International strategy in professional business service industries : the case of the international marketing communications sector in UK
There is no denying the fact that the world economy has witnessed speeding up in the process of globalisation - the broadening and deepening of international interrelationships in trade and investment - over the last decade, and so has the international expansion of service industries. This noticeable movement of service firms beyond their national boundaries has sparked significant academic interests in an attempt to understand their patterns of growth and internationalisation. Such is the direction of this study, where, however, the focus is more on the international strategy of professional business service firms. Against this background, the study takes a specific interest in the Marketing Communications (MarComs) industry, taking UK as the context of this study. Its main objective was to research the influences on and the characteristics of international strategy of MarComs agencies. For the investigation to proceed, a multiple cross-sectional case based research was designed. Sixteen case firms were selected, six were small-to-medium sized agencies (SMAs) and ten were subsidiary agencies (SAs) established in UK. Data collection techniques were predominantly indepth interviews and observations conducted amongst the CEOs and Managing Partners of the respective firms. The data was qualitatively analysed using an inductive analysis process. The findings revealed that there are a number of influences emerging from the internal organisational dynamics and the external industry environment that have distinctive effects on the international strategy process of MarComs agencies. These influences are interrelated and create unique managerial challenges and/or drivers in SMAs and SAs that govern the mode and direction of their international strategy (ies). Having said so, three main types of international strategies were identified and were found to be characterised by a mix of client-driven, market driven and network-driven growth orientations. The main contribution of this theory building research lies primarily in the development of an integrative conceptual framework of international strategy of MarComs agencies. This framework takes a holistic view of the process against the backdrop of three conventional strategic management theories, namely the resource-based view (RBV), the network-based view (NBV), and the industrial organisation view (IOV). Additionally, the research highlights individual yet complementary scenarios of the international strategy process relevant to medium-sized as well subsidiary firms in the MarComs industry.