Export Ambidexterity in Small- and Medium-sized Family Firms: A Case of New Zealand Clustered Wineries
Ambidexterity, defined as the ability to simultaneously explore new knowledge and exploit existing knowledge, allows firms to adapt over time, build a sustainable competitive advantage and achieve growth in the long run. However, due to the tensions and trade-offs between exploration and exploitation, pursuing ambidexterity or developing a more balanced strategy can be challenging. Previous research on ambidexterity has focused primarily on large and well-established organizations and the outcomes of ambidexterity such as performance, whereas little is known about how ambidexterity of small- and medium-sized family businesses in an international business context is managed, especially with regard to exporting, which is the most common form of internationalisation for those firms. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand how small- and medium-sized family firms manage ambidexterity in exporting. Specifically, I shed light on both market and product domains in exporting and further the impact of industrial cluster on firms’ approach to becoming ambidextrous. Using data from semi-structured interviews with six family-owned wineries located in the Marlborough wine region, New Zealand, the research provides evidence that family firms’ unique characteristics, that is, the socioemotional wealth, guide them to particular types of export exploration and exploitation activities in both market and product domains. These are not only aligned with their non-economic goals but also create synergies among seemingly contradictory ambidextrous activities. These findings suggest a behaviour logic and path to explain how ambidexterity in exporting is achieved, through combining and integrating exploration and exploitation in a balanced way. The findings also show that cluster membership improves family firms’ ability to achieve export ambidexterity by providing access to critical resources. Overall, the study adds to the growing body of literature on family business internationalisation and organizational ambidexterity by focusing on the export context. It further links ambidexterity research to industrial cluster literature.