Design differences in intellectual capital models for small and medium sized enterprises

Selena Aureli


The goal of this paper is to evaluate the characteristics of Intellectual Capital tools and techniques proposed by international literature in relation to the specifics of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), in order to understand if it is necessary to build a different model for intangibles management in this type of firms. Compared to previous studies, this paper focuses on relational capital or external capital (which is one of intellectual capital’s three main dimensions in Stewart’s model of analysis) because it is a widely shared opinion that in the current competitive arena relationships sustain the survival of SMEs both reducing transaction costs and contributing to knowledge sharing and building. In particular, this paper proposes a more comprehensive concept of relational capital which includes relations with suppliers, partners, competitors, distributors, employees, trade associations, local institutions and the larger community besides traditional customer relationships. Moreover, it emphasizes the central role of the entrepreneur and his family in defining a small firm’s relational capital because of the strong influence of the entrepreneur on the company’s structure, strategy and network.  

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