IN PRAISE OF.... UK TRADE AND INVESTMENT
Anyone who has ever run an SME in a rapidly growing industry will tell you that certain things are unavoidable. Long days and longer nights are the norm. Seemingly insurmountable objects occur on an hourly basis, with every situation designed to test your patience, existence and quite often mental health. Running a business is the perfect storm, one that no business school or online course can ever prepare you for. As we know, sadly, many don’t survive, most succumbing to a stretch too far. Many running out of money on the verge of the breakthrough or getting hit with something in the market they could never have anticipated. It’s not necessarily the strongest that survive, it’s the strongest, fastest, lightest, leanest and luckiest that survive. Maybe. And even some of those get culled in the crossfire.
For those who make the first three years intact, the scars are worn like a badge of honour. Battle-hardened, more cynical and less willing to compromise their vision they have often weeded out the stragglers, pulled the right people “on the bus” so to speak. Their enthusiasm and energy is infectious because it now comes from a different place than before, it comes from a deeper struggle that has helped articulate what they actually want to do not what they thought was their path. Overall their business is “better”. It’s more efficient, more effective, more capable of fulfilling its promise and often completing the task it originally set out to do. And yet despite all of this, there is one thing that SME’s often neglect or simply have no skills to control when navigating growth and it’s more important than anything else: ACCESS.
Access is what turns an idea into a business. Its what allows an idea to meet the market. It is what allows people and the businesses they work in to grow because they can begin to adapt to the needs of real customers around the world.
In 2013 our Creative Director gave a presentation on how we saw augmented reality revolutionising the location-based entertainment industry. It was early days in our business as we explored where we fitted. After the session a UK Trade and Investment representative approached and asked us to get in touch to discuss how they could help. Buried in a sea of potential sales leads from the event, we very nearly neglected it all together. As often happens businesses tend to focus on short term revenue generation (need) at the cost of long term partnerships (want) and if you add the obvious scepticism of an SME about working with a government department to promote the cause, the odds really weren’t looking good for anything to come of it.
A meeting with UKTI in early 2014 afterwards revealed just how wrong we were. How utterly and embarrassingly wrong we were.
From the moment we met UKTI in 2014 we were astounded about how pro-active, smart and business focused they were and it has transformed how we approach business around the world. From our inception we’ve been a business that has taken risks to open new worldwide markets. Founded in the peak of the economic crisis, which rocked Europe particularly hard, we used export to the middle east and north America to ensure growth and our survival - no easy task for a small SME. Yet since 2014 we have expanded this premise worldwide in no small part thanks to UKTI.
Since we met UKTI we have attended and exhibited in multiple countries with them and the partnership continues to grant us all important access to new countries, industries and people. In 2014 we attended a showcase of creativity in Qingdao, China hosted by the UKTI. An event that helped us profile and present our products to a huge range of potential partners for the Chinese market. UKTI teams were on hand to facilitate translation, introduce potential contacts and as importantly explain how to do business in China. It was a mind-blowing first introduction to working with them fused no shortage of bruising jet lag.
Introductions from Qingdao led us to the fantastically dedicated team of UKTI Hong Kong and UKTI Beijing. Both teams were on hand to offer access to networking events and contacts to help us grow our business in places like Macau, HK, mainland China and beyond. Profiles of our business in Hong Kong led to introductions to multiple Macau based resort operators interested in working with us as well as local suppliers and potential partners. Networking events in Hong Kong alone led us to over 100 sales leads for products and more. We are now opening a full-time office in Hong Kong as a direct result of the help we received.
Meetings in Hong Kong and London led to our involvement with the GREAT Festival in Shanghai, an event promoting the best of UK businesses in the creative sectors. It put us on the ground with all of our products in front of HRH Prince William, a press opportunity to die for. It introduced us to UK and China companies, networking events, business gatherings and more. It gave us access to thousands of people we simply would never have met. In short it transformed our approach to Asia and continues to help us to this day.
After the whirlwind of GREAT Shanghai it led us to develop strong, essential relationships with UKTI teams in Los Angeles, DC, Atlanta, Florida, Toronto, Kuala Lumpur, Doha, Dubai, Moscow and many more. These relationships now often form the background of our exploration of markets. They offer introductions, networking, advice, consultation along with access to some of the greatest businesses on earth through their trade events in every corner of the globe. They offer sensible, unbiased opinions on business in a territory and how the reality works on the ground. But more often than not they’re an incredibly welcome friendly face in a new place miles and miles from home when all the odds are seemingly against you.
In our humble opinion British businesses do not export nearly enough - a trend UKTI is very much trying to change. We often marvel at how few British businesses appear at trade events in the US and Asia in the sectors we operate. There is no doubt it’s tough, crammed full of unknowns, littered with apparent financial uncertainty with numerous language and cultural obstacles in your way at every possible juncture. But then owning an SME is fraught with all of those anyway so why not try it somewhere new with better weather and the might of UK Trade and Investment behind you?
Learn more at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-trade-investment or you can inbox us and firstname.lastname@example.org and we're happy to point you in the right direction.