27 August 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pierce van Heerden
Prof Brownhilder Neneh
Prof Brownhilder Neneh’s research paper was selected as Highly Commended in the 25th annual Emerald Literati Awards for Excellence.

Customer orientation is a firm strategic capability that enables businesses to identify opportunities that can be exploited to improve their performance outcomes. However, the gap between this capability and actual firm performance is quite wide when it comes to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), possibly because of the limited resources to effectively utilise this capability. So what can be done to ensure that all businesses that have this capability benefit from it?

This is the question which a paper by Prof Brownhilder Neneh seeks to address. The article, titled Customer orientation and SME performance: the role of networking ties, was recently published in the African Journal of Economic and Management Studies. Both the theoretical weight and practical implications of the research led to the journal’s editorial team selecting the article as Highly Commended in the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards. 

Finding solutions to real-world problems 

Not only is Prof Neneh responsible for innovating the way she leads as the Head of the Business Management Department at the University of the Free State (UFS), but her goal is to also constantly impact the way problems are solved in the business world. “Growing up, I was always fascinated about entrepreneurial stories, how people start and grow their businesses. However, I later learned that businesses had a very high failure rate,” she says. 

“As such, given the significant role that entrepreneurship plays in economic growth and addressing socioeconomic issues in our societies, I became motivated to find evidence-based solutions that could be implemented by businesses to enhance their chances of success.”

Research goals

Prof Neneh says her outlook for the future is “to continue producing high-quality research that can make a meaningful impact in advancing both the theory and practice of entrepreneurship”.

Seeing that governments the world over are increasingly depending on entrepreneurship for economic growth and addressing most of the existing socioeconomic issues, evidence-based entrepreneurship is increasingly needed. For Prof Neneh, moving forward means continuing to channel focus in this area.

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