We all recognise that we will have a better chance of succeeding with our business if we think things through in advance and create a plan – understanding how we approach the development of our business allows us to maximise opportunity and minimise risk. By preparing appropriately we can avoid much of the chaos and stress associated with unexpected surprises. This is particularly true when trading overseas where there may be a wider range of challenges to consider, and more immediate unknowns.
In spite of the recognition of associated value I still meet many companies who don’t have a plan for international trade – they “fly by the seat of their pants”.
For a number of years I was one of those individuals - I just wanted to “get on with business” – all that planning malarkey just seemed unproductive. What I did not realise at that time was that I was not running the business, the business was in effect running me – half of my life (literally) was spent sorting out issues that could easily have been avoided with a bit of forethought. I was working hard, but the business was not really rewarding me because I kept crashing. In fact I was doing it so often that it just became the norm – well, that’s what entrepreneurs do – when we fall over we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get on with it – all very romantic and full of bravado – but very tiring, and expensive. Once I experienced the value of planning my business life changed – it became so much more enjoyable as I took control of the business and I felt energized, working on positive things associated with growth rather than sorting out avoidable problems.
So why don’t we plan when we know that it is sensible (and indeed responsible)?
I frequently hear of two main reasons
- I am not sure how to approach the planning.
- It is a long and laborious task.
Planning can indeed be as complex as you want to make it – or as simple. Short, simple plans are often the most effective. The important thing is to answer the key questions. In my experience you can create an effective export plan by making 6 key decisions:
Why? – “Why Export?” is your rationale. You cannot create an effective plan if you do not know what you want to achieve. Exporting not only gives you the opportunity to grow your business, but to reinvent your business model to remove all manner of barriers to growth.
What? – What will your international offer be? – many companies think about this carefully and adjust their overseas offer to generate more profit (often for less effort).
Where? – What are the best countries to trade in? What countries will give you the best return for the effort that you put in? Where can you go to maximise opportunity and minimise risk?
With What? – What resources can you put behind your international trade? How can you keep the domestic market suitably resourced and still grow business overseas – a real challenge for SME’s
How? – What is the best business model for the business? – Your route to market. Is your model scalable and (most importantly) sustainable. As an entrepreneur or small business operator your can be quite creative in your thinking here.
Who? – Who are the best people to work with? – Will you be using Partners (perhaps Agents or Distrubutors) overseas – how will you find the right ones and manage them effectively.
Once you have some conclusions for these six key decisions you have a skeleton for your plan - you can then flesh your ideas as time progresses with more operational considerations.
The challenge (when you have so much going on in your head) is what to focus on.
Structured Planning need not be a laborious task – it can be enjoyable and informative. ExportSavvy comprises a series of business development modules that challenge your thinking, give you some tips and allow you to make conclusions and store them. If you complete all of the modules you will have concluded the basis of your export plan.
To learn more about the six key decisions and how to create your export plan visit www.exportsavvy.co.uk - You might like to specifically look at the modules entitled “The Road Ahead” and “Organising Your Ideas”