FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry has called for targeted support from the Government, the private sector, finance industry and business organisations to help more than a million small firms and start-ups embrace exporting for the first time.
Speaking at ‘Destination Export – Small Businesses as Strategic Exporters,’ FSB’s headline event at this summer’s International Business Festival 2018 in Liverpool, Mr Cherry referenced FSB research that shows the number of small businesses currently exporting – one in five - is matched by those that would consider it in order to grow their businesses.
“This points to the huge potential to double the number of small business exporters,” he said. “We could have over a million more small business exporters if we got it right. The challenge is how.
“We need all of us - Government, the private sector, the finance industry and business organisations and associations, including FSB, to focus on providing effective targeted and tailored support to help businesses export and to support them when they do, but in ways that support them and not a ‘top down approach.’
“We know that small firms who export are more likely to survive, to grow and to innovate.
“Our members who export are clear about the benefits – placing access to more customers, increased turnover and increased profitability as the three major benefits of exporting.
“Less tangible, but highly valued, are benefits to do with improved reputation, credibility and profile - half of all exporters benefit in this way from selling.”
Mr Cherry, who pointed to three categories of small business exporters identified by the research – ‘strategic,’ ‘opportunistic’ and ‘reactive’ - outlined the actions required in order to increase UK exports and boost economic growth.
“Firstly Government must think small for maximum impact. The UK economy will benefit much more from a million small firms exporting for the first time, or a million exporting more, than from just a handful of bigger businesses doing the same,” he said.
“The longer-term gains will also be greater. Targeting specific groups, such as those who’ve never exported before and start-ups, will have huge benefits.”
“Second, we should get communication to small firms right. LEPs, Growth Hubs and business support bodies should provide back-to-basics: myth busting on what exporting means and promoting the softer benefits of exporting – such as that increased reputation – to small firms.
“Third, we must get delivery right. Whether supporting small businesses through an export voucher scheme, or making sure business support works – getting delivery of the support right will be essential, and I would encourage all of you here today to give your feedback to FSB and we will make sure Government hears it.
“As we keep telling Government - back small businesses and address the challenges they face and the whole of the UK will reap the rewards.”
‘Destination Export’ welcomed keynote speaker Marian Sudbury, Director for Global Operations (Exports & Investment) at the Department for International Trade and Northern Powerhouse. It also featured a presentation from FSB member and exporter Helen Baker, Director of Hydraulics Online Ltd, and an expert panel to provide information, guidance and advice on the opportunities and challenges of international trade for small businesses.
The panellists were: Lesley Batchelor, Institute for Export / Open to Export; Chris Walker, Chairman, FSB Department of International Trade Policy Group; Sally Mears, Senior Trade Portfolio Risk Manager, Global Trade and Receivables Finance, HSBC Global Services (UK) Ltd; Florian Reinhardt, Head of Partnerships, Finpoint, FSB Funding Platform.
The event, hosted by FSB’s Head of Media Alan Soady, took place on Tuesday, 12 June – the opening day of the International Business Festival 2018, which will host more than 40 major global events across 9 high growth sector themed days, providing attendees with knowledge, market insights and vital business connections across the UK and the globe. Supported by the Government through the GREAT Britain campaign, the festival’s patron is Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.