For many small businesses the prospect of exporting can seem daunting. Caught up with the daily pressures of work, they don’t know where to start. Yet exports can be a great way to expand a business and lighten its dependence on a local market.
Dana Elman, who works at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), understands this only too well. “Sometimes it is actually very difficult for a small business owner to think beyond day-to-day life,” she says.
Even when they do export, some small and medium-sized enterprises have no clear strategy for it. They will fulfil orders from abroad, but might not even consider themselves exporters. “One of the things we encourage businesses to do is to think globally from the start.”
Reaping the benefits
The growth opportunities presented by exporting are clear. With more markets, businesses have the potential to reach more customers. Exporting can reduce the risk of being dependent on one country, which might have its ups and downs, and can balance out seasonal slumps.
True, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit presents its own special risks, but there is plenty of support out there for companies willing to explore overseas markets and take the plunge. Dana says: “There are some small businesses who have growth intentions, who are waiting to apply for external finance because they don’t know what Brexit will bring. People want certainty, that’s the major thing. It’s really hard to plan ahead, make decisions when you don’t know what’s happening tomorrow.”
Will Butler-Adams, managing director of Brompton Bicycle, maker of the famous London-built folding bicycles, says he decided to start exporting early on. He wanted to find a way to iron out highs and lows in demand as people are less inclined to buy bikes in the UK over the cold and wet winter months. Brompton, founded in 1975, now sells in 44 different countries, with 80% of its sales outside the UK.