(Fourth in a series)

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

In light of the limited empirical research of terrorism effects on the internartional activities by firms, we undertook a two-phased exploratory investigation. First, we conducted qualitative interviews with internationally-active firms on terrorism to develop a broad understanding of what companies and managers see as the key salient issues. We also conducted discussions, generally 45 to 60 minutes in length, via telephone and at company sites, with senior managers of  nine firms with extensive international operations. These interviews provided a clearer picture of managers’ concerns about and response to terrorism, and facilitated the creation of a survey used in the second phase of our research.

Respondents worried about interruptions of supply chains, distribution channels, and logistics due to terrorism. Concerns also focused on the trustworthiness and reliability of foreign suppliers and intermediaries exposed to terrorism. Attention also rested on corporate capabilities which allow firms to prepare for potential disruptions and delays due to terrorism, and keep resources available to protect from and counteract terrorism.

The second phase of our research was an online survey of a sample of international firms headquartered in the United States but active in many countries around the world. The survey aimed to validate earlier findings, to better understand perceptions about terrorism, and to assist with the planning and responses that managers are undertaking when confronted with terrorism.

The unit of analysis was the firm. For standardization purposes, company resources were assessed as ‘annual revenues per employee’, where total annual revenues were divided by number of employees for each firm. We used 5-point Likert scales.

In conducting the survey, we collaborated with a large trade association and its members. About one-third of the group’s 8,000 members are engaged in international marketing. We sent all members an e-mail and requested members active in international marketing to complete the questionnaire at a separate website. This approach ensured responses from a relatively random sample of U.S. firms engaged in international marketing. Results were received from 551 member firms, a response rate of about 21% considered acceptable for unsolicited research participation.  We then selected firms active in manufacturing (as opposed to services) in order to focus on companies working in the international marketing of physical goods.  This step resulted in a final sample size of 151 manufacturing firms engaged in international marketing.

To achieve research robustness, we assessed respondent representativeness in two ways: A wave analysis compared the scores from a sample of early respondents to those in a sample of late respondents.  Second, we compared randomly chosen samples of responding and nonresponding firms.  In both cases, the tested variables did not reveal any significant differences between samples thus, nonresponse bias was not expected to affect study results. Moderated regression analysis was used to assess the research hypotheses.  We found normal probability distribution and no outlier observations, suggesting no violation of the normality assumption.

In internationalizing firms, it appears that the threat or occurrence of terrorism is associated with immediate increases in international marketing costs and with disruptions in international supply chains.  Management becomes likely to include terrorism as a detrimental factor in international marketing planning, and in the design of global distribution channels.

Finally, the more resources held by the firm, the more willingly terrorism and its repercussions will be recognized. The trend appears to be that particularly among informed and wealthy firms a terrorism presence creates early and significant corporate responses. Terrorism seems to be a key causal factor in fomenting poverty much more so than poverty creating terrorism.

A significant insight!

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).