The world is your oyster: small businesses thinking big
Exports International trade is integral to SME growth. The UK Government is committed to increasing the supply and diversity of funding for SMEs and increased investment will certainly help international trade.
The UK Government has set some clear aspirations for exports in the past:
- doubling UK exports to £1 trillion (Budget, March 2012)
- getting 100,000 more UK companies exporting by 2020 (Prime Minister, November 2011).
The UK’s biggest trading partners have traditionally been Europe and the US but emerging markets, such as China, now also offer fantastic opportunities for UK exporters. The benefits of exporting include; the opportunity to win additional sales, a level of growth not otherwise possible and an increase in the commercial lifespan of products or services. With these benefits and more to be gained, SMEs should seriously consider reaching out into international markets.
Over the last two years there has been a 37% increase in the products being sold overseas by UK SMEs, according to the Department of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), which shows many SMEs seem to be successfully capturing the international market. However, according to a TNT survey, many companies admit to not understanding export regulation and half of those surveyed stated that they rely on their transport provider to deal with this.
In addition to a lack of legal and regulatory knowledge, typically the greatest barriers to external trade are a lack of contacts and customs barriers. With complex financial and delivery processes to overcome in exporting goods overseas, it’s vitally important that SMEs are aware of the expert support available to help them take full advantage of international markets.
This support includes the Institute of Export ‘Open to Export’ website offering SMEs a place where they can come together with UK businesses to help each other become better, smarter and more confident doing business abroad. Companies can get free online information and advice from the community on anything to do with international growth, and connect with the full spectrum of organisations providing support for exporters.
The UKTI’s ‘Passport to Export’ programme can also help SMEs navigate the challenges of exporting. Aimed at new and inexperienced exporters, the service offers customised and subsidised training, as well as on-going support once you’ve started to export.
It’s important that businesses do their research before starting to export to a new country. To inform the decision making process businesses should look at the growth potential, opportunities and legal and tax considerations, among other areas, before making decisions about which markets to target. The Government has developed a number of exporting country guides which provide useful information on exporting to a particular country.
Businesses looking to start exporting, or wanting to expand the markets they export to, should have a trusted partner who can provide expertise and local knowledge, a range of services to meet their business objectives and an excellent service record.
TNT recognises the importance of the growing SME market and has a team of experts that is completely focused on supporting SMEs with their international shipping requirements. TNT provides the assurance of dealing with a world class service provider with International expertise and capabilities. For example, our full Authorised Economic Operator status enables us to fast-track shipments through customs. With sales centres across the UK, our team of experts are never far away and are able to give customers the right advice and solutions to make sure their account runs smoothly.
There are challenges to exporting overseas, particularly for SMEs, but it is those who take advantage of the help available, and sell globally, which will reap the benefits.