December/January 2020

Its Groundhog day!

by Tony Goodman MBE

Halloween has passed us by and in spite of promises that we would have finally reached a conclusion, we are still in Brexit limbo. Politicians are out canvassing, knocking on doors like some delayed reaction, continuous loop of trick or treat, whilst every business I have been speaking to simply wants this uncertainty to end. It has reached the point when the uncertainty itself is causing more difficulties than either leaving or staying. The constant changes in planning, stockpiling, delaying decisions and the plethora of ‘what if’ scenarios have driven business leaders to distraction and is masking the great opportunities that exist for those businesses that can lift their eyes beyond the horizon. Too many UK businesses are simply sitting in the waiting room to see what happens while the world continues around them and they miss opportunities. My simple advice is: just get on with it.

So why don’t we do that and let’s consider what is actually happening in the world of international trade. UK exports in Q3 2019 grew by 5.6% to £165.7bn or an annual rate of £662.8bn representing an enlarged rate of 30.5% of GDP and showing a rising trend. The big money items that we export continue to be led by Cars, Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Products and Oil. Sales of services are not far behind goods with £76bn in exports of services compared to £89.7bn in exports of goods. What excites me most though is speaking with the many companies with world beating products and services that are treating exporting as a regular part of their everyday lives and are seeing increasing demand for their products far and wide. In the last week alone, I have spoken to several business who are trailblazing by growing their export sales. A small engineering company in the North West of England employing about 30 people who are turning their industry on its head through innovation and quality and whose largest customers are now in the Gulf, not the UK or Europe.

They are ramping up production to meet demand and are working on refinements to their range that they believe will increase demand from far and wide. Or the niche food manufacturing company in the Midlands employing about 35 people who have just received a major order for their delicious products from California where their newly signed distributor has barely scratched the surface of the opportunities that exist. California alone has a population 60% the size of the UK and their distributor is already planning to push further afield in 2020. They are expanding and streamlining their production capability to facilitate the growth. Or the logistics company based in the UK but operating around the world who will move anything, regardless of how exotic or mundane and bring revenue back to the UK based on their talent and experience.

What is the common thread that unites these three companies and so many more?
It is that they are not sitting and waiting to find out what happens with Brexit, they are not sitting and waiting to see if they can get a grant, they are not sitting and waiting to see what a change in Government might mean for them, for their industry or for the country; of course, they all want to know what is going to happen, to put the uncertainty behind them, but they have seized the opportunities that have presented themselves here and now and they are moving forward to take advantage of them. So, what about you as you sit reading this article; are you thinking, “it’s OK for them but they are special, and this doesn’t apply to me? I don’t have the people, the contacts, the time, the knowledge”.

Well why not you? There are real opportunities around the world available to a significant number of UK businesses. There is advice at hand, much of it for free (try as a starting point). If you are entrepreneurial, simply lift your eyes and see how small the world has become and start asking why not, instead of asking why. Once you take that very simple step, you can join the quarter of a million businesses that are already exporting. They range from one-man bands to multinationals, from home made jams and cakes to fighter aircraft, from simple software to complex financial products. You will not be the smallest business to export, nor the first to realise the positive impact it can have on your business. Just try it and see. And let me know (, so I can add your story to the roster of successes.

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: