Ensuring success in business by overcoming volatility
7 min read
14 March 2017
The international climate this year looks to be filled with volatility, which is a concern for UK firms looking for success in business overseas.
At home, politics continue to be dominated by Brexit, with politicians, the press and the public all in a constant state of volatility. The prime minister has tried to show clarity in government, but this hasn’t done much to change things or calm nerves of those out for success in business.
Indeed, having experienced political volatility in the past, I know first-hand how worrying this can be.
Outside the UK, world events have also been creating unease for small businesses. Donald Trump’s approach to trade agreements threatens to change the way we do business today, while the growth of populism across Europe has continued to make things pretty unsteady as we head towards French and German elections later in the year.
However, the current climate need not deter British entrepreneurs like myself from trading internationally. My company has ridden out recent periods of global instability and has continued to prosper with success in business.
There’s no reason we can’t expect other firms to achieve success in business in 2017, it just takes a little more planning.
Getting on the front foot with how best to protect your own company in the year ahead is vital. Based on my own experience, here are some top tips I’d like to share for success in business:
(1) Find a gap in the market
Finding a gap in the market, particularly in a sector you are genuinely interested in, will go a long way in providing the boost you need to stand out in a crowded and confusing global marketplace.
It’s exactly what we did when founding Torro Cases – and within three years, we’ve grown from being a hobby business to one with over 100,000 customers worldwide by identifying a strong niche.
When smartphones took off, people were paying a huge amount for the latest devices, but couldn’t find cases to do them justice. There were basic plastic cases at one end of the market, overpriced cases at the other, and little in between.
We identified a clear gap in the market and channelled our energy and resources into fulfilling it with an affordable, yet high-quality product. It just goes to show the value of doing your research and leveraging gaps in the market quickly for success in business.
(2) Go global
In recent years, online selling has made it easier than ever to trade internationally. At the same time, many new fulfilment networks are emerging that can help extend the reach of your brand.
Opening up your sales to other territories can double or even quadruple the pool of potential buyers within your reach. For example, in North America alone in 2016, over 197m consumers shopped online.
We started our business in Newcastle, but through online sales, we’ve expanded our geographical reach beyond the UK. With the help of Amazon and our own website, we’ve seen considerable growth across Europe and the US, and continue to expand in these markets, particularly Germany.
If you want to do the same, research the international markets where your sector is underserved, and where there could be a gap to fill. Be careful also to research competitors, and map out where you may face pressure from local rivals.
Don’t forget to investigate emerging markets, which may offer untapped opportunities for the right kinds of business.
Continue on the next page for details on how currency strategy and preparation fit into success in business.
(3) Develop a strong currency strategy
Going global means that you need a robust foreign exchange plan in place, since selling to overseas customers involves taking international payments that need to be converted back into sterling.
Historically, we used our bank for foreign exchange and let Amazon process all international payments made on the marketplace. This meant accepting their exchange rates with an added commission. When the pound took a hit after the Brexit vote, we realised we needed a change.
We weren’t getting the best exchange rates and had no one advising us on currency strategy, so there was a real risk that we would have to put up prices, or source our materials elsewhere.
We chose OFX, a currency specialist that could give us the tailored support and competitive rates we needed, as well as providing a payments solution that could plug straight into Amazon.
With their guidance, we’ve started converting the euros collected from our European sales straight into dollars – our suppliers’ preferred currency. This has helped us get around the challenges of a weak pound, and means we can continue to keep prices low for our customers.
In total, we’ve prevented the loss of around £150,000 since changing our currency strategy earlier this year.
(4) Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Preparation and awareness are crucial to success in today’s business environment. Although there are choppy waters to navigate, there’s also a huge number of opportunities out there for success in business.
Keep on top of the news agenda, so that you’re aware of national and international events on the horizon and won’t be taken by surprise, should any further political shocks occur which could affect your business.
Make the most of the internet and speak to experts where you can, who might have greater insight to share about the events that could require your attention.
In 2016, Brexit and Trump demonstrated that surprises do happen. Having a strong plan in place for success in business will help offset the effects of similar shocks in the year to come.
William Johnson is the co-founder of Torro Cases, a Newcastle-based business that produces leather smartphone cases and men’s accessories