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The export world according to Ed.

Anyone remember that half-wit we have sitting on our board? He may have many faults, but nobody can say he suffers from analysis paralysis. He spent about 5 minutes ‘analysing’ the results of our Export survey. Then he came up with this:

Export survey results (or The World according to Ed… in his own words)

Gather round children (talking to us – average age 35). This is what the survey is telling us. Forget about the detail and the granular analysis; that  will deflect from the important tasks at hand.

30% of the companies surveyed don’t know what state supports are available from the 4 main agencies on this island. They should be ashamed of themselves! (We asked who? The state agencies that are not getting the message out there or the companies that haven’t gotten up off their behinds to see what help is available? He didn’t answer.)

…and this makes sense. Exporters want access to real people on the ground who will open up their contact books and provide introductions to customers and distributors. Not this quantitative and qualatitive market research nonsense and help from so called consultants that seem to infest the agencies. (We pointed out that he was a consultant. He ignored us.)

…which plays to smallbusinesscan’s strengths. Exporters want access to other exporters; those that are selling into and developing new markets and are willing to share success and failures. As one chap puts it ‘Not interminable meetings with desk bound officers and retired ‘experts”’. Wait a minute I’m a retired expert! (He took the words out of our mouths.)

I told you not to put a question in about funding, since we know the answer? Yet it looks like about 20% of these responders have found a way to tell us that funding is a big issue…like they’re telling us something we don’t know. Yet here’s a chap quoted in the survey that seems to know what he’s talking about.

“Any funding to INCLUDE vat costs; and to be paid up front, with the option to draw down in tranches, and ideally a year to do it; there is no certainty of getting these grants so it’s impossible to plan with them in mind. In their present format only companies that don’t need them can avail of them.”

Here’s a lesson for the banks. They should give the companies what they need, not what the bank ‘thinks’ they need. Exporters want simple Forex services, advice on hedging, payment protection so that they have security of payments when moving into new markets, online banking and a help-desk. Aren’t they offering these already? The message seems to be: keep it simple?

I don’t understand the internetty stuff here on the survey. What’s being said makes no sense? On the one hand responders are saying that they’re using their websites to generate leads and sales… On the other hand, and this has a ring of truth, they see brand awareness and getting their names out there as the biggest barrier to entry to a new market. So how can you sell into a market — even with that internetty thingy — where no one knows who you are…do you see the contradiction, chaps? (We said nothing.)

And this one makes me wonder if all this hullabaloo about our exports doing so well is spin. Only 9% of companies see distribution as a barrier to entry into a new market. So how are they selling in markets where nobody knows their name? How are they getting the name out there? How are they supporting customers? How are they finding customers in the first place?

Eight and last.
Why is it that most of the companies surveyed are selling into developed markets…Britain naturally, France, Germany, Holland, America…Less than 20% are targetting the developing markets — the Commonwealth, Africa, SE Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe…South America…For God’s sake, they’re targetting the most competitive markets in the world and are ignoring markets that are open and welcoming to businesses from this Island…

Now here’s what we’re going to do (according to Ed).

Forumy thingy
Put Export up on that Forumy thingy as a dedicated Topic. Make it a Pillar of growth in its own right. Ask all of our contributors who are exporting or are planning to, to post their export questions here. We can link it back to the Export group. Also ask the IT chaps to roll out that new functionality for the export group which allows a dedicated community interact and share. Real exporters helping each other out etc etc…

Put our directory of all agencies on the island up some where on the site — maybe into that Wiki thingy you’re always going on about. Then ask the community to update it and indicate what services each of the agencies provide for exporters. Include funding obviously. Lets try and get all the supports into one place and then we can let everyone know about it.

We need articles and information about Forex, hedging, letters of credit, merchant services for overseas payments on websites, treatment of VAT….Ask the community to provide this content and make it available to all.

Make yourself available
Last. I want people that have sold abroad – into developed and developing markets –  to be made available for Q&A on the site. I can think of a dozen that already contribute. Maybe organise a video conference where people can post questions to the Export group before hand……In particular we need experts on building third party distribution…and if you can find that elusive person…someone who’s cracked a foreign market by going direct….

And then he left….with his golf clubs…saying: ‘Off to a political fund raiser. Everyone who’s anyone will be there’. (We weren’t invited.)