We hear a constant stream of news and expert opinion about the significant challenges Brexit has brought to UK exporters, it almost feels like a doomsday scenario! Yes, we need to be prepared and there have been changes to the way we do business, but what about the opportunities?
There are not a lot of column inches or posts on social media looking at the positives, yet potentially they are equally significant. The Government is now free from the restraints of the EU and can make decisions based purely on what’s best for UK business.
Many UK businesses, if they export at all, have only contemplated the EU up to now. That is understandable as they are our near neighbours and until 31st December 2020 were our partners. Exporting to the EU was easy with free movement of goods and simplified VAT procedures for example. Selling to France was almost the same as selling to Sheffield.
Now we have become just another third-party country and subject to customs rules and regulations, just as any non-EU country. The UK-EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement has meant duty-free exports are still possible to the EU, but only if certain stringent conditions, for example on rules of origin, are met.
So, ok every export business has to learn how to complete customs declarations, how to prepare all relevant paperwork and follow the new rules. It’s a learning curve but it’s not insurmountable. There are plenty of training courses out there, many provided by members of SIITACE. Customs consultants and brokers can help take the hassle away.
We should look at this process as a positive. There’s no going back, so prepare and then move on. We all now have new skills, knowledge and experience of exporting which have prepared us to broaden our horizons. We have been taken out of our EU comfort zone and into a world of opportunities. Suddenly, from a procedural perspective, it is much the same process to sell to the US, China and Japan as it is to sell to France or Germany.
Stop thinking EU and start thinking World!
There is a huge world of opportunities out there for you to consider. Broaden your horizons and look to expand your business in ways you perhaps never considered previously.
But don’t just rush in. Consider carefully which countries to focus on. What is the size of the market? What are the barriers to entry? How do you assess and compare different countries? Exporting needs to be approached in a strategic, planned manner so as to find the right opportunities, avoid the costly mistakes and blind alleys.
Download our ‘7 Steps to Export Success’ ebook for a step by step guide to becoming a successful exporter. It will take you through the process we use with clients to identify and prioritise target countries and define the best route-to-market strategy.
The first step is to narrow down the Where?
Which countries provide sufficient opportunity for you to target? Look at any market research you have readily available, review your in-house data for where your enquiries and customers come from, see where your competitors sell and a key consideration in the post Brexit era is to follow closely the development of Free Trade Agreements between the UK and other countries or regions.
Free Trade Agreements are designed to facilitate and promote trade between the parties, to ease the process, reduce or eliminate tariffs, cut red tape. As such they a good signpost to which areas to consider closely in your export planning. Details of agreements under discussion and already agreed can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-trade-agreements-with-non-eu-countries
Once you have narrowed down the Where? to the main potential markets, the next task is to prioritise and match your ambitions to your resources. It’s no use targeting the world if you only have one person in export and are running at 95% production capacity! Focus in the right areas is the key.
To set priorities it is necessary to evaluate the Barriers to Entry in each country. Look at product approvals, competition, currency, language, freight costs, customs regulations, duties, country risk etc.
When we carry out this process on behalf of a client, we consolidate all of the above information into a scoring system, weighting each barrier to entry for importance and assessing the pros and cons, the potential versus the risk. This is used to give a numerical rating for each country which allows us to compare the opportunity in different countries in a scientific rather than gut feel manner.
It’s a process which can take time and effort but ultimately can save thousands in helping you make the best-informed decision possible.
So, forget the doomsday scenario, think past Brexit and Covid-19. Look to the future, to the opportunities, to the profits and the adventures!