Internationalization is an important entrepreneurial strategy for promoting the long-term growth and survivability of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Family involvement in top management teams (TMTs) can explain the heterogeneous behaviors of these firms’ international entrepreneurship process. This paper analyzes the moderating effects of the family’s influence on the relationship between entrepreneurial orientation and internationalization with two TMT diversities found only in family firms: the family TMT ratio and generational involvement. An analysis of 191 Spanish family SMEs indicated that entrepreneurial orientation plays a significant role in explaining the degree of internationalization in family firms and that a diversely formed TMT shapes this relationship. A high concentration of family members in managerial positions hinders the international entrepreneurship process. This fact highlights the importance of hiring non-family managers to promote internationalization. The results also reveal that involving multiple generations in decision-making hampers entrepreneurial internationalization, generating control and coordination problems.
Entrepreneurial orientation (EO), the firm’s disposition to entrepreneurship, is a key element in businesses’ internationalization process (Jantunen, Puumalainen, Saarenketo, & Kyläheiko, 2005; Javalgi & Todd, 2011; Liu, Li, & Xue, 2011; Ripollés-Meliá, Menguzzato-Boulard, & Sánchez-Peinado, 2007). However, few studies have analyzed factors affecting the relationship between EO and international development in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and even fewer have analyzed family firms (Calabrò, Campopiano, Basco, & Pukkal, 2017; Hernández-Perlines & Mancebo-Lozano, 2016; Hernández-Perlines, Moreno-García, & Yañez-Araque, 2016), although such firms represent the most common form of business organization in the world (Hiebl, Quinn, Craig, & Moores, 2018). The literature has acknowledged that family firms differ in attitudes and behaviors when internationalizing (Graves & Thomas, 2006) and in internationalization strategies (e.g., Fernández & Nieto, 2006; Boellis, Mariotti, Minichilli, & Piscitello, 2016). Family firms may behave differently depending on the extent of family involvement in the business (Chrisman, Chua, & Steier, 2005; Kellermanns, Eddleston, Sarathy, & Murphy, 2012; Naldi, Nordqvist, Sjöberg, & Wiklund, 2007). Furthermore, family involvement is a variable used commonly to identify the family’s power to shape a firm’s goals, strategies, and behaviors (Deephouse & Jaskiewicz, 2013; Miller, Le Breton-Miller, & Lester, 2013).