Chris Manson, Newable’s Chief Executive urges businesses to cut through the white noise and grab exporting opportunities with both hands.
The UK’s economy is not exactly booming right now. GPD growth of just 0.1% was reported for the first quarter of 2018. Sadly, this places us at the bottom of the growth league table for G7 countries. Meanwhile, the political and media worlds remain fixated on the shape and form that Brexit will take. White noise on tariffs and trade deals circulates the airwaves, and nobody knows what the final outcome will be.
Speaking to growing businesses across the UK every day, the uncertain economic and political environment can put them on edge, but they still want to find new ways to help their business to grow. This, inevitably, puts international trade firmly on the agenda.
Exporting clearly presents a growth opportunity – for a start many markets are growing faster than the UK. Canada, for example, is on track to grow 4.0% this year.
As Brexit discussions continue, our advice to businesses is to deal with the “known knowns”. Right now is the best time for business leaders to consider the role that international trade can play in supporting their growth ambitions. And to think about how to make the most of these opportunities. Not least as strong overseas sales also make a fundamental contribution to the overall health of the UK economy.
The evidence shows that businesses face challenges with exporting. For example, two thirds of companies that start are no longer exporting two years later. There are a number of reasons for this.
Many smaller companies lack in-house expertise. They struggle with developing strategies and executing programmes that help them enter new markets successfully. Many find making contacts, creating opportunities and navigating local regulation insurmountable. Others struggle with finding finance to support growth plans.
So, there are few things for growing businesses to consider when looking to create a sustainable exporting strategy.
It therefore makes sense to access the right expertise, as it can be invaluable to any business looking to get exporting right. This will help mitigate risks of entering new markets. You should look for people with expertise in specific markets or relevant sectors.
Joining a trade mission can also be hugely helpful. We run many trade missions on behalf of the Government to overseas territories. One of the benefits is that the businesses themselves obviously pick up sales leads and all of those measurable outcomes. The trade missions are often supported by Government staff at embassies or consulates overseas who are very well connected locally.
Missions also give businesses confidence. They can see and learn from their peers. It also provides great networking opportunities. In turn, this often leads to businesses developing within the UK market.
Whilst exporting may seem daunting, successful businesses can reap the rewards. In 2017, as a leading delivery partner for the Department for International Trade, we supported 9,400 businesses in London and the South East with their export drives – generating £2bn of new business for the UK economy.
These included companies such as Griffon Hoverwork, a manufacturer of bespoke hovercraft, who now export to 41 countries around the globe, and Wight Shipyard, a ferry builder, who sold a £3m vessel into Austria last year.
These companies are exemplars of British businesses who have established a clear pathway to sustainable sales growth, building resilience and resources to navigate what is sure to remain an uncertain business environment.
It is also well established that exporting companies tend to thrive domestically, enjoying better corporate reputations and being more aspirational places to work.
Support is out there for companies that need it. Working on behalf of the Department for International Trade, Newable and other Delivery Partners employ experienced International Trade Advisors who signpost opportunities and provide general support to exporters. For companies requiring a more bespoke service, Newable’s international trade consultancy business, the Export Engine, can help businesses kick start overseas sales, accelerate early successes or scale-up their activity.
So our message is that the time for exporting is now – it is an opportunity that must be grabbed with both hands.
Chris Manson is CEO at Newable. More about Newable’s Export Engine.