Becoming a Hidden Champion: From Selective use of Customer Intimacy and Product Leadership to Business Attractiveness

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Abstract

This paper sheds light on factors that support SMEs becoming market leaders on an international scale. Specifically, it studies the hidden champion type of companies, defined as SMEs that hold market leadership in narrow business segments on a regional or wider international scale. The market positioning of hidden champions is defined subjectively by CEOs in such a way that they create a high level of business attractiveness. This explorative study reveals that product leadership and customer intimacy are two blocks that build the business attractiveness of hidden champions. More specifically, the study on data from 93 niche leaders from Central and Eastern Europe showed that product leadership negatively moderates the business attractiveness-performance relationship, while the impact of the combination of product leadership and customer intimacy on the business attractiveness-firm performance relationship is not straightforward and depends on different combinations of these values.

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