All across Britain, small businesses are being encouraged to think big by building their overseas empires. But where should they start?
In recent years, there has been a significant shift among smaller businesses towards selling overseas, while rapidly changing technologies make it easier and easier to reach global, rather than purely local, markets.
Overall, the UK business community is vocal in its support of international trade and collaboration, and the potential that this brings to the country. A recent study by Ipsos Mori found that just 1% of business leaders support an exit from the EU, despite feeling that many of its regulations are unnecessarily onerous.
Of course, it’s not all plane sailing. George Osborne may want the business sector to add £1 trillion a year to the UK economy through global exports by 2020, but the popular rise of UK Euroscepticism and calls for a referendum on EU membership are hampering export growth. While businesses tend to disagree with isolationist sentiments, these rumblings, combined with political concession-making, are making some continental companies wary of building relationships with British businesses in the long run.
On the other end of the scale, the shady (and somewhat under-reported) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations are still underway, despite fierce criticism from public interest groups, parts of the media and hundreds of thousands of citizens across Europe.
The deal, which is ostensibly designed to ease trade restrictions between the US and the EU, is feared to hand too much power to global conglomerates at the expense of ordinary people and democratically elected governments, as well as local business interests. Unfortunately, since the terms are being agreed in secret with corporate lobbyists, it’s hard to get a clear idea of the potential benefits or risks – but we’ll explore this in more detail later in the week.
Despite the challenges, for an ambitious SME, there are many promising markets for trade, both in the EU and further afield. For smaller businesses that do take the plunge, the possibilities are extensive. In many parts of the world, UK goods and services are highly prized for their quality, heritage and innovation, and breaking into a new market can bring huge rewards.
This week, SME Insider will be looking at all kinds of aspects of overseas expansion, from networking at international tradeshows and getting to grips with an unfamiliar culture, through to exporting your products and services, and opening your first office in a new country.
We’d also love to hear about your views and experiences in this area – you can join the discussion on Twitter by tweeting us at @SMEInsider and including the hashtag: #GrowGlobal.