International Trade Week took place in early November with over 3,000 businesses taking part in more than 170 events from across the UK and the World organised by the Department for Business and Trade. One of these was a gathering in central London to celebrate 10 years since the first Export Champions were appointed with an address by Lord Malcolm Offord, the Minister for Exports. He said that his ambition was to increase the number of UK companies who export from 300,000 to 500,000.
In a discussion on why more companies do not get into exporting, our conclusion was that the word “exporting” was itself intimidating and off-putting. We agreed on an alternative strategy and as a result I decided that I am going to stop talking about exporting…
To understand my reasons, you simply need to look at what exporting is: In its simplest form exporting is SELLING, no more, no less. Exporting is selling into new markets that are not your home market. And however you approach new markets is how you should embark on international trade.
At one level this seems like a trivial semantic difference, however I believe that the subconscious reluctance to overcome what many wrongly perceive as the extreme obstacles of exporting hold them back from ever trying. International trade isn’t easy, but also selling isn’t easy. Finding new customers isn’t easy whether it is in your home market or overseas. But I ask you to ask yourself one simple question: “Would you like to increase your profits?” If the answer is yes, the first place to start is by looking for markets that have similarities with your current customers.
The second event I attended during the week was jointly organised by The Department for Business and Trade and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. We were fortunate to have Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, as guest speaker.
He expressed his personal commitment and support for companies from Greater Manchester to start, or grow, their international trade. I had worked with several others on behalf of the Greater Manchester Authority in developing an Exporting Trade Plan for Greater Manchester as I believe the region has the capability to be an engine for growth in manufacturing and services.
What both these events, and all the other events during International Trade Week, have in common was the commitment of so many businesses to taking their products and services around the world to find markets that are right for them. They know from their experience that international trade enhances both their turnover and their profitability.
Whilst nothing is easy in business neither is International trade as complicated as many seem to believe. When you look at the experience of all these companies large and very many of them small, you can clearly see parallels with the companies that have not yet taken those steps. Why is that? It is completely understandable to feel nervous, but you should not feel alone as there is so much assistance out there to help you take the necessary steps.
So, it’s time to stop talking about exporting, to see the world as your market place, and to find customers in whichever part of that market they exist. Don’t differentiate, don’t prevaricate, it’s time for you too to grow your business and trade without boundaries.
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