Fig. 1. Networks in the study (modified from Oparaocha 2015).

Table 1. Research sample.
Company / Organization Annual turnover, MEUR Personnel number Interviewee position
1 Sawnwood company 25–50 0–50 CEO
2 Sawnwood company 75–100 150–200 CEO
3 Sawnwood company 0–25 0–50 CEO
4 Sawnwood company 75–100 100–150 CEO
5 Sawnwood company 0–25 0–50 CEO, Export Manager
6 Sawnwood company 25–50 50–100 Business Manager
7 Sawnwood export company - - CEO
8 Wood products company 25–50 0–50 CEO
9 Sawnwood Industry association - - CEO, Project Manager
10 Wood products industry association - - CEO
11 Export promotion organization - - Program Manager
Table 2. Summary of the interview results associated to opportunity recognition.
Emphasis on existing business and customer relationships, international opportunities mostly well known. “This may sound foolish, but I don’t have to search for new customers and new markets, because I am able to sell fairly well to our regular customers or at least through standard channels“ (Company 3)
”Inquiries [from potential customers] are arriving, but currently we don’t have a need, so we don’t act on them in any way” (Company 6)
“Well, this is an old field and at least the larger companies have base knowledge, of how countries are positioned in the market. This doesn’t mean that everything has been investigated thoroughly and we may be missing something relevant [...], but the sales team is constantly doing their job tracking, listening to hints, looking at the statistics, and following the general economic development…” (Company 4)
New international opportunities often recognized through serendipity “Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, while mainly selling small quantities to French importers, we realized it was possible to go directly to industrial end-users. That was something new. These [opportunities] just come from somewhere.” (Company 1)
“If you think of New Zealand […] it wouldn’t be worthwhile to explore [the market] costwise […] These happen more through coincidence.” (Company 6)
Direct customer contacts and market information identified as ways to recognize new international opportunities proactively ”At one point we hired a new person to take care of the routine work, while the older, more experienced personnel were engaged in building new customer relationships in new markets. This should, of course, be happening constantly.” (Company 2)
”Of course, if we had an employee abroad constantly searching and looking, we would be receiving the information differently.” (Company 3)
Limited resources often restrict possibilities of SMEs’ international opportunity recognition and exploitation ”We don’t have such a great need [to search for new markets], we prefer to wait and see what others do, and then possibly follow them. ” (Company 6)
”The fact remains that creating market demand for high-quality sawn timber products, for example through marketing measures, is not in our hands. It is just too arduous [resource-wise]. Typically, the markets have developed little by little. ” (Company 1)
New opportunities exploited with caution and without any major transformations or innovations ”These are risky projects, so for us the conclusion is to wait and see, and I would argue that this also applies to quite a few others.” (Company 4)
”Further processing companies are continuously searching for something new [...] trying to innovate. We are not planning to transform our production. I don’t think that we can be innovative in the same way in our own production, except that we are trying to make the most of what we are doing on this site.” (Company 3)
”After all, we have around 400 products per wood species, so if a potential market emerges, it is likely to be found from our production.” (Company 2)
Table 3. Summary of the interview results associated to the role of networks in opportunity recognition.
Social contacts and market presence of middlemen such as agents and export companies have facilitated internationalization ”Our first experience from Switzerland came through our German agent, who introduced us to the Swiss market [...] then the Swiss guy took us to Austria.” (Company 5)
”The Swiss market was opened by a sales agent. We suddenly came across an Austrian guy with contacts in Switzerland, who was looking for sawn timber producers that could supply enough quality to Switzerland. That is how it began.“ (Company 1)
”Agents are still present in many markets simply because of language. Germany is our largest market and if you don’t have good command of German language and cultural knowledge, it would be difficult to trade with many customers” (Company 6)
”If you think about the role of export companies, then us having more personnel than a firm of our size would normally have [...] I would say that this provides us with more contact surface, and on the other hand, we have more traditions and therefore something always bounces through.” (Company 1)
Close social relationships with other sawmills’ representatives may enable co-operative networks and international opportunity recognition ”Yes, we have specific colleagues with whom we cooperate with. I may tell them I am unable to handle this or that, and would you be interested in dealing with it. So yes, to some extent such exchanges of thoughts have been utilized.” (Company 3)
”Even now, Latvia for example has begun importing from us due to Company X selling larger batches there. So suddenly we were there [in the Latvian market] [...] The same happened in Morocco” (Company 1)
”In France, we have a client whose purchases are currently so massive that we are simply unable to manufacture everything. So we delegated some to Company X, because we know that we have a trustful relationship and we know the quality of their product will certainly meet the customer’s expectations. They [Company X] were able to help us.” (Company 5)
Excessive network dependency in recognizing new business opportunities should be managed ”At worst, the agent is like a broken phone, so I don’t get the information and my messages are unnecessarily filtered to the customer.” (Company 3)
”The risk related to these consortia is that [mutual] jealousy increases, taking even the fish out of the pot [a Finnish saying referring to how jealousy corrodes][…] so this will not work because there is not enough business for everyone”. (Company 4)
Institutional networks have enabled a more systematic way to recognize and exploit international opportunities ”[...] at the very beginning , with such a consortium in a market of this size, everyone managed to get further than anyone would have alone, even if great effort had been made [to reach the target] […] We have been able to reach a critical level, which has awoken the interest [of clients], and so each company’s sales work lies under this [consortium] umbrella.” (Company 4)
”This event where we were in Shanghai. A large furniture trade fair was held there, drawing in wood products experts from all around China […] so we are looking for such informal networks.” (Company 3)