International links could be vital to SME expansion

Only a quarter of SMEs are currently exporting according to new research, potentially impacting on their ability to expand.


FedEx revealed that 25% of small businesses are currently ‘internationally active’ and more than a third highlighted entering new markets as vital to their growth plans.


The Great British Export Report also revealed that 51% of companies would need support in order to expand across international borders.


According to the report, businesses that trade internationally are three times more likely to grow than those who do not.


Doing so carries a number of benefits, including stimulating growth, boosting profitability and helping to drive the economy forward.


Increasing export potential for financial benefit


In 2013, the UK recorded the strongest export growth of any EU nation, beating other strong economies such as those of Germany and France.


The government has set a target of £1 trillion export value by 2020 and the report suggests that SMEs will have a pivotal role in achieving that figure.


International opportunities are increasing and success in the long-term could depend on a company’s ability to enter markets.


Otherwise, financial issues could occur and corporate insolvency might end up being the only solution – early actions could prevent this but concerned businesses are encouraged to act fast.


Overcoming obstacles to entering export markets will also be important, with 20% of companies reporting a lack of technical knowledge while 14% are waiting for further economic improvement.


Future optimism is high


Despite this, there is no shortage of optimism about the future of overseas business with 41% of businesses predicting that activities will be mostly international in just five years.


That figure rose to 57% for 15 years, showing that exporting is very much in the minds of many business owners.


Sourcing the right support ahead of expansion will be important but entering markets from an early stage has the potential to boost company finances dramatically.


Emerging markets such as China, Russia, Brazil and India were reported to be under-represented in the SME export tables, with some of these economies reportedly difficult to enter in to.


However, cracking these barriers to international exporting could help SMEs to lay the foundations for bright futures, both in the UK and abroad.


By Phil Smith


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