adoption too. On the contrary, negative expectations and particularly the perceptions of the spread up of informal economic practices in the sector were more likely to work against the e-business adoption by small tourism firms.

Yordanova, D., Vladimirov, Z., and Ganeva-Simeonova, R. (2015). Management Practices in Bulgarian Family and Non-family SMEs: Exploring “Real” Differences. In L.-P. Dana and V. Ramadani (Eds.) Family Businesses in Transition Economies Management, Succession and Internationalization, pp. 113-138

The present research is among the incipient investigations that attempts to compare management practices in family and non-family firms in a sample from a Central and Eastern European country. The proposed hypotheses are guided by previous theoretical and comparative empirical research on family business. The study utilizes multivariate statistical techniques that control for the effects of a number of contextual variables. This approach allows for detecting real rather than sample differences between the studied family and non-family businesses.

The empirical findings support the conclusion that there are fewer “real” differences between family and non-family businesses than it was claimed in previous empirical research. After controlling for size and industry, the investigated family and non-family SMEs do not differ significantly with regard to the possession of short or medium-term business plan, adoption of a marketing strategy, exporting, provision and investment in personnel training, introduction of product innovations, registration of trademarks and patents, usage of automatic management information systems, and adoption of quality and safety standards. The significant similarities between family and non-family SMEs may be explained with the specific historical circumstances associated with the emergence and development of private enterprises in transition economies.

The only significant differences between family and non-family SMEs are related to the use of internet applications. Family SMEs are significantly less likely to have a website and electronic signature of managers and to provide an opportunity for online orders, sales, and payments. These findings may be explained with the greater lack of resources in family businesses such as finance and internal expertise in comparison with non-family businesses.

Vladimirov, Z. (2014). Economic researches of libraries and information, Library (No 2, 2014, pp. 7-28) (In Bulgarian) [Available here]

This article presents one of the less developed research areas in Bulgaria – the economics of libraries as a part of larger economic investigations of culture, cultural objects and institutions. The paper is structured in three parts. The first one reveals the scope of economics of libraries; the second one contains specific examples of economic analyses of libraries; while the third one discusses some of the advantages and restrictions of the application of economic approach to the analysis of cultural objects and institutions.

Simeonova-Ganeva, R., Ganev, K., and Vladimirov, Z. (2012). Analysis of the Situation and Factors for Development of SMEs in Bulgaria: 2011-2012 [Available here]

The present analysis is an update of the publication Analysis of the Situation and Factors for Development of SMEs in Bulgaria (SMEs in the Crisis Context), made in the previous year. The analysis for 2011-2012 has been elaborated for the purposes and needs of the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA). BSMEPA is responsible for the implementation of national policies in the area of small and medium-size enterprises. It participates in the elaboration and execution of the measures set in the annual programmes for the implementation of the National Small and Medium-size Development Promotion Strategy.

The situation in the SME sector has been reviewed basically for the period 2009-2012. The standard statistical indicators of the sector, published by the National Statistical Institute have been complemented by a national representative sociological survey of the SMEs conducted in March 2012. For the purposes of the analysis data from other sources, as well as statistics and reports concerning the SMEs in the EU, have also been used.

The update includes hot topics, which are of considerable importance for the economic recovery and sustainability of the SME sector. The time period covered by the analysis coincides with the recovery of the world and European economies from the financial and economic crisis. Therefore, the economic recovery of Bulgarian SMEs today, and their competitiveness stand in the main focus of the document. The analysis also contains a new topic related to the issue of sustainability of the SME sector, more specifically to the issue of family business inheritance. Among the main research questions to which the present report seeks for answering are the following: What happens with the SME sector todayWhich are the enterprises that manage to recover from the crisisWhich are the factors for development and competitiveness that are of the greatest importance to the successful economic performance of the Bulgarian SMEs today?

Vladimirov, Z., Ganev, K., and Simeonova-Ganeva, R. (eds) (2013). A Study of Entrepreneurship and the Prospects for Innovations Development in SMEs (2012-2013) [Available here]

The main objectives of the analysis are: to track current situation in the SME sector, particularly entrepreneurship and the prospects for innovations development in the SMEs, and to assess the competitiveness of priority manufacturing sectors. These objectives are achieved through:

1) Monitoring the dynamics of key micro- and macroeconomic indicators for the SME sector, including developments in the external environment. Overview of SMEs access to finance. Analysis of major markets and the internationalisation of SMEs sector. Identification of the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities for the development of the SME sector.

2) A study of entrepreneurship with a special focus on education in entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship dynamics and the state of craft industry.

3) A study of the prospects for innovations development in the SMEs with particular emphasis on innovativeness of manufacturing enterprises and determinants of innovations.

4) Formulation of adequate policy measures for stabilization of the SME sec-tor: to improve access to finance, to stimulate internationalisation and to promote innovation.

Some of the main research questions to which the analysis attempts to provide answers are: What happens to SME sector today? What are the major problems for entrepreneurship in Bulgaria? „Are the Bulgarian SMEs innovative and which factors determined innovations in manufacturing?

Developments in the SME sector are observed mainly within the period of 2007-2013. Standard statistical indicators for the sector published by the National Statistical Institute, which currently are updated as of 2011 (for objective reasons these data are published with a 2-year lag), are complemented by: expert estimates for SMEs development in 2012 prepared by BSMEPA and Consortium INSIGHT; and two nationally representative quantitative surveys of SMEs conducted in February-March, 2013. The first of the surveys, which included a representative sample of 500 SMEs in the field of services, industry, commerce and construction, is used for overview of the situation in the sector. The second survey, which covers representative sample of 500 SMEs in 18 manufacturing activities, provides an opportunity for in-depth analysis of the industry and the prospects for innovations and internationalisation development. For the purposes of this analysis, data from other studies and reports concerning SMEs in the EU are used.

The structure of the analysis includes an executive summary, five main sections and appendices. The main sections cover the following topics: macroeconomic and business environment, key characteristics and performance of the SME sector, current state of entrepreneurship in Bulgaria, innovations in SMEs and competitiveness of manufacturing activities, and economic policies for fostering the development of SMEs.

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