This paper investigates the role of trust and control in networks of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with a focus on both their direct and interaction effects on value creation. To delve into the interplay between trust and control, we unpack control mechanisms into three different forms: output, process, and social control. Our hypotheses are tested on a sample of 58 Italian SME networks based on formal agreements. Results show that the competitiveness and sustainability of inter-firm networks require trust-based relationships among entrepreneurs. Additionally, the adoption of output control mechanisms reinforces the positive link between trust and value creation, whereas a substitution effect exists between trust and process control and, with limited significance, between trust and social control.
- Small and medium-sized enterprises
- Strategic networks
- Sustainable cooperation
- Value creation