Insurance · 4 November 2016

Small firms restricted from exporting due to lack of support

Just over half of small firms use the support available from the Department of International Trade

Almost three quarters of small companies hold back from exporting due to a lack of experience and knowledge of international markets, as a new HSBC report highlights the demand for better government support for businesses.

The bank’s Exporting for Growth report surveyed the views of 1,000 small UK business owners, finding that 68 per cent of company decision makers admitted that a limited understanding of foreign markets stopped them from trading overseas.

The report identified three central strategies needed to facilitate better exporting opportunities for the small business community.

A “hub of services” specially tailored to meet the needs of smaller firms was recommended, making clear the available support from the Department for International Trade, and strengthening the accessibility of its services.

Giving the UK’s smaller exporters a voice in post-Brexit trade negotiations – via an advisory group made up of small business owners – was endorsed by the report “as the lines for international trade are redrawn in the coming years”.

Some 60 per cent of survey respondents were concerned that the UK’s lack of experience in negotiating trade deals would negatively impact on the opportunities and tariff rates of small companies.

The study also called upon banks and business bodies to “share best practice”, reporting that 71 per cent of potential exporters would be encouraged to trade abroad if they had the opportunity to learn first-hand experiences of the process.

Commenting on the report’s recommendations, HSBC’s UK head of global trade, Mark Emmerson, stated that supporting smaller companies in reaching international markets was a “win-win” for the British economy, with the country “full of dynamic entrepreneurs who want to look beyond their own borders”.

He said in a statement: “There is a clear need for government, banks and businesses to do more to give SMEs the bespoke support needed to flourish globally.”

Emmerson added that “collaboration is a necessity” for the future of British exporting – giving small business owners the chance to share their insights with policy makers in order to ensure that trade negotiations are based on an understanding of the needs of all sizes of enterprise.

He concluded: “We are all united by a shared goal – to ensure British exports flourish – so it’s time to work together and step up our exporting game.”

Looking to export overseas? Ten tips to make international trade simple.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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