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Intangible assets and performance: Analysis on manufacturing SMEs

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to shed light on the nature of intellectual capital in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and how it is linked to strategy and performance. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Using structural equations, a multivariate model is presented where multiple relations are tested between different components of intellectual capital and performance. The model is tested first on a unique sample of 267 SMEs and second on two subsamples where SMEs are grouped according to their strategic profile. Findings ‐ Findings confirm that SMEs that adopt different strategies organize their intellectual capital in a particular and adapted way. When an attempt is made to link intellectual capital components to performance, it is noticed that the latter is strategy specific, just as the variables that influence performance. Prospectors dominate defenders on most intellectual capital components. Research limitations/implications ‐ Use of secondary data may provide less precise results that could make an incentive to conduct other studies with specific determinants of intellectual capital and try to make clear definition and measurement of this concept and its components. Practical implications ‐ Even if the results have an exploratory nature, they confirm that SMEs organize and develop their intellectual capital in conjunction with their needs and strategic profile, revealing their heterogeneity. This has implications on the ability to generalize specific behaviors to all SMEs, and could prevent government from developing public policies that are supposed to fit all SMEs. Originality/value ‐ Most research on intellectual in capital SMEs is conducted on specific sectors linked to activities requiring high levels of knowledge or technology. But these results concern a small proportion of SMEs. This study expands those analyses to a much broader variety of sectors, revealing some links between specific components and performance taking into account strategic orientation. This is the first study on manufacturing SMEs that considers various non-technological sectors and strategic profiles.
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Keywords: Intangible assets; Manufacturing industries; Performance management; Small to medium-sized enterprises; Strategic management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 19 April 2011

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