5 steps to balancing the risks and opportunities of doing business internationally

At the British Chambers of Commerce 2015 International Trade Conference, Louis Taylor (CEO at UK Export Finance), Ian Davis (Chairman at Rolls-Royce) and Richard Fenning (CEO at Control Risks), joined a panel session to discuss how to do business in high growth markets and the risks involved.


1.    Recognise the risks involved in international trade

Once you make the decision to trade internationally, one of the most important things to consider is how you’ll protect your business against risk – from financial risks like getting paid to political, security-related, environmental and other potential threats to your business.

To mitigate the risks, you need to start by recognising what they are. Balancing risk with opportunities is a fundamental part of business, both at home and abroad.

Fenning advised attendees not to assume that the world is divided into good markets and bad markets: “The same risks that could affect you abroad can affect you at home.

2.    Take control and seize the opportunities

We live in an age when the world seems to be quite perilous, which is fuelled by the media: “If you turn on the news, you might never want to leave these shores,” said Fenning. However, he highlighted the opportunities available to businesses brave enough to take their companies global to expand and succeed: “I urge you to consider the realities and start.”

Davis agreed: “There’s too much focus on the risk side and not enough on the opportunity side”.

3.    Do your research

Due diligence is essential: “You have to get micro on the market. Do your homework,” continued Davis.

Taylor also commented that businesses should get out there and see the markets for themselves: “There’s so much opportunity from being on the ground.” Rather than making decisions based on how your potential target market is portrayed by the media, visit the country and do your own research to make an informed decision.

4.    Get the right support

Finding the right partners can also help to manage and minimise risk. Once you’ve done the research yourself, it’s a good idea to seek further guidance from suppliers, customers and other businesses. “Don’t be shy to ask your customers who have more market experience,” said Davis. Getting local intelligence is important – use all the resources available to you to help.

Also do your homework when selecting your distributor. For a strong and consistent service offering, choose a provider with wide global reach. Your customer will see them as an extension of your business, so select someone who can act as a true brand ambassador.

Organisations like UK Export Finance are also there specifically to mitigate the risks companies can encounter when exporting.

5.    Develop a firm strategy for going global

“There’s a phenomenon going on where now, for the first time, more people are living in cities than rural areas – and big cities have more in common with each other than they do with the hinterland of their own country,” said Taylor, who also advised exporters to not become obsessed by a country’s ‘brand’.”

It’s clear that each market will have its own risks and opportunities and will therefore require tailored export strategies and approaches. For example, we’ve discussed the appeal of Brand Britain on several occasions – though while this can be a strong selling point in some markets, it’s also important not to assume that being a British brand will make the process any easier. Fenning highlighted that businesses must not think that a shared historical connection (such as England and India sharing the English language and a love for cricket) translates into success – you need to work hard to leverage it.

Overall the panel advised that companies looking to do business in high growth markets should be cautious, understand that it will take time, but also be brave: “Opportunities are always greater than the challenges: seize the opportunities and seek help to overcome the challenges,” concluded Taylor.

Talk to our Business Export Advisors about how to begin your export journey, or for support for growing your business abroad

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