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Helping small businesses sell to big markets

I was talking on a radio programme recently about a fantastic book called Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here. It takes two future scenarios, a dark one and a bright one, and predicts how that is going to affect our work lives. The truth is probably in the middle somewhere.

Two things from that book struck me. First, no more doom and gloom, please.The book talks about continued bubbles, booms, busts and crashes as an ongoing feature of our future lives. We might as well get on with it, instead of talking about how bad it all is.
Second, our future is already here.That future is export and the expertise we have developed in exporting.

Available supports

I assumed that everyone agreed that the focus of most business in Ireland was on the global marketplace of billions instead of on the six million people on the island of Ireland. I also assumed that every company understood that is preparing for it and knows what supports are available.

So I was surprised at some of the results from a survey we at Small Business Can carried out recently. Thirty per cent of companies surveyed did not know what state supports were available from the three main agencies on this island.

Most of the companies surveyed were selling into developed markets: Britain, France, Germany, Holland and the US. Fewer than 20 per cent were targeting developing markets like Africa, south-east Asia, the Middle East, central Eur- ope and South America.

Ignoring open and welcome business

This means companies are targeting the most competitive markets in the world, while ignoring ones that are open and welcoming to businesses from this island. The research also shows that business people want to talk to other business people, which is where Small Business Can comes in.

Here are some of the things we are doing:

  • We have created an export group as a dedicated community in which to interact and share.
  • We are putting export up on our forum as a dedicated topic.
  • We are making it a pillar of growth in its own right.
  • We are asking all our contributors who are exporting or are planning to, to post their export questions there;
  • We have put our directory of all agencies on the island up into our new Small Business Can wiki. Let’s try to get all the supports into one place and then we can let everyone know about them.
  • We are asking our community for articles and information about foreign exchange, hedging, letters of credit, merchant services for overseas payments on websites and the treatment of Vat. We will make this content available to all.
  • And last, but not least, we are seeking people that have sold abroad into developed and developing markets to contribute to ‘question and answer’ sessions on the site.