February/March 2019

It’s a great time to start exporting

//It’s a great time to start exporting

At the time of writing this piece, I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen with Brexit and nor, I suspect, does anyone else, including the Government. So, I can understand if you are mystified by my headline!

What makes this a great time to start exporting?
“The ongoing, obsessive, Brexit confusion has so dominated the agenda of public discourse that it has absorbed the oxygen of opportunity. Whilst Brexit is perhaps the most important constitutional change in a generation, I do not believe that its effect on the general population will be as great as the polemic posited by both sides of the argument.

“Small business entrepreneurs thrive and grow on opportunity and they will see that these events have created a hiatus, not a roadblock. The UK has been underperforming in the export area for many years, and the Brexit process has highlighted this failure and pushed the Government into more concerted action to promote businesses of all size to start or grow their exports.”

Why is the opportunity so great?
“If you have seen any of the publicity for the “Britain is Great” campaign you will see a series of success stories from across industries and across the country.

“Small companies as well as large are seeing the significant benefits that can derive from exporting. Of course it will increase your sales but it should also increase profitability and net margins. And why? Simple economics: adding more sales into your business without increasing overheads at the same rate, getting more output from using the same resources, opportunity to buy better. The opportunity to build up broader customer base.”

Who would want to buy our products?
“The UK has a great reputation for quality, for innovation and for reliability. Just as we relish wines, cheese, cars or perfumes from around the world, they in turn love the best of British, whether it be food and drink, engineering or software or many of the other products and services we excel at.

“Don’t forget, we remain a major tourist attraction, underpinning this attitude that British goods stand for quality. It may also come as surprise, especially if you only get your news locally, that UK companies are widely respected and sought out. There are businesses from across the world actively seeking new British products to sell in their businesses or for clients.”

Why haven’t I heard about this before?
Whilst the world is shrinking all the time, the UK has been conducting International trade for over 200 years. “It has never been easier to be in contact with people across the world. My grandfather went on an International sales trip over 60 years ago that took months – most of the travel was by ship. Nowadays I can call a contact in the Far East for free, anytime, or have a video conference and be able to look them in the eyes. This is now the way of life for many exporters.”

Where should I look?
“The process of looking for new export markets is no different than looking for markets within your own country. Prospecting for business is all about finding customers that want your products. There are three key points to consider: right product, right price, right place. By understanding the basis of your current customer reasons for buying, you can then extrapolate to find similar markets around the world.

“Of course, all this can take time that you may not have. I am often asked to seek out and set up new markets for clients looking to expand their exporting, and my philosophy is always to look for the low hanging fruit. There is help to do this and a surprising number of resources to draw on.”

Have I missed the boat?
“It is always tempting to think, when hearing that the time is now for an opportunity, that you are already too late to jump on board. That is absolutely not the case. To continue the analogy, this is a none-stop ferry, not a single cruise. The opportunity to export will continue to grow over coming years, but why would you want to wait? If your business is suffering capacity constraints, then it would be understandable that you don’t want new customers. If you already have more customers clamouring at your door than you can cope with, then why look further afield.

“However, if you are still looking to grow your business and your customer base, then, for you it is a great time to start exporting – regardless of Brexit or any other uncertainties. You don’t have to take my word for it – just watch some of those ‘If I can, you can’ videos promoted by the Britain is Great campaign.

“Real people, real businesses, real exports, real successes. And you could be one of them, making a video – very soon!”

Find out for yourself. Look to www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/ for further information.

Tony Goodman MBE
Forest and Co

Creating an export plan
Like any business plan preparing your route to selling overseas needs to be thoroughly researched and mapped in advance of any trading. Market research is crucial to preparing an effective route to your overseas marketplace. Your plan must always start with your objectives, and once identifying those objectives a clear set of processes can be established to achieve them.

A well structured plan will also ensure you’ve considered all possibilities around those objectives, and will guide you to a logical path in not just achieving them, but making sure you keep on track. Your plan will also serve as a tool to show banks, investors or partners that you’re serious and have achievable and realistic goals.

What to include
Every plan is custom designed to serve the specific objectives of your business, however, there are a number of common themes to consider that cover many plans:

  • Explanation of why you want to export including the benefits
  • Product or service offering and what makes you different from the competition
  • Target markets and the reasons for choosing them
  • Any changes you need to make to your existing product or service for the new market/s
  • How you intend to protect your intellectual property
  • How you’ll market your product
  • Resourcing your plan – including staffing and finance
  • Operating model/route to market
  • Operational information including transport, distribution, customs and licences
  • Targets and how you will measure them

Planning for risk prevention
An area of concern for any exporting activity is how to manage risks of unethical and illegal practices within your own organisation and throughout your supply chain. This includes corruption, bribery or fraud, also any issues involving human rights, child labour or modern slavery. The result of conducting your business with integrity enables you to mitigate the risk of criminal activity and ensure trust is built. This in turn reassures your partners, investors, plus your own organisation and supply chain, that you meet compliance standards.

In order to achieve this your working practices would benefit from the introduction of a set of policies and procedures that form a rigorous corporate governance framework. These include a code of conduct, the exercising of due diligence, a whistleblowing mechanism, internal auditing and full training for colleagues. Specialist risk analysts and lawyers can help compile many of these documents. The Department for International Trade offers some excellent advice on exporting. The information here can be found on their website along with many other subjects specifically to help your business trade abroad. To find out more visit www.great.gov.uk/advice/