Be bold, be shrewd and go for it!
The BEF has been focusing relentlessly on making Barbadian entrepreneurs aware of the world of exporting opportunities out there in the global market place. Indeed, in this time of unprecedented global turmoil, businesses all over the world are grasping the opportunity to go global, just to survive. Many are achieving a level of growth which would not otherwise be possible. Barbadian businesses must now do likewise. They must grasp the opportunity to enter and compete in the global marketplace.
The question isn’t whether you can afford to take the risk of exporting. The question is, can you afford NOT to take this risk?
The fact is, we must be prepared for a tough and uncompromising global economy for perhaps several years to come. Traditional western markets for many products and services are shrinking. Local demand for several products and services is in decline. Can you really afford to sit down and just let your business dry up? Surely not. You must explore your options. This is the time to act.
Businesses looking to go global must look closely at the fast growing emerging markets. 75% of global GDP growth since 2007 has been powered by emerging markets. It is expected that by 2030, 93% of the world’s middle class will be living in what we currently term “emerging markets”. At the same time, we should not forget that there will still be considerable demand in the West for niche products and highly skilled services, especially in light of demographic trends and rapidly aging workforces.
Be confident – you have what it takes to export
To many of you, the mere thought of exporting, especially into emerging markets may seem daunting – far too complex and fraught with obstacles. You may be thinking to yourself that you are too small to export, that you have too little capital and little or no exporting skills. If so, think again. It may not be as difficult as you think and quality help and support are available. Moreover, you do not have to go it alone; you can seek to partner with well placed overseas businesses also looking to export.
Be clear about what you need to do next
Come to terms with the fact that there will always be risks involved. All business is risk. But the greatest risk is frequently not taking a risk.
All too often, the reason businesses fail is that they don’t follow one or more of some very basic steps. You will be more likely to succeed if you:
- Select the right exportable product or service. Consider the global trends and the products/services in demand in the global market place both now and in the foreseeable future. Can you identify a product or service that you are well placed to supply and which plays to your strengths? What is unique about your product or service? Draw up a list of markets in which your product or service is in demand. Select the best market on which to focus. Why is it the best? Can you sell a quality product or service into that market at a competitive price? Who are your competitors? Why should anyone want to buy from you rather than any of your competitors?
- Get good quality advice and guidance. Ask the BEF to point you in the right direction. Get as much quality advice as you can locally or regionally (see the sources of further information below). There is also a rich talent bank of Caribbean individuals and organisations in the diaspora who can assist businesses looking to internationalise with research, training, practical guidance and identifying business partners as well as mentors. Future Think, a social enterprise based in London, is one such Caribbean led organisation. If they can’t help, they will be able to connect you with someone who can.
- Get training in export skills. Again BEF or the one of the organisations mentioned below should be able to help with this. Cost effective, quality training is also available through diaspora organisations by means of webinars, video conferencing etc.
- Do your homework and develop a sound export strategy. This is all too often where things fall down. Once you have selected an exportable product and decided on your target market, understand that market in great detail. What are the opportunities? Who are your competitors? Does your product or service need to be tailored in any way to suit local tastes? Understand the business culture, the regulatory framework and restrictions or “red tape” that can affect your business. Identify and mitigate all risks. Plan your cash flow. Get the help you need to develop a sound export strategy.
- Prioritise personal contacts and relationship building. Draw up a list of potential business partners and get talking to them. Make a special effort to understand and embrace the cultural differences in the market.
- Be patient and take one step at a time. Some things will take longer than you expect (especially where they involve bureaucracy) so allow for this in your plans and export strategy. Test the market before committing yourself to a permanent presence in the marketplace. The African and Caribbean Business Expo which is due to take place in London to coincide with the 2012 Olympics may present an ideal opportunity to research and test markets from all over the world – see www.aacbe.co.uk.
- Make effective use of technology. A large number of young and nimble businesses in the UK are using international trading platforms such as Etsy, Elance, Ebay and Alibaba.com in order to go global. Can these or other international trading platforms help the Barbadian entrepreneur?
- Protect your intellectual property rights in the event that your product or service is in danger of being copied or counterfeited.
