International Trade

Growth and exporting: Take your business to the next level

4 min read

10 December 2013

In the past few weeks there have been a number of business surveys suggesting that confidence is returning to UK businesses. After a period of reduced demand, cost-cutting and strict cashflow management, many businesses have experienced an increase in their order book and increased sales. If you are a small business, perhaps been trading long enough to become established, how should you respond to an apparent increase in demand for your products or services?

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Start with a plan

If you’re looking to grow your business you need to consider how you will achieve it. Is it selling existing products or services to new markets, or new products or services to existing markets?

If you’re considering selling overseas for the first time, there is help available from UK Trade and Investment. The process can be very costly in terms of time and resources so it’s best to get all the help and advice you can. Your current customers (and suppliers) may also be able to help with locating overseas markets so it’s worth having a conversation with them to find out if and where they export and what advice they would offer.

What additional resources do you need to increase sales?

If you’re planning to expand your business it is vital you identify what resources you need to meet increased sales. Do you need more or better equipment or more staff with particular skills? If exporting, you might need new language skills or an upgraded website. You will almost certainly need improved information systems to track the increased workload. You also will need to consider how you get your product to the customer. 

Consider your financing requirements

A significant increase in sales usually requires an increase in working capital such as stocks and debtors, increased operating expenses such as a bigger marketing budget or more staff and / or capital investment in the equipment mentioned above. Where is this money going to come from?

Of course, increased sales should eventually result in increased profits but this can take time to turn into cash in the bank. So it is advisable to produce cash flow and profit and loss forecasts to show to finance providers. Again there are government schemes to help with financing exports. 

Consider what new / additional risks increased sales might bring

Expanding into new markets or customers brings new risks. The customers may be unfamiliar to you so it is vital you get credit checks on them to ensure they will pay for your product. Equally important is to ensure the time and effort you invest in developing a business relationship with them will not be wasted.

How can technology help with sales?

The internet has made selling a product from the UK more achievable. There are several ways of securing payment online. Template websites can now include built-in e-commerce facilities and shopping carts can be added on. However, many start-up and early stage businesses use platform sites such as eBay and Amazon. So if you are planning growth it may be advisable to invest in the technology to make your website another channel to potential customers. 

Sources of help for growing businesses in export markets

Taking a business to the next level requires a clear vision and determination. It can help to talk to other businesses who have already achieved what you are seeking to do. This might be through a mentoring scheme or an established network. There is nothing new under the sun and finding appropriate support and advice can make the task much less of a challenge. 

If you need help with the financial aspects of exporting or growing a business, a discussion with the ICAEW Business Advice Service (BAS) is an easy way to start. Start today with a free straightforward, open discussion with an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. There’s no catch, no obligation and no charge for your first session – just practical thinking to help your business succeed.

To find your nearest ICAEW Chartered Accountant visit http://www.businessadviceserviceblog.com/