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    Exporting is a team sport: the link between management training and performance in SMEs

    Idris, Bochra, Saridakis, George, Georgellis, Yannis, Lai, Yanqing ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9107-3464 and Johnstone, Stewart (2023) Exporting is a team sport: the link between management training and performance in SMEs. International Journal of Manpower. ISSN 0143-7720

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    Purpose – This paper examines how soft skills training for owner-managers affect the financial performance of exporting SMEs. Furthermore, we examine the differential influence of specific owner-manager skills, such as ‘team working skills’, ‘technical skills’ and ‘leadership skills’, on performance. Design/methodology/approach – The paper utilises the Longitudinal Small Business Survey, which is a nationally representative employer dataset of UK SMEs with up to 249 employees, including those with no employees. The dataset contains information on firms’ turnover, export status of goods or services, and training provision for employees or owner-managers. Findings – The results suggest that owner-manager’s training has a positive effect on turnover in non-exporting firms. Moreover, a combination of soft and hard skills is associated with higher turnover in exporting firms. Among the specific skills of owner-managers, training on ‘team working’ has the most significant impact on exporting SMEs’ performance. Practical Implications – Our findings imply that managerial training to develop soft skills such as leadership, decision-making and communication is a worthwhile investment. The knowledge that owner-managers acquire through soft and hard skills training enables them to develop essential internationalisation competencies. Moreover, we demonstrate that team working is a significant predictor of performance. Originality/value – We contribute to the literature by examining the role of owner-managers’ training in shaping internal systems, structure and processes, and internationalisation strategies, thus affecting SMEs performance. We also provide a nuanced analysis of how various types of soft and hard skills underpin the successful implementation of internationalisation initiatives.

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