Of the 5.4m businesses in the UK, 99 per cent are classed as SMEs and the majority of those are described as micro-businesses. Here in Yorkshire we boast more than 380,000 businesses and, like the rest of the UK, most are SMEs.
Put simply, small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and we must do everything we can to help them grow and prosper. The most effective way of finding growth and building a robust business is by engaging in international trade, but as an example only around 11 per cent of companies in my region, Yorkshire, export their goods and services.
First-time exporters are critical to the future of Yorkshire and the wider UK economy and the world is hungry for Brand Britain. There really has never been a better time to explore new markets and seek out lucrative new relationships overseas.
What are the benefits of breaking into international trade?
For first-time exporters there are a multitude of benefits for their business. Here are some of the key reasons for breaking into international trade.
- Ease of access – Today, improvements in transport, trade finance, online communications and trade agreements have dramatically improved our ability to access the world. You can get there quicker, have conversations easier and market your products more widely. Here in Yorkshire, Leeds-based Quality Bearings Online used their website to target buyers in the US and has grown the business 300 per cent as a result.
- Global demand – The purchasing power and appetite for Brand Britain beyond our borders is huge. One manufacturer I know says the only place Made In Britain counts for nothing is here in the UK. Your product or service is wanted in other countries so why would you not want to sell to them?
- More profits – Exporting really can be profitable for businesses of all sizes and, on average, businesses that export grow faster, generate more sales, create more jobs and even pay better staff salaries than those who aren’t involved in international trade.
- More innovative – By getting involved in overseas markets you will be exposed to new ideas, new marketing techniques and different ways of competing that will help you to develop your products and services and way of operating, making you even more competitive.
- More skilled – The new markets and challenges you overcome while taking on overseas markets will help to not only enhance your own skills, but also your team’s abilities which will help to make the business more efficient and successful.
- Competitive Advantage – It’s easier to win new business overseas because you have a distinct advantage over most other nations in the world. Britain is highly respected for delivering quality goods and services, sound business practices, robust company law and impeccable customer service. The appetite to buy from a British firm is high and it gives you a great head start.
- Cutting risk – Perhaps most important is the impact exports can have on risk. By having a wide geographical spread of customers, you can ride out any downturn or instability in an individual economy by simply switching focus to one of your other markets that is thriving.
While international trade may bring some new challenges and also has some new risks, the benefits always outweigh any of these and I’d encourage every business to look beyond our shores for some really incredible opportunities.
There is a wealth of support, advice and funding available but the strongest argument for entrepreneurs to break into international trade is simply the benefits it can bring to each business in terms of profitability, competitiveness and resilience.
Visit the Exporting is GREAT website for export opportunities, practical support and inspiration for UK companies who want to grow their business through export