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Why It’s Never a Bad Time to Pursue Export Opportunities

In turbulent economic times, it’s tempting for entrepreneurs to batten down the hatches and stay put, lie low and wait for the storm to pass. Indeed, in times of uncertainty we must do all we can to prepare, plan and protect ourselves. And it’s true we live in uncertain times. However, it’s never been more vital that the UK’s SME community sets its sights on the horizon, and actively pursues export opportunities with Europe and beyond.

Indeed, concentrating on things we can control: like our export nimbleness, our trading agility, our mind-set resilience and our innovations roll-out is especially vital in times of uncontrollable macro-economic headwinds. That way, the winds can’t batter us off course, we can control our voyage, and we can continue to build world-class businesses.

In fact, ONS figures released last week show that exports to the EU have risen by 4.1 percent in three months to August from the previous three-month period - demonstrating the continued importance of the EU exports to British firms, and the ongoing appetite for deals.

It’s great to see this positive progress, but the widening trade deficit means we must continue to prioritise the importance of exports for our economy. Exports have the potential to drive the UK’s economic performance - and they have the power to turbo-charge growth for any ambitious British business.

When the economic future at home is uncertain, firms should be seeking the security that export sales can bring. It’s not just large corporates that have the opportunity to benefit from higher exports for savvy SMEs are already reaping the rewards of expanding internationally. The latest FedEx SME Export Report revealed that 63 per cent of British SMEs are exporting - and for those that do, exports account for 65 per cent of total revenue.

I’ve certainly experienced the advantage of exporting first hand as the founder of a British business that has held a global strategy from the very beginning as an SME. We started Ella’s Kitchen in 2006 with a mission to improve children’s lives by helping them to build a better relationship with food. It wasn’t long after we sold our first products that we began to look abroad, and over ten years on we are not only the number one baby food brand in the UK, but also in Ireland and Norway too, retailing in over 45 countries with a global turnover of $100m.

Indeed, we have experienced double, or triple-digit top line growth each and every year of our 12-year existence - through deep recession, austerity and uncertainty to date - and we have achieved this because we set planned for multiple scenarios and have been agile, resilient and entrepreneurial in forging our own destiny, whatever was going on ‘out there’ that we couldn’t control.
Last week at the British Chamber of Commerce International Trade Summit I reminded 350 of the UK’s leading SMEs that ‘Brand Britain’ still holds huge sway in the EU and globally, providing enormous opportunity for UK products. We really are a trading nation, exporting everything from baby food to education, and building leading global brands from Virgin to HSBC.

British business has proved that it can be innovative, agile and resilient throughout the ages. We are no different now. The growth of the UK’s entrepreneurial environment has been supported by the government, through schemes like UK Export Finance, but business will only survive if it’s continually ambitious, whatever the political weather, and takes confidence in its excellence.

Preparation is certainly key, but in uncertain times the focus must also be on what entrepreneurs and business leaders can control. We’ve made the best of tough times before, and we can certainly do it again - if indeed tough times are ahead. When preparing for the future, whatever it might bring, exports will remain central to any strategy for success for our individual entrepreneurial businesses and our overall economy.

Keep smiling,