UK Businesses Look Outside the EU for Export Growth

As economic growth in the UK slows, businesses are increasingly looking to international markets for expansion.  To find out more about how Brexit, and the climate of uncertainty it has created, is impacting on UK businesses’ international plans, we surveyed more than 120 senior executives about their export strategies for 2018 and reported on the results.

Our findings

Over a third of our respondents are looking to countries outside the EU for growth.  More than 50% of firms are focused on the USA and Canada; China (17%), Australia (16%) and the UAE (18%) are also key target markets.

With growing sales cited as being the biggest challenge facing businesses over the coming months, our research went on to reveal that almost a quarter of companies plan to export to completely new markets this year and 15% intend to open a new overseas operation.  Just 3.5% of the 127 senior business executives who took part in our research anticipate downsizing their international work in 2018.

When asked how Brexit has affected their export strategies, nearly three-quarters of our respondents said it has had no impact while 17% said it has made them more focused on looking beyond Europe for growth and 10% reported that it has made them more determined to develop their export business.  Only a very small number of those questioned (1.8%) had put the brakes on their export plans as a result of Brexit and just 3.5% had revised their projected export sales downwards.

Recruiting for international growth

Although it’s a real positive to see that UK businesses continue to be focused on growing their overseas operations, international business comes with its own set of challenges and so it is vital that companies have the right team in place to successfully deliver their export strategy.

Often those required to set up a new overseas operation are highly specialist hires with specific experience and for this reason, many companies turn to interim managers in the first instance to set up and support international expansion in its initial phases.  This is effective because interims are rapidly deployable, heavily results-focused and can be handpicked to have exactly the right skill set and language capabilities making them ideal for short to medium term overseas roles.  In turn, this enables companies to take their time to recruit the best permanent team to manage their international work in the long term.

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