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SMEs urged to look overseas for new customers

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Smaller firms have been urged to consider exporting as a way of growing and developing.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has said that research it has carried out indicates that, with domestic demand slowing, new markets abroad could be the answer to firms looking to expand.

Clive Lewis, the ICAEW’s head of enterprise, said: “The UK is an almost saturated marketplace. Economic growth will be delivered by SMEs and those that look beyond these shores to market their products and services. There are three key things to get right before exporting business though; the plan, the place and the process.”

The ICAEW said that research is critical. Firms should assess the product range and identify which products to export and the modifications that will be needed to enter different markets. Finances need to be in order, with start-up costs, contingency funds and currency fluctuations all budgeted for. And SMEs should be clear about their strategic objectives.

When it comes to choosing an overseas market, firms should consider all options, the ICAEW said. Firms should know about their legal position in relation to UK Tax, about export and import controls, about the documentation that is required, and about the tax and business laws in the potential marketplace too.

Firms will also need to consider how they will physically manage the operation. They could recruit a team on the ground or have UK staff travel abroad. Or they could operate through an incorporated body or set up a joint venture with a local partner.

The ICAEW advised that firms looking to export should review the impact that marketing and selling abroad could have on their UK operations.