Does membership of local Chambers of Commerce networks enhance rural SME performance? An empirical analysis

Pattanapong Tiwasing*, Sukanlaya Sawang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Local Chambers of Commerce networks provide small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with an opportunity to access essential information and networking with other businesses, resulting in improved business performance. However, rural SMEs are less likely to participate in these networks and often possess lower performance. This paper aims to examine the relationship between being members of local Chambers of Commerce networks and rural SMEs’ performance by comparing business performance between rural SMEs who are members and non-members of local Chambers of Commerce networks. This paper also further explores difference in business growth plans between rural SMEs members and non-members. Design/methodology/approach: The empirical analysis draws on cross-sectional data of 3,769 rural SMEs in England and Wales from the UK's Government Longitudinal Small Business Survey 2015. Propensity score matching (PSM) is applied to control for selection bias and variations in business characteristics before comparing business performance, measured in terms of annual turnover, sale growth and profitability, between rural SMEs that are members and non-members of local Chambers of Commerce networks. Findings: Our results show that rural SME members of local Chambers of Commerce networks are more likely to grow their sales than non-members. However, they perform as good as non-members in terms of turnover and profitability. The results also emphasise that local Chambers of Commerce networks are crucial for rural SMEs to develop the skills of the workforce and leadership capability of managers, new product/service development and new working practices. Therefore, to enhance rural SMEs' performance, tailoring the services of local Chambers of Commerce to support rural businesses' needs and encouraging rural SMEs to make use of business networks are recommended. Practical implications: The paper unpacks the relationships between being local Chamber of Commerce membership and business performance, offering lessons for rural SMEs to boost their business performance and growth through participating in local business association networks. Originality/value: This paper is the first study that explores the comparative analysis of business performance and growth plans between rural SMEs that are members and non-members of the local Chamber of Commerce networks. We provide an empirical evidence-based analysis to existing literature regarding the advantages of being local Chamber of Commerce memberships to enhance business performance in rural areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-385
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Volume28
Issue number2
Early online date7 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Business growth plans
  • Business performance
  • Local chamber of commerce networks
  • Rural SMEs
  • Treatment effect analysis

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