Help is at hand for small firms, says Daniel Peters of the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry
The UK has a great trading tradition. Being a collection of islands, cut off from the continent, has rather forced the issue – if we couldn’t grow or mine something here, we simply didn’t have it. So we had to explore beyond our shores to seek products and markets, an activity which has led to the UK being the 7th biggest exporter of goods and services in the world.
However that high ranking is achieved mainly through the exports of the UK’s biggest companies.
Our small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) are not doing nearly so well. Indeed, only one in five (20%) UK SMEs export, while the EU average is one in four (25%). The global average is nearer one in three (30%).
This gap is happening despite the fact that English is the world’s business language, that we sit handily in the middle of the most convenient time zone and that our small companies are bursting with high-quality goods and services, many of which could have a global appeal.
There is also a lot of help available to companies that are considering exporting. The government agency – UK Trade & Investment – works exclusively to increase British trade. The London Chamber of Commerce, which often works in partnership with UKTI, also provides trade promotion and facilitation services.
To get people started, these help businesses locate overseas opportunities and buyers. Then, once these links are established they help businesses tackle all the documentation, payment and other practical matters that emerge once an export order is won.
Already this year the Chamber has taken scores of companies to meet buyers and win orders in places as far away as India, Chile, Nigeria & Ghana, Qatar and Tanzania & Uganda. We have also looked closer to home and visited places like Spain, Turkey and Russia.
Nor does the list end there. In the next few months we will be bringing firms to Belgium, Vietnam, Switzerland, Brazil and China and sitting them face-to-face with other companies that want to do business in a world where cross-border trading is easier than ever thanks to lower tariffs, trade liberalisation, low cost air travel, and easier communication through websites and email.
Before companies travel to the market they can attend training courses at the Chamber on sales and marketing, export documentation, and letters of credit or get briefed on key markets and sectors as well as on aid-funded business and import procedures. Coming up later this year are London-based events on Thailand and Myanmar, financing your exports, and business clinics focusing on winning orders through United Nations and European Commission programmes.
When companies visit the market to show samples of their goods or exhibit at a trade fair they can take out an ATA Carnet – a passport for goods – to speed their way through Customs. And when they start to ship the orders they win, the Chamber can also issue them with a Certificate of Origin to help them comply with payment methods or import requirements, often ensuring that the buyers in the market get a lower rate of import duty.
Research shows that companies that export survive recessions more profitably and achieve greater business success than companies that don’t. Help is available for SMEs who want to test the export waters through both the London Chamber of Commerce, including the highly-effective Enterprise Europe Network office it hosts, and UKTI. So, tap into that help and make sure your company more than survives the next downturn!
For trade promotion at LCCI – trade missions, events, and training courses – contact Sarah Leader: [email protected]
For export documentation at LCCI – contact Steven Walton: [email protected]
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