Purpose: Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have become increasingly important in national and international markets because they contribute to the development of local and national economies. SMEs often face serious challenges when competing with multinational companies. The purpose of this paper is to develop a method for assessing SMEs’ competitiveness.
Design/methodology/approach: Based on a constructivist epistemology, this study makes an integrated use of cognitive mapping and the measuring attractiveness by a categorical-based evaluation technique (MACBETH). To this end, face-to-face sessions were conducted with a panel of entrepreneurs and senior managers who deal with the challenges of maintaining SME competitiveness every day. The proposed assessment system was tested and validated by the panel members.
Findings: The methodological processes adopted in this study provide promising results for decision makers seeking to identify the most competitive SMEs. Specifically, the results emphasize, among other points, the importance of innovation and the human dimension to gaining competitive advantages.
Research limitations/implications: The evaluation system developed in this study is extremely versatile and confirms the usefulness of integrating cognitive mapping and MACBETH to facilitate evaluations of SME competitiveness. However, due to its idiosyncratic and process-oriented nature, generalizations need to be done with caution.
Practical implications: The proposed method can be valuable to researchers seeking to develop mechanisms for evaluating SMEs’ entrepreneurial performance and include specialized know-how and sensemaking in organizational decision-making processes.
Originality/value: The integrated use of cognitive maps and MACBETH contributes to a better understanding of how to assess SMEs’ competitiveness. No prior work reporting the use of this dual methodology in this study context has been found.