Is it even possible to thrive as an exporter today?

Despite the US and China threatening the global economy and Brexit sapping business confidence, the ability to analyse trends makes exporting a dream

Is it even possible to thrive as an exporter today?

2019 is certainly proving to be an eventful year for exporters. Not only do we have the will we/won’t we saga of Brexit but we also face a growing global game of sanctions and other protective measures from the likes of China and the US, which some economists have warned threatens the global economy. So how can we possibly thrive in such a volatile environment?

There’s no agreed way to measure the resulting change in international business. But the way currency exchange rates, tariffs and sanctions have varied in the past five years is surely unparalleled in recent history, at least since the aftermath of World War Two.

And of course there’s climate change, driving new ideas everywhere from how we make goods and move them around to how we package and plan their disposal. This has spawned growing ethical awareness among consumers, leading to changes in many practices from material sourcing to the treatment of workers involved in the supply chain.

What’s more, an 1894 article in The Times predicted in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of horse manure. The writer couldn’t predict the rapid rise of motor cars but now we may be witnessing an even faster decline, with electric vehicles poised to take prominence.

For a lot of businesses this economic evolution is a completely new challenge and one even many medium to large companies – with rigid structures and procedures – may be ill-equipped to meet. However, as well as new challenges change brings businesses new opportunities. But to ensure they’re ready, adaptability must be very high on the agenda.

Which markets will provide the best opportunities ten years from now? Who will be our customers? Do we understand their changing needs? Will we have the products or services they’ll be demanding? In the absence of a crystal ball, there are two strategies we must adopt.

Firstly, study trends. A careful, ongoing study of sales, buyer behaviour, competition and market developments can help anticipate future changes and incorporate them in your plans. Secondly, understand and keep close to your customers. That’s not always easy in international trade, particularly when the supply chain means you need never meet, but the nature of change makes it vitally important to have a genuinely client-focused operation. 

One crucial action helping businesses thrive in this time of change is investing in skills. In fact, hiring staff with fresh skills and training existing employees is arguably the most important step companies can take. Strong and Herd, the import and export training consultancy, sees many businesses that don’t consider these trends in their business planning at all. Or if they do, it’s usually at a very superficial level.

In a surprisingly short time, assumptions companies make about theirselves can become dangerously wrong. Markets once considered low priority have become major players and new competitors with smart products and ideas seem to appear from nowhere. But simple analytical methods can help identify such developments before it’s too late to do anything about them.

To thrive in a world of constant and rapid change we must understand the indicators identifying and quantifying the trends, including rapid economic growth, investment in infrastructure, scarcity, changes in public and consumer spending. The deadliest mistake businesses can make in 2019 is to assume tomorrow will be just like today.

This article comes courtesy of Strong and Herd, the import and export training consultancy

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