Before you start working on your business plan, refine your plans and goals for the business.
Research and preparation are essential. But the quality of your research is just as important as the quantity.
Look at all markets you think will be suitable for your business. Identifying them in a prioritised list is a great start; concentrating on your top three for greater insight is even better. The world is a big place and you can easily stretch yourself too thin. A single country or region trial could be an excellent learning experience.
Once you’ve identified strong localised demand and specific local challenges, you can amalgamate your findings into a five or ten year plan and focus your research on the countries you plan to start with.
Solving the ‘where’ bit of your export ambitions should be an exciting threshold allowing you to focus your thinking. It might throw up more questions if your research tells you answers you didn’t expect or want.
The important thing is not to rush. Make the decision on where to begin with a cool head and possibly the advice of your local Chamber of Commerce. There’s a lot you still need to discover, like:
Again, remember to be flexible. Take local customs and preferences into account – remain open-minded and look at all your options. For example, there’s no point creating relationships with outlets when a sales agent could offer you theirs for a fraction of the cost.
Look at the pros and cons:
The way you actually receive payment will almost certainly be different for exports, especially the time it takes to come through.
Transporting your goods may have unique logistical challenges in certain countries. Local laws, the local climate and sheer distance are just some of the things you may wish you had looked into in more detail before exporting.
It's your responsibility to operate within the law. Expect something of a learning curve and always assume you’ve missed something.
Many documents required for export are generic, like:
If you need support with local export laws talk to UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). Common sense will go a long way in planning the initial transport logistics of your exports. Think through the journey of your product, and consider every eventuality. If you’re using freight services only use companies with a good reputation and always get insurance.
To establish a successful relationship with overseas customers you need to know what they need and how they think. They could be influenced by centuries old traditions, or local trends, or both.
Making an effort to understand different cultures can’t guarantee you success, but not doing so ensures failure. Everything from learning the language to reading the local news or buying competitor products will help you get it right first time.
Your product may actually have different symbolic or practical associations in different countries. Embarrassing errors – especially very public offence-giving ones – could hurt your long term prospects, and a native speaker will help make sure everything from your web copy to your packaging is spot on.
Exporting your business is about more than just finding prospective customers abroad. It takes a large amount of preparation and hard work. More than that it will probably take a change of mindset; you’ll need to be flexible in your finances and thinking, and possibly be prepared to adapt the very nature of your business.
The road to export success contains many twists and turns, but one way of avoiding mistakes is to learn from other peoples.
One of the most common is simply taking your eye off the ball with your domestic duties. Painstaking preparation and a perfect export strategy are all very well, but you don’t want to let your local customers suffer as a consequence.
Another common mistake is making assumptions about local laws and customs. But if it’s the right time for your business, and you plan your export strategy carefully, there’s no limit to the opportunities awaiting your business.
When you’re sure that exporting is the way to go, it’s well worth kicking off with an export cash flow forecast. This will let you get an idea of the numbers before anything has been committed. You can see how it fits with your existing business plan and seek second opinions on whether it looks watertight.
This guide is intended as general advice only, and not intended to cover specific circumstances and needs. The information in this article is also not linked to any of the products offered by Clydesdale Bank PLC.