Wed, Jul

A passport to expansion?

Could you be doing something for your country as well as for yourself by sending more print abroad? Susan Haird, acting chief executive of UK Trade and Investment, explains that help is on hand to enable you to do so and offers her top tips.

Trade seems to be a word on everyone’s lips at the moment. It is seen as key to returning the economy to balanced and sustainable growth. Prime Minister David Cameron, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Trade Minister Lord Green have all been on trade missions to overseas markets to extol the virtues of exporting and the effect it can have on individual businesses as well as the wider economy. These missions have ranged from China to the Middle East, Russia to India. Recently, the Department for Business, with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) launched a White Paper on Trade and Investment for Growth to improve the way Government and industry work together. It is a strategy that has global interests at its heart; from developed to developing nations, big firms to small and, of course, SMEs.

So, do you export? Around 90% of the companies helped by UKTI are SMEs, which are more likely to seek out advice on exporting than larger firms. The White Paper introduced new schemes to support businesses financially and help them compete on the international stage. This included an Export Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, which offers up to £1m export finance to SMEs.

Businesses have been telling Government that they want to export but that they find it hard to get access to insurance when they are exploring foreign markets, especially more unusual or unpredictable markets. The new schemes have been designed specifically to deal with this, and the Export Credits Guarantee Department has extended its Short Term Credit Insurance Scheme to cover a broader range of exports.

But why set such a high value on exporting? Why does it matter? And, most importantly of all, how can Government help?

Exports represent over a quarter of UK GDP, yet only a third of companies that could export do export. Those that do have told us they have seen an improvement in company efficiency as well as in innovation. Academic research also confirms that exporting companies are more productive than non exporters, achieve stronger financial performance, and are more likely to stay in business. This is in addition to the huge potential available to share knowledge with partners overseas, and use that knowledge to improve business at home.

UKTI has many programmes on offer to help both experienced and inexperienced exporters get a foothold in overseas markets, and it has many ways to support companies looking to expand activities abroad.

1. Know your market Research and local knowledge are invaluable, and their importance can never be underestimated. It is often worthwhile getting a partner ‘on the ground’, who can advise on local laws and government structure as well as the best way to enter your chosen market. This is especially true of more challenging markets where rules of operation can be worlds apart from those of the UK.

2. Know your sector Speaking to similar companies that have successfully branched out abroad can give a valuable boost to your plans. It can also uncover any dangers or pitfalls and help you to avoid them.

3. Speak to an International Trade Advisor UKTI has international trade teams around the country, and every UK region has dedicated specialists who can provide tailored support to any industry. An International Trade Adviser will provide professional advice on a range of Government services, including export documentation, contacts in overseas markets, export training and market research. They will also help to unify overseas visits.
When you meet with a trade expert face-to-face you can ask any questions you may have and they can gain a better understanding of your needs and concerns. They can also assess your capabilities from a new and fresh perspective, and help to plan possible next steps for your company.
You can find the right contact for your area on the UKTI website: www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/export/unitedkingdom/contactus

4. Go to a trade fair Thousands of trade shows and events take place each year, both in the UK and overseas. They provide a great introduction to exporting as well as valuable networking opportunities. Attending a trade fair gives you a whole new audience for your products and services, with attendees from a variety of countries.
UKTI lists all its associated events on its website at: www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/uktihome/eventssearch and there are other resources available online to flag up specific fairs in your area as well.

5. Use UKTI’s Passport to Export programme This is a programme aimed specifically at new and inexperienced exporters. The service assesses a company’s readiness for international business, and helps it to build international trade capacity through:
z free capability assessments
z support in visiting potential markets
z mentoring from a local export professional
z free action plans
z customised and subsidised training
z ongoing support once a company is up and running.
The programme puts together in one simple process all the tools that you would need as an exporting company to grow your business. It gives companies the individual attention and tailored assistance needed to feel confident in expanding overseas.

6. Use UKTI’s Gateway to Global Growth programme Gateway to Global Growth is aimed at experienced SMEs, which have been exporting for between two and ten years. It is designed to help such businesses reach new markets with as little risk as possible, overcome barriers to new and difficult markets, develop company skills and save time and money in reaching their goals.
Gateway to Global Growth is a free 12 month programme of tailored support, and may involve advice from both public and private sector organisations. It begins with a strategic review with an experienced International Trade Adviser to assess trade development needs and construct a next steps action plan. During the course of the 12 months UKTI will also help with market research, language and cultural information, and networking opportunities to learn from other exporters.

7. Use the Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) The best thing about OMIS (the UKTI’s chargeable service) is its flexibility. Businesses can access help at any stage, and seek advice on anything from language to politics. The service links companies to trade teams, located in UK embassies, high commissions and consulates across the world. This is particularly useful because of the specialist skills and important contacts they have at their disposal.
Whether you're a first timer or a very experienced exporter, a broad range of elements can be combined to suit your individual needs. OMIS can provide help at any stage - from initial research, to arranging a market visit, to using our contacts and impressive facilities to help close a major deal.
More information about OMIS can be found at: www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/export/accessinginternationalmarkets/overseasmarketintroductionservice

8. Use the Export Markets Research Scheme (EMRS) EMRS focuses on market research, and the value this adds to any export opportunity. In many ways it returns to my original points about knowing your market and knowing your sector.
The British Chambers of Commerce administers EMRS on behalf of UKTI. It is a subsidised service, and companies with fewer than 250 employees

  • may be eligible for a grant of up to 50 percent of the cost of market research projects into areas such as:
  • market size and segmentation
  • regulations and legislation
  • customer needs, usage and attitudes
  • distribution channels
  • trends
  • competitor activity, strategy and performance

Further details and contacts for this service can be found at: www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/export/developingyourinternationaltradepotential/ exportmarketingresearchscheme
For any help or advice on exporting for the first time or on expanding further afield, see the UKTI website at: www.ukti.gov.uk/pt_pt/home.html

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