The internationalization of Bulgarian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) is mostly seen as predetermined by external factors, such as the country’s participation in economic unions, lowering barriers to international trade, technology development, etc. Less attention is paid by researchers to the entrepreneurs’ characteristics as a determinant of internationalization. One of the study’s objectives presented here is to analyze the impact of these characteristics on SMEs’ internationalization success. To achieve this objective, applied methods involve review and analysis of available research and information sources, an empirical survey of 468 Bulgarian SMEs, statistical processing, analysis, and synthesis of results. The empirical results prove the importance of entrepreneurs’ characteristics for the internationalization and competitive performance of Bulgarian SMEs. The findings show that the length of overall professional experience gained by entrepreneurs is a significant determinant of SMEs’ internationalization while managerial knowledge and skills acquired by entrepreneurs could not be considered as such. The surveyed sample excludes micro-enterprises due to the low share of internationalized companies and their strong dependence on factors beyond the control of the entrepreneur-manager. The originality of the study lies in revealing the potential of an adequate managerial training of entrepreneurs for the internationalization of Bulgarian SMEs - mostly small and family and thereby with restricted use of professional managers.
JEL: D22, M16, L25, L26