Lesley Batchelor OBE (pictured) is Director General of the Institute of Export. She has a powerful track record of championing UK exporters and enhancing the performance of hundreds of businesses. Lesley will be a key panellist at FSB’s Destination Export – Small Businesses as Strategic Exporters, to take place on Tuesday, 12 June at the International Business Festival 2018 in Liverpool.
What is the outline work of the Institute of Export?
The Institute of Export & International Trade is the only professional body supporting memberships’ businesses by offering a technical helpline, trade summits across the country, qualifications and short course training in all aspects of international trade.
What are some of your main experiences in supporting businesses exploring international markets?
The main experience is simply businesses are not prepared and do not commit to research the best markets. Exploring a new market needs careful consideration to make sure you have your price right and get paid.
The price has to include all the issues you might face from possibly modifying your product to new trade barrier you might face; the final price has to ensure a profit and that takes careful thought.
Getting paid is easy once you know how but many companies trade on open account terms leaving themselves vulnerable to the whims of their clients. Trading without a contract works until you have a problem then it’s very difficult to know who is responsible and how you can manage the order from there. A little thought and planning can overcome all these issues and that what we do.
What are the initial difficulties businesses face when beginning to export, and what are the ongoing challenges?
Initially businesses don’t always understand the way the paperwork flows and what their responsibilities in the process are. Outsourcing is great, but it doesn’t outsource your responsibility as a business. This comes as a surprise to some businesses. This is very simple research and then some basic training all of which the IOE&IT can help with. Ongoing challenges must include foreign exchange, maintaining the right price and knowing what to do if you see a dip on the horizon.
What are the potential opportunities of exporting for small businesses?
There are many opportunities for small businesses obviously selling online or through an international marketplace is great for some products, for these businesses it’s just a question of getting the price right; shipping and possibly collecting the money.
You must be prepared to use the services and forfeit some of the margin for the volume. If you’re looking at developing your own presence tin a new market he main thing to remember is that you may only work in one major city to start with.
Break the market down into bite sized chunks don’t be too ambitious and find out everything you can about the market you’re going to. It’s really horses for courses – technical products are difficult to sell on a volume platform so the decisions you make need to be based on your business and your aspirations for that business.
Any top tips for operating successfully overseas? What should businesses prioritise when considering exporting and/or increasing exports?
Top tips are very simple – research, research and then research some more – being fully aware of the market and the how you’re going to get paid is crucial.
Top priority should be financial planning, it always takes around three times longer than you think to do business internationally. If your cash flow isn’t robust enough to manage there is plenty of help from UK Export Finance and we can help you find the right support just don’t leave it to the last minute! Companies tend to realise around three days before they need the money and that just isn’t enough time.
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It is FREE to attend Destination Export – Small Businesses as Strategic Exporters and delegates who sign up get FREE access to the nine-day festival. Find out more about the Institute of Export here: www.export.org.uk.
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