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Exporting is Great (Britain)

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Recently UK Trade & Industry (UKTI) ran a series of market specific one-to-one scheduled meetings and mini seminars aimed at persuading British manufacturing and service businesses to have the courage and vision to consider exporting as a means of increasing revenue. The event ran across the week of 10th – 14th November 2014 and brought companies of various export capabilities together, from absolute first-timers to those considering an expansion of markets. We attended too, partly in support of three of our clients (two manufacturers and one service provider) and partly to try and understand the thoughts of some of the business owners attending. 

Whilst I gathered mixed responses amongst several business owners who I spoke to, there were several who seemed to underestimate the step they might have initially been tempted to embark upon. It seems that some view exporting between as being somewhere between a kind of working holiday, a chance to get away from the cold and rain of London and to swap it, for a short period at least, for the warmth of Lisbon or as modern day ‘golden fleece’, a process that can cure any businesses sales ailment. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst I’d be the first to say that businesses should continue to face new challenges in order to develop, there is only chaos that can arise from adding a layer of complexity to an otherwise untested business model in your own domestic market(s). Take these topics that many SME’s (small to medium enterprises) may fail to fully consider at the outset: verbal language barriers between you, your staff and your client, the differing time zones you both work across and what time of day you may have to take a call, the distribution methods both out of, into and across your market, your reduced level of control, whether you should trade through agents or distributors, who has the ownership of your goods and where liability will fall, local taxation, delays in payment and exchange rates, the communications on your website and the costs readying it for foreign markets, legal contracts and  any recourse relating to the specific laws of the land etc. I’m all in favour of businesses taking this step after all it can be very rewarding. I know I’ve seen the benefits of clients securing work from Scandinavia, the Middle East, Russia and the Caribbean but you have to have two things nailed before you start.

The first is a plan and the second is a financial budget. In terms of the first one, consider how much time you will need to allocate to the process. Is it something you can develop on your own or do you need the help of a market entry specialist, if you’re going to take sole control of the export process what will be the impact on your current domestic business needs and how will the business suffer. Can you bring in a domestic market specialist who has a broad range of capabilities in operations, sales, manufacturing, finance and marketing to shadow you and work alongside your existing management team and where would you find someone like this?

Secondly is the budget; if you’re a successful business then you’ll know all about setting an appropriate type of budget and then perhaps adjust based on the target goal. All businesses understand the need to set budgets but where many can struggle is applying any level of discipline to them, overlooking the fine details such as the amount of orders required and the profit derived in order to ascertain success.

I’m all for pushing Britain onto the world’s commercial stage but not at the risk of undermining success at home first.

If you would like to talk more about this or any other issue covered in our blogs, our accreditation as Growth Voucher Advisors can contribute up to 50% towards your strategic process of identifying the most appropriate steps for you to take to grow.

See our profile pages on Enterprise Nation and the Chartered Institute of Marketing 


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