The role of the entrepreneur has already been pointed out as an important factor for the internationalization decision process in the 1960’s by Aharonis’ behavioral theory (1966). Nevertheless, relevant literature today still lacks the explicit consideration of decision makers’ gut feeling as key element in the preliminary phase of internationalization decisions. The gut feeling is considered important before classic, (ex post) rational decision models can be fallen back on (Hodicovà, 2008). Furthermore, scientific discussions have only started recently to include social relationships and networks as relevant factors in SMEs’ internationalization process (e.g. Fabian et al. 2009). Carlsson and Dale (2011) have created the term „preactivity“ in their study, which compared to the regular terms like „reactive“ and „proactive“, stands for the capabilities and competences of a company, which facilitate (sudden) opportunities that are part of a network, which can be discussed, recognized and used.
Since SMEs have scarce resources they often have no other choice than to rely on the intuition of leaders characterized by trust, confidence and self-confidence and to follow their decisions (Schweer/Siebertz-Reckzeh, 2012). The problem here is that the conscious openness and social acceptance for such an intuitive and emotional decision procedure remains limited in companies (Gigerenzer 2008). This hinders the awareness and usage of SMEs’ potential weaknesses as actual strengths or to at least to recognize them as a potential if balanced with rationality (Schreier/Frik, 2012). According to the author’s argumentation, a successful SME decision maker needs to consider intuition rationally. Therefore, decision makers consciously disclose intuition and allow discussions in the social network – meaning in their network of relations (Kuhlmeier/Knight, 2010). Nevertheless, this also means that the leader has to decide not only how much intuition is facilitated at which point in the decision-making process but also how much rationality is enhanced. Hence, a rational and explicit usage of intuition as a basis for decision-making becomes the last resort for the SME decision maker. We assume that SMEs are forced to take recourse to other sources than their larger peers are won’t to use when preparing their decisions (cf. e.g. Glückler 2006; Crick/Spence 2005). In this respect, the following resources are deemed relevant: The personal competences and experiences of the decision-makers, the networks into which they are integrated, and the trust and belief in themselves and their abilities as decision-makers (Schreier/Dievernich/Gong 2013), in their experiences and their networks, and in their own intuition, commonly referred to as “gut feeling”.