Course 2023-2024 a.y.


Department of Management and Technology

Course taught in English

Student consultation hours
Class timetable
Exam timetable
Go to class group/s: 31
CLEAM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - CLEF (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - CLEACC (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BESS-CLES (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - WBB (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BIEF (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BIEM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BIG (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BEMACS (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07) - BAI (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Synchronous Blended: Lessons in synchronous mode in the classroom (for a maximum of one hour per credit in remote mode)

Suggested background knowledge

We expect students attending this course to possess prior knowledge of key concepts, terminology and frameworks of general management.

Mission & Content Summary


Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) represent an important phenomenon worldwide and their success determines the economic prosperity and growth for most nations. By attending our course, you will learn about key features and key processes of strategic management of small and medium enterprises, about main characteristics of SMEs, including those owned and run by families (small and medium family businesses), and about factors and decisions impacting SMEs' sustainable competitive advantage. Through multiple cases, examples and guest speakers sessions you will develop a comprehensive knowledge about strategic decision making for small or medium businesses, with a focus on international and digital growth strategies.


  • During the introductory part of the course you will learn to distinguish small and medium enterprises from larger business organizations, not only from the quantitative point of view, but also by analyzing the uniqueness of managerial processes characterizing SMEs. You will learn to distinguish “life-style SMEs” and “growth-oriented SMEs”, We will analyse the impact of the entrepreneur and of the owning family on SMEs' strategic choices, the issue of resources and competences endowment of SMEs, as well as the “stay or grow” dilemma.
  • The core part of the course is dedicated to the growth strategy for SMEs. We will start by discussing the competitive positioning alternatives for SMEs and the growth options. Our next focus will be on the internationalization of SMEs (adaptation of business models, foreign markets selection, entry modes to foreign markets) and on the use of networks to implement and to accelerate growth.
  • The third part of the course is dedicated to the digital growth of SMEs.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Define the key characteristics (qualitative and quantitative) of an SME
  • Identify the strategic positioning alternatives for an SME
  • Identify the possible growth options for an SMEA
  • Assess the feasibility of possible growth options for an SME, with a particular focus on the international growth
  • Describe the impact of the macroeconomic and institutional economic context, as well as the role of industrial districts and firm's networks on the SME's competitive performance
  • Identify the key elements of digital strategy for an SME


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Work in international teams under time pressure
  • Quickly define possible strategic options for an SME for further in-depth analysis
  • Analytically link firm's and industry characteristics to define the strategic positioning and growth options for an SME
  • Evaluate strategic feasibility of the growth strategy for an SME
  • Evaluate advantages and disadvantages, for an SME, to rely on external sources of competitive advantage (firm's networks)
  • Simulate the discussion of the feasibility of strategic growth possibilities for an SME, with a focus on international and digital growth

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Group assignments


The course will consist of two types of sessions:

  • Lectures (conceptual: theory and examples and guest speaker lectures): the content of these lectures and pre-reading materials (indicated in syllabus) will be mandatory to work on in-class group assignments for attending students applicative lectures, as well as for the final exam for both attending and non-attending students
  • Lectures (application of theories and concepts: assignments and exercises): sessions dedicated to the application of theoretical concepts and frameworks discussed in class and described in the pre-reading materials through in-class assignments (in small groups)  


To ensure your learning experience, the course will rely on:

  • Exercises, case studies, incidents: during applicative lectures small groups will work on assignments structured around cases, practical examples and content of guest speakers talks; duration of each assignment/exercise: circa 45-50 minutes
  • Group assignments: attending students are expected to complete, in small groups, graded in-class group assignments as described above, allowing them to accumulate up to half of the final grade, if all 10 (ten) assignments are successfully completed with the maximum grade. Small groups will be recreated randomly for each assignment, enabling attending students to have networking opportunities with the majority of their classmates by the end of the course.
  • Guest speaker's talks: entrepreneurs and business development managers will bring to our classes their experience and discuss the key strategic decisions related to the creation and growth of an SME

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


  • 50% of the grade - “attending student points” - attending students are expected to work on short cases or assignments given by the instructor during "applicative" sessions. After 30-50 minutes of in-class discussion, small groups submit their assignments via e-learning platform in real time and then make pilot presentations of their findings or solutions. Successful completion of all 10 (ten) assignments allows attending students to accumulate up to 16 points of the final grade. The first four in-class assignments are evaluated from 0 to 1 point, the next six assignments are evaluated from 0 to 2 points. The attending student status is achieved after a student who participated to the in-class assignments accumulated a minimum of 8 out of 16 points. The “attending student” status is valid until September 2024 exam session (September session included).
  • 50% of the grade - “final exam points”. The final written exam will consist of multiple choice questions:
    • “CORE QUESTIONS” 16 questions (1 point for each question) - for all attending students.
    • optional “ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS” 8 questions (1 point for each question) - only for those attending students who accumulated between 8 and 15 "attending student points" for the in-class assignments and who are willing to improve their final grades. ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS are optional. For example, a student who accumulated 10 out of 16 maximum "attending student points" is given a possibility to answer to the first 6 out of 8 ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS.


The assessment of non-attending students, independently of the year of the course attendance,  consists of final written exam. The exam consists of 31 multiple-choice questions aiming to test the student’s knowledge of key theoretical frameworks and definitions  contained in the obligatory readings indicated in syllabus.

Teaching materials


  • Slides and students' own lecture notes
  • Cases and readings as indicated in syllabus (posted via e-learning platform).


  • P.BURNS, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Palgrave Macmillan, 5th edition, 2022. 
  • Slides, readings (excluding case studies) as indicated in syllabus and posted via e-learning platform.
Last change 29/05/2023 09:08