The purpose of the paper is to present the importance of locally embedded personal relationships and individuals’ networks for the rise of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)’ opportunities in the internationalization process (especially the market entry phase) as well as their international operations and growth. Above all, the aim of the article is to answer the question of what is influencing the actual impact of these resulting opportunities on internationalization and growth. This paper adopts both a conceptual and empirical approach to the problem based upon a critical review of pertinent literature. Two case studies of companies from industries representing different levels of technological advancement that is the furniture industry and IT industry, are presented. The theoretical and empirical analysis presented in the article points to the fact that relationships simultaneously facilitate opportunity recognition and themselves constitute such an opportunity. The analysis carried out as part of the case study proves that main factors determining the rise of the opportunity based on locally embedded personal relationships are trust and mutual understanding, in this way emphasizing the importance of relational embeddedness. At the same time, the realization of these opportunities and therefore their impact on the internationalization process and a company’s growth requires additional social factors (an entrepreneurial attitude) as well as economic factors (such as quality and competitive prices).
Keywords: relationships, personal relationships, individuals network, local embeddedness, internationalization, foreign market entry, opportunities, SME.