Purpose: The purpose of this study is to analyse the mediating and moderating effects of relational flexibility norms on relationship building capacities and export performance. Design/methodology/approach: The study followed a quantitative and cross-sectional approach. The analysis was applied to 95 Peruvian Exporting SMEs which were examined through structural equation modelling (SEM) using AMOS 24.0 statistical package. The responses were gathered through telephone and personal interviews which were tested using the Mann–Whitney U test, finding no statistically significant differences. Findings: The main finding of the study is to demonstrate the indirect effect of relational flexibility norms on the export performance of SMEs through relationship-building capabilities. In this way, these capabilities become very important variables in the export management of SMEs, since they directly affect the relationship of the Exporter–Importer dyad. Research limitations/implications: One of the limitations is the cross-sectional type study that applies to the short-term effects of relational norms. Organizational characteristics and other factors that may affect export performance should also be considered in future research, as well as longitudinal studies should be developed. Practical implications: The study allows SMEs to focus management efforts on strengthening the relationship – building capabilities, which are very important given SMEs' resource constraints. Therefore, an adequate management of relations with importers can contribute to the reduction of control and coordination costs; and have a positive impact on export performance. Similarly, the study contributes to the management of export promotion by suggesting that one area to be prioritized is the strengthening of the relationship capacities of exporting SMEs. Originality/value: The study provides the analysis of the mediating effect of the relationship-building capability between relational flexibility and export performance. In this way, it enriches the theoretical analysis and contributes with the empirical evidence of an emerging country like the case of Peru.
- Export performance
- Exporter-importer relationships
- Relational norms
- Relationships-building capabilities
- Small and medium-sized enterprises