DOI 10.14707/ajbr.220118

Staffing Considerations and International Trade Fairs for Korean SME Exporters and Innovators

Douglas R. Gress1* and Ronald V. Kalafsky2
1 Department of Geography Education, College of Education, Seoul National University, South Korea
2 University of Tennessee Knoxville, USA
* Corresponding author:


There is a dearth of literature on international trade fair (ITF) staffing functions from the perspective of the exhibitor, and on firm-level internationalization and innovation-related activity within the ITF environment. This research explores specific ITF staffing considerations and their linkages with a number of measures related to firm-level internationalization strategies, relationship building, and innovative activity. A relationship marketing perspective and two research questions are deployed. Results are based on quantitative analyses of firm-level data on small-and-medium-sized (SME) Korean advanced machine tool manufacturers. Results indicate that firms staffed with senior management place more emphasis on meetings with overseas agents and on market information gathering. Firms staffed with technicians emphasize benchmarking activity. The presence of engineers emerges as vital to the setting of clear goals for ITF attendance. Engineers fill even more pivotal roles in the use of ITFs for establishing relationships with potential buyers, for information gathering on them, and for innovative activity. SMEs in technologically advanced sectors and those seeking to expand their export horizons should diversify and enhance their ITF staffing, namely by including more engineers and technicians in conjunction with upper management. They should also move beyond a sales-only motivation and make sure that cross-training helps to better prepare all staff for functions outside of their general job descriptions. Findings may have a direct bearing on Korean firms given the context surrounding the industry, and on (East) Asian firms in particular given an organizational preference to staff with lower-level management and sales personnel.

Keywords: Exporting, Innovation, International trade fairs, Korea, SMEs, Staffing considerations.

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