Take Dr Fox’s medicine – 10 tips to start exporting

Tony McDonough looks at how Mersey businesses can now trading overseas.


Britain’s new Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox ruffled a few feathers when he accused business people in this country of being too “fat and lazy” to export.

Too many preferred “Friday afternoon on the golf course” to working, he added for good measure.

Well you can get mad, get even, or you can take the hint and start selling your goods and services overseas.

The Department for International Trade (formerly UK Trade & Investment) has spent the last few years trying to persuade more UK firms to take the export plunge.

It sent a team of experts, led by North West director Clive Drinkwater, to Liverpool’s International Festival for Business 2016 this summer to offer help and advice to local companies.

During the festival, Mr Drinkwater said:

“The bottom line is we need to get substantially more exporting businesses if we are to grow the economy to the extent we need to.”

Which is kind of what Dr Fox said, but in a nicer way.

If you feeling like proving the un-amiable Irishman wrong, here is the the Department for International Trade’s top ten tips to selling overseas:

Have a plan

Make sure you have a business plan which incorporates an export strategy. Talk Through your ideas with one of our International Trade Advisers (ITAs), all of whom have many years of export experience to draw on.

Seek help

Take advantage of organisations that specialise in supporting businesses to trade overseas, such as The Department for International Trade, UK Export Finance (UKEF), Chambers of Commerce, banks, lawyers, freight forwarders and your accountants. Exporting is a team game.

Start Small

It may be tempting to try and take on the world on day one, but focus on one or two countries at first.


Do your homework

Use our expert ITAs to help you research specific countries through our Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). Research who your potential customers and partners might be. If you want to undertake detailed market research, we can help fund a project with our Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS).

Test your market

Take part in overseas events, trade fairs and market visits to test markets. These will present opportunities to talk to potential customers.

Find partners overseas

Identify, appoint and manage agents and representatives. Make sure agents or representatives are the right people for your market.

Appreciate cultural differences

Failure to take account of different cultures may lead to damaging or costly mistakes. These could range from causing offence by not observing protocol, to using inappropriate packaging or marketing.

Make sure you get paid

As obvious as it may sound, it is very easy to overlook the risk of non-payment. You can establish the credit rating of potential clients in many countries and guard against non-payment through, for instance, a letter of credit or credit insurance accessed through your bank.


Understand and manage currency risks

Get to know the currencies you will be dealing with. Consult foreign exchange providers as they have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Have patience

Setting up overseas may not move as quickly as you expected; local customs and legislation can sometimes slow things down. In many countries, business is based on close personal relationships and trust.

For more advice and information log on to the North West home page for the Department for International Trade click here.

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