Exporting expert Jim Fanshawe offers five tips for companies considering doing business abroad

Jim Fanshawe of Your Export Department Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jim Fanshawe of Your Export Department Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Whatever your views on the UK leaving the European Union, it’s pretty clear that it is going to happen at some point. But what still remains uncertain is the exact terms of this departure.

Over �26bn worth of goods was exported from the East of England in 2016. Pictured are containers at

Over �26bn worth of goods was exported from the East of England in 2016. Pictured are containers at the Port of Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

One Suffolk business that has been looking closer than most at the likely outcomes is Felixstowe-based Your Export Department, a consultancy that works as an outsourced export department for client companies, helping those who already market overseas, as well as those who are keen to try it for the first time.

It is headed up by Jim Fanshawe, who was once a senior trade adviser for UK Trade and Investment department – now the Department for International Trade – and also previously worked for many years as an export manager for a number of private companies before setting up Your Export Department three years ago.

His services include implementing export strategies, identifying opportunities overseas and sourcing distributors, as well as taking care of documentation, legislation and translation requirements.

Administrative burden

“One of the most common questions I am being asked concerns the paperwork and administration which might be put in place post-Brexit,” Jim said.

“The likelihood is that Brexit probably means that some form of extra documentation will be required when selling or shipping goods into countries that are part of the EU Customs Union.”

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This means companies in the East should be keeping abreast of Brexit developments, so they don’t get caught out by any new developments, he says.

“If there is going to be more of an administrative burden - do you have the resources to handle it and will it ultimately make your product uncompetitive in the market because of duties?

“Also, are your distributors still on board or because of the uncertainty around Brexit are they looking to source their products from countries who will be remaining in the EU?

“You need to having conversations with customers and partners on a regular basis to reassure them you are doing all you can to smooth the process and remain competitive.”

Opportunity

But while this scenario may sound onerous to many, Jim’s take on the situation is to urge businesses to see Brexit as an opportunity rather than something that should be approached with trepidation.

He said: “What Brexit does is give people an opportunity to re-evaluate their export strategy.

“They know the landscape is going to change - it’s not clear how yet- but they should be evaluating where their current business is coming from, what impact Brexit will have on this and how they might restructure their export development for future growth.”

This could mean looking for export opportunities outside the EU and identifying countries beyond Europe who are likely to sign free trade agreements with the UK, such as many of the Commonwealth countries who have historic trades links with the UK.

Jim, whose current work includes assisting Adnams with exporting their gin and vodka to Scandinavia and Maldon based Shaken Udder with plans to enter the European market, says researching potential new export destinations takes in a lot of factors including GDP growth, and cultural and legal indicators. Any potential import and excise duties should also be considered.

Visiting the target country and seeing the market first hand is also recommended.

Demystifying exporting

Jim continued: “I’m a big advocate of people at some stage getting out there and seeing the market - I think it is essential.

“Trade shows - whether you are exhibiting or simply visiting - are a good way of assessing the market, and finding out about who the potential competitors are, what the pricing models are like. who the potential customers and partners might be and generally what is going on in that particular market.

There is, then, a lot to consider but Jim says one of his aims is to “demystify” the exporting process.

“Once you start breaking the steps down there is nothing that is unsurpassable,” he added.

“There’s a lot of advice and support out there and it’s important people aren’t daunted - exporting is a fantastic opportunity to stabilise a business from the peaks and troughs of the domestic market and to open yourself up to other technologies and innovations, and to increase your revenue.”

And Brexit? What is Jim’s stance?

“Over the years I have negotiated tricky exporting deals with countries outside the EU with much more stringent legislation than anything the EU can inflict post Brexit,” he said.

“I am confident that even after we leave the EU, trading with France or Spain, or Germany will not pose more challenges than I have successfully overcome in the past.”