April/May/June 2020

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…

by Tony Goodman MBE.
Well at least we aren’t all worrying about Brexit anymore! The complex situation arising from the Covid-19 global pandemic has caused widespread confusion but has not stopped all trade, and exports are continuing, though they are undoubtedly rapidly slowing. The immediate implication for most businesses is to go into survival mode, changing plans and building contingencies whether their business has been affected or not.

If you have been affected by a slowdown in your business, once you have dealt with the immediate implications, it is then the time to plan for the recovery, which will come, and take the time to understand the opportunities and the support available to help you. The DIT are continuing to offer advice and help for UK companies involved in International trade including providing:

  • Assistance with customs authorities to ensure smooth clearance of products.
  • Supply Chain Support, including helping in finding alternative suppliers if your supply chain has been affected by the virus and advising you on options.

In addition, there are three key Government schemes that provide invaluable assistance to UK exporting companies, both new and experienced:

Export Working Capital Scheme
The Government can provide partial guarantees covering up to 80% of the risk to lender to cover the credit risks associated with export working capital facilities both pre and post shipment, with no minimum or maximum value. Access to this facility is through qualifying banks.

Export Insurance Policy
This is vital to help in managing the risk of non-payment in challenging markets where the commercial market is not able to offer insurance. It can cover up to 95% cover for several risks, including buyer default or because of certain specified political, economic or administrative events.

Direct Lending Facility
UK Export Finance can provide loans to overseas buyers allowing them to finance the purchase of capital goods and services from UK Exporters, ensuring the exporter is paid.

There is much more information and a wealth of resources and news are available from www.trade.gov.uk

Those thought leaders amongst us across industry and service sectors will be capitalising on this time to build a solid plan and respond rapidly, transforming their businesses to operate in a completely changed landscape. One of those thought leaders is my fellow Northern Powerhouse Export Champion, Munir Mamujee. His business, m2r Education, recruits teachers for schools around the world and, with a mass clampdown on travel, opportunities had evaporated. In mid-March and facing the possibility of having to lay off staff and potentially losing his business, he rethought the business model. How could he still provide teachers to overseas schools without them being able to travel? His answer: by using the internet.

He contacted his clients in China and after he explained his plan to them, they responded positively. Immediately ramping up online advertising, by the next day he had 700 applications. So, he increased advertising and networked to everyone he knew. Within 10 days he had provided 1,000 online teachers, but more than that he enhanced his relationships with clients, helping their businesses as well. His leadership invigorated his team who are working harder than ever.

The traditional business of placing permanent teachers in overseas schools continues with placements for the new school year in August – schools in Wuhan, China are about to reopen. They are busy recruiting now. Munir’s comment on this struck me: “There is no point in wallowing, there are opportunities out there and for us that meant keeping it online”. Will he go back to his old business model after the crisis has ended? No, Munir now has a new stream of business to add to the traditional. Turning crisis into opportunity has strengthened, not weakened his business.

How you respond now will set the pattern for the future of your business. International trade may have changed but if you evolve with it you can prosper. If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…

Rudyard Kipling finished his poem by saying: Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And, which is more, you’ll be a Man my son!

Tony Goodman MBE

Tony Goodman MBE is a successful exporter and has been doing so through a variety of different businesses. He is currently Marketing Advisor at Forest and Co who specialise in offering guidance on branding, exporting and sales: www.forestandco.com