Do you think your business is too small to go global? Well, think again. Home business guru Emma Jones says there are a lot of misconceptions among SMEs around international trade. Indeed, many come to it almost by accident by responding to a customer enquiry from abroad. Before they know it 10% of their business is coming from overseas.
Jones, who set up Enterprise Nation, has written a book on the subject to counter the myths. Go Global is an easy and accessible guide to international trade. She says she looked for something similar after she met a businesswoman on a nationwide road show who told her she operated a global business from her spare room in a Glasgow flat. She couldn't find anything. She says: ?After asking a number of small businesses if they would be interested in such a resource (and based on their positive response), I decided to research and write the book. My great hope is the finished product will help all those businesses owners who have thought about going global but just didn't know where to start.?
The book sets out the business reasons why now is a good time to expand globally. For instance, the UK needs to develop more markets; any weaknesses in the pound make it a great time to export; and technology such as online customer service tools and free conference calling means it is easy to work in different time zones.
The reason SMEs ? and others [a lot of what Jones says is applicable to sole traders and freelances] ? don't tend to export, she says, is a crisis of confidence. They are mainly worried, she says, about secure payment amid fluctuating currencies, how to find customers abroad in a cost effective way and the cost of shipping things abroad.
She says: ?The oft-repeated line that stays in my mind from all the case studies was ?I thought exporting would be really difficult but once you get started it?s surprisingly straightforward? ? what the book shows is you don?t need big budgets or a big team to get this right.?
Jones sets out to deal with each of these perceived barriers to globalised trade. One section of the book is dedicated to ?fears and realities?. She goes through each problem and suggests a solution, for instance, PayPal can offer a secure online payment system.
Another chapter is devoted to getting started. In this, she lays out how to approach internationalisation, from researching the market to promoting your products or service abroad, using press releases, podcasts, websites and the like.
The book is peppered with useful websites which can help with everything from translating Twitter feeds to sending out global press releases.
It is also packed with case studies from SMEs who have bitten the bullet and gone international. They include Emma Henderson, the woman Jones mentions as having inspired her book. She imports fair trade bags from India, applies unique screen print designs and sells them via her Etsy store to customers in America.
The book covers issues such as insurance, shipping and local etiquette and the last pages are full of potted information about countries and markets and some handy phrases.
Jones has already been speaking about it ? indeed just this week she was at an Open Sesame event. She would like to see the book develop in a number of ways. Firstly, she wants the Government to take into account the recommendations she makes in the book on the role UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) can play in ensuring more small businesses trade overseas. At the moment, for instance, the criteria for key trade programmes like Passport to Export state that companies need to have been trading for more than three years and to have over five employees, something which acts as a barrier for many home start-ups. She would also like UKTI to offer her book to all first time exporters who come seeking advice as a way of encouraging them to go global. Another initiative she is exploring is plans to develop a ?Go Global? app that offers business people all they need on their phone when going overseas to do business.
Initial feedback has been very positive, says Jones. She has even received comments from businesses who are already going global as a result of reading it. ?That's what makes it all worthwhile and worth giving up the summer to write it!? she says.