The blurry outline of the landscape is emerging. And it has changed, we just don’t yet know exactly how.
When I wrote my last article we were in the very early stages of lockdown, with fear and uncertainty as the prevailing emotions around the world. Since then many parts of the world have come through the first pass of the virus, though some are still in the thick of it. Political strategies have moved from being nationwide to more regional or hyper localised.
More is understood about the effects of the virus, leading to many younger people ‘unlocking’ much faster than older people and safeguarding members of society, and these patterns are repeating around the world. The reaction is becoming far more complex and nuanced but remains dangerous and susceptible to further interruption.
Significantly the world is slowly opening up again, and in spite of local flare-ups the need for business to resume is taking precedence over widespread, preventative, lockdown. With this comes renewed opportunities for those that are prepared to look around the
world to find them.
The dreaded B word again!
All this is happening at a critical time in the Brexit negotiations, made more difficult by the disruptions and distractions. So, what do we know at this point? The UK will be leaving after the transition period finishes at the end of this year without extending. There is a lower ambition set for the nature of the deal to be achieved.
There is also a heightened risk of no deal being achieved by the end of this year, but at the same time whatever may be agreed, discussions will continue well into the future and the eventual shape of a deal may not appear for some time.
Whilst this is going on the UK are advancing in their negotiations around the world with some ambitious opportunities including the USA, Japan and the Trans Pacific Partnership prime amongst them. This is a bold programme and statement of intent by the UK Government. Whatever happens though it is vital to remember that a huge amount of international trade takes place without the benefit of Free Trade Agreements. This especially applies to smaller and medium sized companies.
There is no reason to wait before starting to export to new markets around the world.
At a time when so many businesses have been disrupted and long established risk profiles have been brought into question, preparation and investigation remain key. It also pays to see how well you can protect yourself from the risks of trading, whether in the UK or overseas.
Credit and contract insurance, whether for individual customers, invoices or across the board are widely available, and the Department for International Trade also have schemes to help exporters. These are sensible steps that can help make trading more secure. There are more planning steps that can and should be taken, with the changed world and the constantly evolving business landscape it is even more important than ever to keep up to date with the latest local rules and regulations and not rely on previous, albeit reliable, assumptions. For instance, it has been easy over recent years to assume that goods can be safely delivered around the world at reasonable cost. That is still largely the case, but global logistics can no longer just be taken for granted.
So, one of your early calls when considering any new sales or sourcing markets should be to your freight forwarder and it would be wise to bring them closer into your planning circle. They can provide invaluable intelligence as conditions change.
As ever, the Department for International Trade provide a wealth of information both via their comprehensive web portal and through their field Trade Advisors. This great, free, resource is intended to be used by businesses like yours.
There are still huge opportunities throughout the world, and with careful approach and planning they can be invaluable to your business. This is no time to be inward looking because, let’s be honest, we need all the opportunities we can find.
Some lockdown lessons I have learned:
- How important hairdressers are to society.
- Bicycles have a future.
- That working from home does not lead to lower productivity.
- But also working from home does not suit some people at all and lots of people only some of the time.
- Open plan family homes have not been designed with working from home in mind!
- Food home delivery is great.
- Travel is a luxury that we took for granted.
- But travel is not essential to speak to anyone, anywhere, anymore.
- A video call is much more human and connecting than a phone call.
- Change can happen very fast.
- And finally… that I should have invested in Zoom shares last year as a Christmas present to myself!
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