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Mark Lindsay, Managing Director of InMark Lindsayternational and Trade Services at Bibby Financial Services offers his top tips for SMEs stepping into new markets.

British businesses have always had a strong history of serving customers on these shores. But increasingly the opportunity lies further afield. We operate in a global economy, so businesses must be global in nature.

You only have to look at the strong British brands of Aston Martin, BAE Systems, BBC, Burberry, Cath Kidston, Dyson, Harrods, M&S, Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, Twinnings and Virgin to see that our most successful businesses are also global brands.

But many SMEs feel unable to maximise export opportunities, often citing a lack of funding as their top constraint.  Indeed our SME Confidence Tracker finds that only 1 in 10 small businesses are currently exporting their goods and services. But if small businesses follow a few simple steps, international expansion can be straightforward.

We recommend that small business owners and decision-makers consider the following before making that first step into a new market:

  • Research the best markets for your product or service and identify the scale of your potential customer base
  • Establish the competitive market – who your competitors would be in new markets and their current market share
  • Consider the standard practices and cultural peculiarities of the local market and decide if you would benefit from having a local presence
  • Survey the market for the best financing package, suited to your needs
  • Consider a funder who can offer on-the-ground insight and knowledge
  • Equip staff with the skills required for trading internationally

Trade financing can be instrumental in driving growth for any business with international exposure. In the case of R&G International, a clothing wholesaler that imports goods from Asia, trade financing allowed the company to manage the seasonality of its business and expand its product range, enhancing the design and quality of the product. Our bespoke finance package has allowed R&G International Trading to double its turnover and deliver strong growth.

SMEs must remember they are not alone in making the leap of faith to expand abroad. There is substantial practical and financial support, advice and expertise available to exporters – from Bibby Financial Services, the Institute of Export, the Federation for Small Business and UKTI. These organisations are leading authorities in best practice for companies working in international trade. Meanwhile the Government has clear aspirations for exports, intending to double UK exports to 1 trillion a year by 2020 and getting 100,000 more UK companies exporting by 2020. The Government wants the UK’s small businesses to grow internationally and will provide support to enable them to do so.

Bibby Financial Services has ambitious plans to expand its support to SMEs over the coming year and grow its trade finance proposition in 2016 and beyond.

In 2014, we planned to double our export financing support for businesses over the next three years: we have already met that target and now intend to move beyond it.  Our dedicated business development people, committed relationship management teams and knowledgeable operations function mean we’re in a great position to support SMEs trading internationally. With more staff trained in export and trade finance than ever before, Bibby Financial Services is helping British small businesses realise their international potential.

Find out how our Trade Finance solutions are supporting our clients’ growth ambitions here.