I hear great stories. Export is a bit of an adventure.
We have intrepid entrepreneurs setting off into unknown international territories, facing conflicts along the way and emerging victorious with exciting opportunities for the taking. And it is great to play a part in that story. UKTI’s role is finding and showing the way to the opportunity, helping to overcome and avoid the obstacles and connecting the right characters to achieve that success.
The story however, begins right at home, perhaps in front of your laptop, somewhere unassuming like a basement conference room or a simple conversation with a wise person.
We saw another successful Exporting is Great Week in April, across the UK, during which I was privileged to see many export stories developing. Here in London, we welcomed over 600 companies at a series of events. Many of the people I spoke to at ‘Explore your Export Potential’ were completely new to export.
However, what they all had in common was that they were all entrepreneurs. One day they had a good idea and decided to make money from it and work for themselves. Today they were on the brink of deciding whether to pursue the prospect of selling overseas.
So what role does UKTI play in their story? For us in the English Regions, it’s ‘Exporting is Great Week’, every week. We help with the building blocks. One of the delights of helping people on their export journey is seeing the lightbulb moments flash across someone’s face as they are guided through the first, simple steps. Often people don’t know what the first step is, that in itself needs some research!
It can begin with a conversation with an International Trade Adviser. These are people who have been export managers themselves, or have run their own business. So they ask the incisive questions that need to be considered, with tacit knowledge of your sector and direct contacts to international industry. Our Trade Advisers help you work out what you need to do first. How you should go about it. Where you go and which countries you should consider.
Making a small investment of time, talking about what you need to know, planning to do some desk research on your export potential will save you time and money in the future.
All of this reduces risk and maximises opportunities. If you start to do your research and gather evidence, it will help you to make successful commercial decisions and help you find new customers.
So let me finish with a story about a company that thought they didn’t have anything to export and how this changed when they spoke to Deborah, an International Trade Adviser.
"It started with an apology. In a small design studio, on a bright June day, there was some embarrassment that there were no spare chairs to sit on. I would have to sit on a stool. From then, with a coffee in hand, our conversation moved from the personal – the journey that had taken the Founder / Designer to grow their business – to one where we could talk over where they wanted their business to grow, and where they saw their future."
"Having travelled a lot personally, but not traded overseas, this Director felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of decisions the company would have to take, for them to start exporting seriously. It was a matter of knowing where to start, and whether they were ready to take the ‘leap’."
"The first step, was to reassure the company that my role was to support them as they grew, and to work at a pace that they could accommodate. I needed to convince them that with the experience of other design-led companies, there was both a market out there for their designs, as well as some easy steps they could take from the outset to both prepare for exporting and start to research where best to go, and how."
"At that first meeting, we talked over what the USP was for what they did – exactly how they defined what they did, and how it was different and better to other companies operating in the same field. We talked over how they marketed themselves in the UK, and also what their financials looked like. We moved on to working on a rudimentary plan of action, of how, with my help, they could develop themselves into an active exporter. And it went from there."
"Ultimately, the company wanted reassurance that there was someone there that they could turn to for support as and when they needed it, as they grew both in turnover and exporting confidence."
The key concerns about export for this company were where to start and how to start; whether the company was ‘export-ready’; and whether there was any market for what they did. They needed somebody who was ‘on their side’ and for that person to ‘not be selling something’ only to give impartial advice.
On this occasion, that person was Deborah Lynch-Doyle, an International Trade Adviser based in London Region. Deborah has a strong marketing and business development background gained since her early career working on Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) drinks brands and new product development. She went on to work with a range of global corporates (Texas Utilities; Veolia) and UK organisations working multi-nationally (VisitBritain and NATS).
Deborah has led new business development projects of up to £40M, as well as large teams both nationally and internationally. She is a Chartered Marketer and member of senior marketing groups including the Marketing Society.
Parveen Thornhill is the Regional Director for UKTI London, helping local companies to export.