By Mitchell Gadd
Would-be exporters were given an outline of the support available to help them grow their business overseas at an event in Cardiff last week.
‘Business Growth through Export’, which was hosted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in partnership with Grant Thornton UK, saw more than 80 delegates made up of potential and current exporters, financial professionals and expert advisors come together at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Hosted by BBC presenter Frances Donovan, the evening kicked off with a networking and exhibition session before the Welsh Government’s Deputy Director for Inward Investment & Trade, Mike Hnyda, highlighted the government’s focus on international trade.
Having just returned from a trade mission in Japan, Hnyda stressed the “team Wales approach”, referring to the Welsh Government’s link up with the Welsh Rugby Union as the mission coincided with the national side’s own tour of the country.
“We’d like to see more Welsh exporters and more Welsh exports,” said Hnyda.
Finance was next on the agenda, as Mathew Hughes from UK Export Finance (UKEF) gave an overview of the different export credit products available from the department, such as its Export Insurance Policy and Bond Support and Working Capital schemes, as well as its one-to-one advice services.
“In Wales, these products are largely untapped,” said Hughes, before highlighting UKEF’s desire to work with the private sector by signposting exporters to banks, credit insurers and brokers.
The Celt Experience Brewery’s founder, Tom Newman, was next to take stage as he outlined his experience in making waves in Japan. Mr Newman was quick to stress that “passion and energy are key to export,” and spoke from his experiences in taking advantage of Welsh Government trade missions.
On his own product, Mr Newman advised that personality and a story behind your brand goes a long way. And he should know, given the company now exports to over 20 countries, with international trade now making up for around 30 per cent of its business. “Russia and Chile are massive markets for us,” he said.
Just last October, his Celt Bronze product won the Bitter Category in a Japanese international beer competition. “They’ve (our partners) bought into us. They’ve bought into our story.”
There were some words of warning though. While advising that finding the right partner was key (something he put down to being able to gain a sense of trustworthiness through open conversation, much like one would judge a would-be friend) he warned the audience not to “jump into bed” with the first potential business partner they meet.
Mr Newman also shared his own experience of trying to do “too much” when going on a trade mission, and stressed the need to find time to relax and build up your energy levels after landing. Tied in to this was the need to prepare; make contact before you go out and plan where and who you’re going to meet.
But the underlining message from Mr Newman was passion. “It is about the personality, the brand, and the energy. If you love what you’re doing, and you’re passionate about it, it’s easy,” he said.
Graham Morgan, director of the South and Mid Wales Chamber of Commerce, gave the final presentation of the evening, outlining the Chamber’s work in establishing its own International Trade Panel, and its ability to pinpoint routes of least resistance when exporting by working with other Chambers of Commerce across the globe.
The Chamber is also coming to the end of its own Business Advice Month, which has seen a series of advice workshops and sector-specific seminars held across Wales, with many having a strong focus on international trade.
Proceedings closed with a Q&A session with the panel of speakers. Among the questions asked was what markets Welsh businesses had not taken advantage of that present big opportunities; a question with which Mr Hnyda responded cautiously with countries like Brazil and Russia “rather than just the usual suspects.”
“Is inward investment dead?” came another question from the floor, to which Mr Morgan highlighted the need for an effort to change mindsets. “We’re not on the visit list and we need a strategy so when a group of people come (to Wales) from India, they don’t just visit London, Manchester, Birmingham.”