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Time for your business to Go Global?

What is Go Global, could it help your business to find customers overseas and why is HSBC supporting it?

“We launched our Go Global campaign in 2014 with our first trade mission, to New York, followed in 2015 by Shanghai,” recalls Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation, the start-up and business support organisation she founded in 2005.

Enterprise Nation has since helped thousands of people to start their own business, while continuing to be a leading campaigning voice for UK start-ups and small businesses.

“For 2016, we organised six trade missions, taking UK business owners to Dublin, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Shanghai and Hong Kong and mainland China in November,” Emma explains. “To make them more effective, these were sector-specific, for example, food was the focus in Dublin, fashion in Berlin, etc. The whole idea is to help small businesses to discover, explore and enter new overseas markets.”

Some 150 growing, ambitious businesses have been delegates on Go Global trade visits, and these have secured more than £5m in deals on the missions to date. More than 30 businesses will be going on the November 2016 trade visit to Hong Kong and China.

Successful outcomes

Emma uses strict criteria when judging the success of Go Global visits. “Have businesses managed to get a better feel for whether it’s the right market? Finding out it’s not can be just as valuable. Have some agreed deals? When we went to China earlier this year, [Kent-based business] Kit for Kids, which sells cot mattresses and educational toys, did a great deal. [Milton Keynes-based] Lyons Coffee, which is more than 100 years old, also agreed a fantastic deal.”

The overriding message, she says, is whether you’re selling creative services or costume jewellery - you can go global. “Businesses from all sectors are welcome. Owners also get a great confidence boost, too. Exporting can seem daunting. Yet, put people on a trade mission with 20 others and it boosts their confidence. They can learn and share knowledge.”

Products designed or made in Britain continue to prove popular in Asia, the US and Canada, Emma reveals. “Post-Brexit, less so in Europe, where we’ve encountered some push-back. That’s been interesting. Next year, we’ll focus on America and Asia. The whole point is to take UK SMEs to places where they’re more likely to find customers. Other markets include India, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand - places where, following the Brexit vote, governments have said ‘come here Britain, we want to do business with you.”

Wealth of opportunities

“There’s a wealth of excellent opportunities for UK SMEs overseas in markets throughout the world,” says James Cliffe, Head of Business Banking UK at HSBC Commercial Banking.

“However, UK SMEs remain less likely to export than SMEs in France and Germany. More than ever, we need to encourage and support UK SMEs that want to sell overseas. Those that export are likely to grow faster than those that only sell in the UK,” he stresses.

“Helping UK SMEs has long been a focus for HSBC. We provide free information online about how to become export ready, research overseas markets and start selling overseas. Small businesses can also use a free tool to find out whether they’re export ready. We’re also developing digital tools that will enable HSBC customers around the world to connect and become international trade partners.”

Sharing knowledge

HSBC also supports international trade events and missions such as Go Global. Cliffe adds: “This is the second year we’ve been involved - lots of our customers go on international trade missions. We try to share their knowledge and experience with other small businesses. Advice from those who’ve ‘been there and done it’ always carries more weight and credibility, I think.”

Last year, HSBC also ran 21 entrepreneur exchanges. Cliffe explains: “We got prominent, successful entrepreneurs who’ve built international businesses to share their insight and explain how they overcame challenges. We want to inspire the next generation of successful exporters.”

Mission accomplished

He continues: “Overseas trade missions provide the perfect opportunity to gain a greater understanding of overseas markets. You can make valuable contacts suppliers and customers - and network with other UK businesses.

“Trade missions require a big time investment,” he acknowledges, “which is why some owners are reluctant. But you can get that investment back many times over. I’d recommend that many more UK SMEs find out about Go Global and how trade missions can help them to start exporting.”

Commenting on HSBC’s support for Go Global, Emma says: “Getting HSBC onboard was huge. We approached the bank last year before going to China. We said - ‘look, we’re going to Shanghai, one of the places mentioned in your full name. It would be really wrong without your support,” she smiles.

“HSBC is the international bank. If you, as a small business, are looking to go global, we believe - hand on heart - that HSBC is the right bank for you. The bank’s knowledge in the UK has been invaluable, but its international expertise and reach has also proved enormously helpful.”

Read more:

First steps to exporting

Related articles:

International trade: opportunity knocks for UK small businesses

Next step:

Use our interactive export readiness tool to assess whether you’re ready to start exporting