By Steve Parker, Owner & Director – Steve Parker ICD (International Company Development)
Steve Parker has been involved in exporting and international trade for more than 40 years and started his first company, Steve Parker ICD International Company Development in January 2005. Steve works strategically with clients by advising, showing and /or doing. He works with clients in the UK and in various countries globally, including currently the Gulf, Thailand, Singapore, USA and Australia. Current work also includes directing and being an ‘expert provider’ on the Internationalisation and Innovation Driven Enterprise Programme for part of the Thailand Government.
It is more important than ever for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop an understanding of global trade. If the countries, regions and people are not your prospective markets for sales, they could be your competitors. Knowing about them can also provide solace in current times, where most have done more for businesses and on a psychological note, highlighted Covid Recovery rates, rather than doom and negativity. I learn daily from global perspectives and how ‘they’ operate.
When it was suggested that I should share some of the pleasures and pitfalls from my 40 years of exporting and developing great international relationships, it reminded me that I should get round to writing that book they say is inside us all. Except, just to be clear, I have had little time for books over the years, preferring to learn by experience and these words are definitely from practicing, rather than theory. So I hope you can benefit from these thoughts…..
Forgive me if I insult your intelligence, but let’s start with some things that will never change….
Take a look at a world map and see how tiny the UK is, compared to the rest of the world. If that small triangle is the sum total of your ambitions, that is fine – but think how much you could be missing?
Our country and your business needs to have more goods going overseas and even more money coming back in, than the other way round.
Companies and people globally, deal with people. They care less about credit ratings, finances and status (and be prepared to not be able to find out accurate finance figures in some markets anyway). Be very encouraged that if a person who doesn’t dress the smartest and who’s first language is ‘Black Country’ (me?!) can be successful overseas, then, particularly with his help, you can too?!. Incidentally, I discovered some of the finance part by having a meeting or two in the Gulf, abruptly terminated when I mentioned something on the subject – but I didn’t do this more than twice in my career.
One of the great mysteries of life is not that I still get a huge thrill from working with people in places like Dubai, but that they get hugely excited about dealing with Dudley. Welcome to international trade!.
Some states in some countries are bigger than other countries themselves e.g. California, so think strategically but ambitiously. Explore more markets to spread the excitement and to cover for when some economies (and people) are more buoyant and enthusiastic than others. (Notice no negativity in this article).
For almost every country in the world, you will face import duties, taxes, logistical issues, currency and payment variations and cultural challenges. The good news is that you can calculate and manage these, or at least assess your market potential, before you start. Then just treat them as part of the challenge and overcome them by using great external people, until you fully understand them yourself.
One of my pleasures, is talking to private industry contacts (and now friends) worldwide, who can get excited about a new client and advise me, even if it is not their sector. Although I start my day by reviewing media from the Middle East, Far East, USA and others ( and you can too), to find out what business conditions are really like, I talk to them. As earlier, they seem to like talking to me too?!
Communication and culture may be a regular challenge – you understanding them and them understanding you – but with our help and your own enthusiasm, treating it as part of the challenge or pain to securing those sales, there are ways of succeeding. Developing markets where English is a main business language, are often great places to start and this covers a large part of the globe.
One of my earliest motivations came from a Chairman, who told me I had 600 European Competitors, 9000 competitors worldwide, but if I could get half of one percent market share, we would have 4 factories instead of 2. I got export sales from less than 5% up to 52% of turnover before moving on, having kept challenging myself that ‘surely you can get 0.5%?!’ Surely you can do the same?
As Mark Twain said all those years ago….’twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the things that you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails ( did he mean ‘sales’ too?), Explore, Dream, Discover.
Let’s have some conversations, business always starts with a physical or virtual cup of tea.