There’s no need to step into foreign markets alone. You can sub contract to or partner with well placed and well resourced overseas businesses also looking to export. Barbadian entrepreneurs may well find, for example, that becoming a sub-contractor to a UK small or medium sized business (“SME”) is the ideal way to penetrate European markets or the fast growing emerging markets
An increasing number of SMEs in the UK have already broken into the fast growing emerging markets, often with considerable success. Exporting into these markets is not seen as the preserve of large, well established companies. One in three SMEs are planning to export into a new emerging market over the next two years. Interestingly, 37% of young firms (ie, less than five years old) report no significant barriers to doing business overseas. This shows that the perceived obstacles to exporting may not be as significant as you think.
Also, the UK has seen the rise of very successful “Born Globals”, ie, young businesses exploiting overseas opportunities from the outset. Indeed, 17% of new internationalising companies in the UK are “Born Globals” so you should not allow the fact that your business is very new to put you off.
It is interesting to note that 53% of UK companies have found that exporting overseas has made them more innovative which in turn has fuelled further growth and expansion. This is unsurprising. Exposure to new environments, tastes, expectations, legislation and competition stimulates thinking and creativity and often drives exporters to develop new products or services which they can go on to market elsewhere.
Help is at hand
There may be more help available than you think. There are a number of organisations and free resources that the Barbadian entrepreneur can tap into when seeking to go global. Some of these are listed at the end of this article.
Don’t lose sight of the strategic importance of the significant Caribbean Diaspora which has evolved over the years in the major metropolitan regions of the US, Canada and the UK. They provide two major advantages for Barbadian entrepreneurs. The first is the availability of a market for products and services of Caribbean origin. While many local entrepreneurs have targeted the food market, opportunities exist in the areas of real estate, fashion and finance. The second is that these migrants have built extensive networks that link local and foreign markets. Many of these individuals operate businesses that either import from or sell to the Caribbean. These relationships can be leveraged to provide access to customers in Europe, North America and to emerging markets.
Seize the day – the 2012 Olympics
The London 2012 Olympics presents a unique opportunity to break into the UK, Europe and fast growing emerging markets. An African and Caribbean Business Expo is planned for the Grosvenor House Hotel, Mayfair in August 2012 to coincide with the Olympics. The organisers will find potential business partners for all participants in advance of the Expo and participants will have the opportunity to attend sector specific seminars and business matching and “speed networking” events. With the London Business Network, UK Trade & Investment and the British Business Club on board as partners, every effort will be made to bring decision makers of quality businesses to the table. In addition, KPMG UK will provide qualifying participants with free assistance with “investor readiness” or “partner readiness” in the run up to August 2012.
The Olympics is also a unique opportunity to do some “on the spot” market research and to meet businessmen from all over the world. China, Brazil, Russia, France, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Great Britain among others will all have “Olympic Houses” teaming with businessmen seeking out opportunities overseas.
For more information, please click on www.aacbe.co.uk .
In the final analysis…
Barbados is a country shaped by global forces and Barbadians have always been highly creative and entrepreneurial, though arguably, over the last 45 years, its “entrepreneurs” were mainly public servants, teachers and politicians. A new breed of entrepreneurs is now needed in this rapidly changing world economy, entrepreneurs who are bold enough to break into and build sustainable businesses in the global marketplace. Get good quality support and guidance and ensure that you follow the basic steps outlined above. You will have every chance of success.
Be bold, be shrewd and go for it.
© Penny Carballo-Smith, Executive Director, Future Think
Resources for the Barbadian Entrepreneur
In Barbados:Invest Barbados
http://www.investbarbados.org/howwecanhelpexporters.php The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation
http://www.barbadosentrepreneurshipfoundation.org/ Barbados Coalition of Services
http://www.bcsi.org.bbBarbados Small Business Associationhttp://sba.org.bb Barbados Youth Business Trust
http://www.youthbusiness.bb Enterprise Growth Fund
http://egfl.bb/Barbados Investment and Development Corporation
http://www.bidc.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=134Barbados Private Sector Trade Team
http://www.tradeteam.bb/cms/default.asp?V_SITE_ID=6The documentation Handbook: A Guide to Exporting from Barbados
In the Caribbean:Caribbean Export Development Agency
In Europe:EC Export Helpdesk
Email email@example.com or call +44 (0)20 8864 6794