The UK has one of the largest and most profitable economies in the world, currently 5th behind the USA, China, Japan and Germany with most of its value from services (80%). With the knock-on effect of Brexit on international trade and the ever-changing nature of business, UK firms now more than ever have to look abroad for business opportunities.
Thinking solely about the potential market, if a company looks beyond its domestic environment it opens itself up to 7 billion customers worldwide. Most businesses recognise the benefits of international expansion, but some companies are left in the dark and don't know what steps to take towards internationalisation. The Department of International Trade (DIT) has provided a framework to support companies looking to expand globally covering three main areas: exporting, trade missions and guidance.
UK Exports totalled £615.9bn last year, with the EU accounting for £274bn. Building on this, the DIT have put together a 46-step framework for companies looking to export, covering topics such as: market research, customer insight, finance, business planning, getting paid, operations and compliance. With this easy to follow framework, businesses can fully prepare for all laws, regulations and the competitive environment before they begin the move towards internationalisation. This is vital for companies as the step-by-step map is clearly laid out and offers effective information on how to achieve expansion goals.
Another often unbeknown aspect of exporting is the business environment and culture of the host country. The DIT have prepared for this by sharing the stories of firms who have moved overseas, outlining common mistakes and the lessons learnt from their success and failures. These often occur by assuming a country or economy will operate in the same way as a host country. For example, in different cultures in different countries, customers have different expectations and needs from a company – this should guide how any B2C company navigates an international branch. This is just one example; a full list of common challenges can be found on the DIT website.
The DIT have set up programmes for overseas trade missions by securing staff in all embassies across the EU to assist international business ventures. Just recently, a group of 15 homeware and lifestyle businesses were given the opportunity to attend a trade show in Paris. Here they were able to network with organisations who can help sell their products and provide contacts vital for growth and success. They have also set up webinars covering a variety of topics, as well as a trade show access programme providing funding for businesses looking to attend trade shows in their sector. The full list can be found here.
Running a business in a foreign country can be challenging to say the least; when faced with new people, new languages and new methods, the task of expansion can be an extremely daunting picture for an expanding firm. To resolve this issue the DIT have generated a guide list specific to each country. This is because each country, as well as having its own laws and regulations, has its own culture or 'ways of doing things', which can be crucial for business. This can start from harmless courtesies and signs of respect to deeper rules and regulations on business practice. Sue Beverly, a representative of the DIT, says "we help you get into the country and work with you to identify customer segments, and how you can target those people." The country guide list can be found here.
Sussex Innovation works closely with the DIT to help its members go international. If you're on the brink of expanding overseas, find out how we work with businesses to prepare for rapid growth. Arrange an introductory phone call with one of our innovation advisors here, to discuss the challenges ahead and get free advice about where to start.