Around a quarter of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) members are exporting. As the FSB points out, small businesses make up over 99% of all businesses in the UK and contribute over 50% of GDP. Small businesses are dynamic and are therefore well-positioned to become agile exporters.
While much of the government’s emphasis is on encouraging inbound investment from abroad, we shouldn’t overlook the potential for businesses to contribute to an export-led recovery.
Exporters and the Enablement of Technology
The FSB’s own research has shown that nearly one in four small businesses export goods or services to markets overseas. The use of websites and the internet has undoubtedly contributed to this, removing many physical obstacles in the marketing and sales of goods and services.
There has been something of a retail revolution where SMEs are using online platforms and their own e-commerce sites to export millions of British goods abroad.
Exporters can also significantly streamline their payments with international payment methods such as PayPal. There are also online platforms that can assist with language translation.
There is a significant, and growing, manufacturing element in this new era of agile exporters, with electrical goods and car parts being exported around the world.
The figures are clear: SMEs play a crucial role in the UK economy, and online businesses are a big part of this. The internet has opened up possibilities, and while there are barriers such as currency concerns and general world economic volatility, the nimble, flexible responses of modern, small businesses make many of them well-suited to export expansion.
The biggest challenges facing small businesses when exporting, according to the FSB, are fluctuating exchange rates, red tape, concerns about secure payment and the logistics of getting their product to market. Technology clearly helps, as shown above, but encouragement and support are what’s needed to help keep the momentum of export going.
We’re often told about how insecure as a country we are with our place in the world. The figures suggest that Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking, and exporting is great for it.
Could exporting be great for you too?