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Is SME expansion on the cards for 2018?

Despite the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, and the value of sterling, UK SMEs are operating in a dynamic and exciting business environment where expansion is a viable option.
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According to American Express, 41 per cent of SME bosses cite their leveraging of the particular advantages they enjoy working with SMEs – such as adaptability, innovation and strong customer relationships – as their top strategies for fuelling revenue growth in 2018.

This optimism doesn’t cease when crossing the pond, with the US National Federation of Independent Business reporting one in five SMEs are placing emphasis on hiring and expansion.

The American Express survey also states that the majority of UK respondents cite economic uncertainty as the most significant threat – which has switched from political uncertainty within the same poll just a year earlier. While concerns are ever-present though, this is matched with increased optimism about the opportunities that are out there to trade and form strategic alliances.

Indeed, developing a specific overseas strategy is a clear advantage particularly as it provides a safety net/ pool of new customers and suppliers to fall back upon. KPMG claimed almost half of UK exports were destined for the EU in 2017, which demonstrates the dire need to forge wider global relationships now as a safeguard.

Naturally, global expansion requires a number of obligations around tax and culture to consider but the typical make up of a successful small business – which incorporates focus, strong working/ customer relationships and consistency – helps provide the “front” required to successfully move beyond our national barriers.

Financing is of course, an ever-present issue – and barrier – for some, but again, by utilising the agility and innovative nature of an offering and in-house team, investment can become much easier to source.


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For those not quite at this stage, perhaps 2018 is better used looking at the business and how to make it “overseas expansion ready” in order to make 2019 or 20 the year when it’s truly elevate.

Indicating business efficiencies is a key element of driving success within existing efforts but this also helps in demonstrating the potential for an SME to move to the next level where expansion (in the UK or indeed, overseas, is concerned).

This comes down to measures like ensuring supplier relationships are properly managed in terms of spend and consolidating requirements down to the fewest suppliers possible.

However, internal measures that drill down the day-to-day costs are always needed, an example of such measures is the use of vehicle tracking devices for employees out on the road, as these are very effective and also demonstrate that employee safety and well-being is proactively being monitored.

While nothing in life that is worth getting comes easily, it seems like the current business landscape is ready for expansion, at least for SMEs – the expected uncertainty caused by the current Brexit negotiations actually represents an opportunity for SMEs to forge new relationships that are not as dependent on exiting the EU in terms of tariffs and taxation. So, in conclusion, go forth and conquer!

Chris McClellan is CEO at RAM Tracking


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As the champion of UK enterprise for 20 years, Real Business is the most-read SME website dedicated to high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs. Through daily news, unique insight and invaluable guides we are an essential resource for thriving businesses.

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