Read our recent Export Focus stories. Click on a logo to be taken to the relevant article.
Case Study: Visual Business
Exporting is one thing, but if you are marketing your business overseas as well, this can bring its own complications. Luckily that’s something that John Stephens, MD and Creative Director of Visual Business, recognised early on and has turned to his advantage.
Based in Street, Visual Business was formed in 2013 and produces corporate videos, including professional translation videos for businesses that export. Having had similar conversations with a number of businesses that trade internationally, John identified a common demand for professional videos that use native speakers and understand the relevant cultural considerations, enabling the businesses to communicate perfectly with their target audiences.
John Stephens explains, “Communicating a business message in a different language is full of danger, where a mistranslation can change the meaning or unintentionally offend someone. The cultural side is equally important as mistakes can easily be made if you don’t fully understand the culture of a country, particularly when it comes to business etiquette. For this reason, Visual Business works with a professional, local translation company, which provides fluent narratives and has a strong understanding of cultural expectations.”
Although this international service is still in its infancy, Visual Business is already working with businesses exporting to Spain, Italy and Eastern European countries, and is working closely with UKTI and the China-Britain Business Council to further develop the service.
John says that the support received from the Somerset Chamber has been instrumental in getting the international side of his business up-and-running. “The Somerset Chamber of Commerce have been an immense help from the start. As well as hosting the international workshops that I have attended, they have put me in touch with various experts in the international field, including arranging meetings for me with members of UKTI and Devon Chamber of Commerce.”
In terms of his key learning points from the experience so far, John says, “To be patient, as additional regulation related to overseas trade means that everything takes a lot longer to process. For instance, we are working with an electronics partner and a media station in China, and due to multiple levels of bureaucracy and the fact that it’s a country undergoing several major market reforms, things can take a long time. There are comprehensive regulatory requirements for foreign currency conversions, trade settlements and bank borrowing. In addition, the laws under which you will operate your business are different – intellectual property rights protection is challenging and there are unique systems for taxation, labour regulation and dispute resolution.
“What really helps is to work with people who understand the market you’re trading in. Ensure that you have a good relationship with all parties, have a thorough plan, and are diligent about obtaining the right information and permits. Understanding and accepting that things can take time will help make the process go more smoothly.”
Asked for his advice for other businesses that are new to or interested in trading internationally, John says, “Trading internationally presents a huge opportunity to grow your business and expand your horizons. As well as being patient, you should be prepared to invest time and money in professional services such as advice on international trading, culture, business expectations and translation services.
“Take the first step and get some advice. Speak to local businesses that are currently exporting abroad. Give the Somerset Chamber a call, plus there are plenty of other organisations that also offer help and support such as UKTI, CBBC, Business West, and more. All of these organisations can really help with the journey of exporting.”
Case Study: Ministry of Cake
Ministry of Cake is the UK’s largest manufacturer of frozen desserts for the UK and European foodservice markets, including gateaux, cheesecakes, hot puddings and pot desserts. Founded in 1865 as a wedding breakfast caterer in Yeovil, it has grown into a £30million turnover company, employing over 250 personnel on two manufacturing sites in Taunton and Torquay.
International trade became a key focus for the business when it won a substantial contract to supply a worldwide coffee shop chain in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. This contract was awarded in 2014 and Ministry of Cake has been supplying since May of this year.
The international transportation of frozen products was a challenge the business identified early on, which was resolved by seeking the advice of another supplier for the coffee shop chain. Finance Director Jeremy French explains, “This was invaluable in learning about the pitfalls, and gave us time to ensure we didn’t fall down the same traps.”
According to Jeremy, not only has this contract had a significant impact on their financial performance, but it has also made them re-assess the quality and range of products that Ministry of Cake is able to manufacture, ensuring that regional variations in taste are taken into account.
Key territories within Europe now include France, Germany and Turkey, with the Middle East being a target for expansion. A number of spin-off opportunities have also arisen through establishing the route to market required to service the contract.
In terms of advice on international trade, Jeremy says, “Firstly, do your research on whether your product or service has a market. There are many organisations that can help with this – engaging with UKTI and the Somerset Chamber of Commerce are two obvious ones.
“If you do decide to take the plunge then plan it properly. It will inevitably present issues – language barriers and financing spring to mind immediately but there are many more. Understand how much resource you are willing to commit, and make sure you can afford to do it.
“Above all, don’t be afraid to try it. The UK has a culture of thinking that it is too difficult to do – this is not, by any means, true. The ‘brand’ of being a UK company counts for a lot – in Europe and further afield – so use that competitive advantage. But always make sure that you are doing it on your terms!”
Case Study: Briers Ltd
Briers Ltd is an award-winning and internationally successful designer, distributer and manufacturer, specialising in gardening gloves, outdoor footwear and garden giftware. Founded in 1999 and located in Wincanton, its products are based around affordable luxury and great British designs. The company has experienced annual growth of over 30%, with projected turnover for this year being £8.9million.
Briers Ltd began trading internationally in 2012. When researching overseas markets, the company found a similar environment to the one it had originally encountered in the UK glove market, typically entailing a lack of stylish designs and a focus on products aimed at men, despite the majority of purchases in this sector being by women. Briers saw this as an opportunity for growth and so far, in just three years, it has built a network of international distributors covering Europe, the USA, Australia and Japan.
While the end product is essentially the same, Briers has adapted to meet the requirements of the different markets, including developing multilingual text on packaging and point of sale materials with prices quoted in different currencies.
Gaining an understanding of country-specific regulations that impact upon manufacturing requirements was essential. Different safety standards in each overseas market meant that Briers’ processes had to adapt in order to meet specific requirements. As a result, Briers’ product sourcing now provides the flexibility to ensure the company can be responsive to the demands of different markets.
International Sales Manager Liam Walsh says that trading overseas has been an important factor in the growth of the business. “We are growing the export business by an average 3-5% of our current annual turnover, which is pushing us past the £12million turnover projections for 2016-17, so we are definitely going in the right direction.
“We have been able to gain an understanding of different markets through overseas trade shows and exhibitions, and we have met and kept in touch with key contacts, bringing on new partners in other countries to grow and sell our products worldwide. We realise that establishing Briers as a global brand will not happen overnight, but with the overseas growth, hard work, and international sales and relationships, the exposure will eventually be rewarded.”
One of Briers’ key aims at present is strengthening its distribution network across Europe. As a result, Liam attended an international trade event at the Somerset Chamber of Commerce in May 2015. “I attended the Selling into Europe Seminar, which was very interesting and has led me to meeting good and useful contacts. The Somerset Chamber has since kept me updated with future events and its links with UKTI.”
Liam says that not rushing things has been a key learning point for Briers. While the company’s early ventures into export markets were not quite as successful as they could have been, taking the time to develop relationships has helped Briers to achieve significant traction and results, this year in particular.
To companies new to or interested in trading internationally, Liam advises, “Don’t give up if it doesn’t work first time – persevere and learn from the mistakes. Each country has to be treated individually and will have its own way of doing things. Never be afraid to ask questions and seek help from business support organisations and industry bodies. Working with UKTI has been invaluable as they have supported our growth over the last three years. Numerous training courses and seminars like the one I attended at the Somerset Chamber of Commerce and those taking place in November as part of Explore Export Week provide free impartial advice and guidance. UKTI can also offer partial funding for business trips, training or exhibitions. Don’t be frightened to ask; the worst they can say is no!”