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Impacts of symbiotic relationships on risk, return and value of micro-, small and medium enterprises

This thesis investigates the impact of symbiotic relationships on risk, return and value of micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The research study examines how connections and networking help MSMEs to enhance financial gains by maximising return and minimising risks associated with business performance. This thesis focuses on New Zealand MSMEs, as they are significant contributors to the country’s economy and provide employment opportunities for many people. Funds allocated by the New Zealand government to different business clusters indicate how the government pay attention to these associations making it pertinent to explore whether these MSMEs grow, and how helpful the concept of symbiosis is in promoting their growth. Globalization and changes in economic conditions can intensify competitive behaviour among businesses. While increased business competitiveness may have minimal effects on the business performance of large-sized firms, it can create challenges for MSMEs. Limitations of resources and finance, volatility and opacity can push these businesses to a critical juncture. In order to overcome these problems, many MSMEs’ owners have discarded the idea of flying solo, and adopted a synergistic model of working where everybody get benefits from cooperation. The concept of symbiosis is adopted as a strategic tool which can improve profitability, business survival rates, goodwill and growth potential, as well as reduce potential risk caused by the limitations of firm size. Symbiotic relationships can enhance the bottom-line and help businesses to be successful, as a consequence of creating innovative outcomes for individual firms, societies and countries. Although some previous studies discuss the impact of networks and connections, there is still considerable work to be done in evaluating the effects of business symbiosis, especially from a financial perspective. In order to do this, various financial theories, namely Signalling theory, Stakeholder theory and Agency theory are incorporated into this thesis to explain how symbiotic relationships enable MSMEs to increase return, and reduce risks and uncertainties associated with business performance of MSMEs. Significantly, these theories are widely adopted in studies relating to (listed) large companies, but not often found in small business studies. Therefore, this thesis contributes to the literature. This study points out how financial theories adopted in (listed) large firms can also explain business transactions in MSMEs, particularly when the concept of symbiosis is incorporated. Furthermore, the adoption of non-finance theories such as Social network theory, Resource dependency theory and Transaction cost theory in this thesis encourages an innovative cross-disciplinary perspective. At the same time, a financial perspective is important and necessary to investigate how business symbiosis enhances MSMEs performance, particularly regarding risk and return. As this thesis aims to examine the impact of connections between several MSMEs and how their cooperation helps MSMEs owners to boost financial gains, this study reviews prior works to understand the factors that can be affected by networks and connections in businesses. Following this step, secondary data was accessed from the New Zealand Benchmarking Survey, provided by the Institute of Business Research at the University of Waikato, to run simulations to assess the potential profit of firms when applying the concept of symbiosis. It was found that potential firm profits differ depending on the specified range of parameters and type of distributions used. To ascertain the impacts of symbiosis more precisely, it was necessary to use real samples. Correspondingly, the researcher conducted fieldwork and collected primary data by using surveys and semi-structured interviews. The research participants are MSMEs’ owners who operate businesses in Cambridge New Zealand. Both surveys and interviews are concurrently conducted and both close-ended and open-ended questions were asked. The questions relate to owner characteristics, business attributes, symbiotic relationship activities and firm performance. The analytical process is divided into two parts: quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis. All survey responses were analysed by applying econometric models namely Ordered Logistics Regression (Ologit) and Partial Less Square Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM). The results of Ologit in relation to symbiotic relationships between MSMEs and banks are important. The findings show that having no connections with banks is positively associated with a reduction in net profit while having connections with banks positively relates to an increase in net profit. It was also found that symbiotic relationships among firms are crucial. The study found a positive relationship between a change in net profit and having business connections among MSMEs. This positive association is also found in MSMEs operated by business owners who have frequent interactions with other business owners. Regarding business owner characteristics and firm attributes, the findings indicate that there is a significant difference between the age of a business owner and frequency of interaction among firms across different industries. Also, the frequency of interaction among businesses is associated with firm age (the operating years) and firm size (the number of employees). The thesis also examines the association between two groups of symbiotic relationships, interfirm relations (connections between several businesses), and business-bank relations (connections between businesses and banks) to see if these associations relate to the change in net profit of MSMEs. PLS-SEM was applied for this section of the study. Moreover, Social Network Analysis (SNA) was adopted to calculate network scores when MSMEs have been connected with others, and these scores were put into PLS-SEM as indicative variables. Findings of SNA show there are seven industrial areas with a high density of connections. PLS-SEM results showed there is no association between interfirm relations and business-bank relations. However, it was found that change in net profit is negatively associated with business-bank relations. The findings also demonstrate that connection with only one bank is the important indicator explaining business-bank relations in Cambridge. In order to examine why and how symbiotic relationships impact on risk, return and value of MSMEs, thematic analysis was used to analyse the responses to open-ended questions in semi-structured interviews. The empirical findings confirm that business symbiosis enables MSMEs to reduce costs and expenses while also assisting them to increase return and added values. Moreover, MSMEs having good connections with banks obtain benefits regarding access to finance and services. It was found that signals indicating symbiotic relationships in Cambridge are donations, use of referrals, participation in trade associations or professional networks among MSMEs’ owners, and personal interactions among business owners. The study found factors supporting and maintaining business symbiosis in Cambridge. These factors relate to location proximity of the town, non-growth-oriented characteristics of MSMEs, two-way relationships where both business partners get mutual advantages from connections, trustworthiness of business owners, a rapidly developing and high-growth town, the density of embeddedness relationships, and good corporate governance in trade associations and business clusters. The findings support Signalling theory regarding asymmetric information. MSMEs try harder, compared with larger firms, to reduce information asymmetry, and this goal can be achieved when they connect or network with others. With the consistence of Stakeholder theory and Agency theory, these symbiotic relationships provide mutual and additional benefits to MSMEs, and it can last longer when they have good corporate governance to manage the whole network. It could be worthwhile to have a nominee or some group of people who can deliver ideas or information in business clusters and associations, however a conflict of interest between this group of people and other members could diminish the whole network. Therefore, trading off between risk and return is still significant. This thesis supports Transaction cost theory and Resource dependency theory which were incorporated with Social network theory to examine how having networks and connections enable MSMEs to reduce transaction costs and enhance overall performance as well as the security market line. This thesis has implications for MSMEs, banks, government and policy makers. While the study does have limitations, however these does not affect the analysis. Although this thesis uses Cambridge as a case study, this thesis is generalizable in concept, and the findings show a particular context where existing theories can be developed. Some recommendations for further studies relating to the uses of a Business Operations Survey are stated. This could not only be beneficial for investigating symbiotic relationships in other contexts, but could also lead to further contributions based on this thesis. 
Type of thesis
Kijkasiwat, P. (2019). Impacts of symbiotic relationships on risk, return and value of micro-, small and medium enterprises (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12581
The University of Waikato
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