Going global


International trade is a key ingredient of fast growth, as IoD members know – 56 per cent export compared with a national average of 19 per cent for small and mid-sized firms. Santander helps SMEs to market their products and services abroad through its innovative Breakthrough programme. Here’s how…

Small and mid-sized companies have emerged as the heroes of the British economy over the past five years. Numbers of start-ups are at a record high and, importantly, ambitious scale-up firms continue to fuel growth and boost job numbers. But many SMEs still operate on a domestic level and could accelerate their growth even further, and faster, if they broke into global markets. According to government figures, only 19 per cent of SMEs in the UK export.

Diversification through exporting is a strong strategy. What’s more, once companies start to export, they become more optimistic about their prospects. Research from Santander, conducted in 2013, shows that 92 per cent of SMEs which exported were confident that their business would grow in the year ahead.

Data from HM Revenue & Customs shows that UK goods and services worth £12.5bn were exported to EU countries in September 2014 alone, a rise of £1.9bn on the previous month. Exports to Germany and the Netherlands – Britain’s two biggest EU trading partners – were up more than 15 per cent, and trade to France (the third biggest European export market) rose by 11 per cent. This highlights a stable export market offering real opportunity for ambitious firms.

Operating internationally requires investment in time and resources, but the benefits are obvious, not least for establishing new sales channels, brand reach and greater perceived value.