I would like to start this Tale by exploding a myth. Independent private international trade consultants can make a real difference to your business! It’s a matter of matching the project with the right consultant, because there is no consultant on earth who can offer a total solution for all your international trade needs. My own business, Exportaid, focuses on offering practical help in international sales & marketing, in empowering businesses to get properly organised for their international journeys, and in taking some of the fear out of exporting. But there are things that we can’t do, and things that we would not attempt. We prefer instead to refer customers to one of the many specialists with whom we work.
Exportaid has been in business since 2002, and we work with a number of companies who can offer a range of specialisms from Strong & Herd’s regulatory and licensing expertise to MJ Hayward’s deep knowledge of letters of credit and other bank payment methods. We know that if we refer companies to our trusted partners they will get good service and quality help. And we receive referrals in return where our experience and knowledge is better suited to providing a customer with first class services. And there is a whole network of us out there!
I work with a company in North Yorkshire who wanted me to help them with meetings arranged by UK Trade & Investment at two consecutive Ecobuild exhibitions in London. On the first occasion, we met a very promising contact from Hong Kong, the Managing Director and his Technical Director. When I introduced myself as my client’s Export Consultant, their reaction was that my client must be serious about doing it right if they were prepared to invest in working with an International Trade Consultant. 18 months on, and with my direct input and coaching, my client now has an exclusive agreement with one of the major distributors of building materials in Hong Kong, with offices across China.
There were several occasions during the process where the Yorkshire company became a little impatient, and concerned about locking themselves into something they might find it hard to extricate themselves from. That was borne out of unfamiliarity with the market, lack of knowledge of the distributor, and the mistrust that can come from that, and a whole range of other issues. However, I knew that to persist was the right thing for my client. I learned more about them and found that they also distributed for another highly respected and possibly complementary UK brand. I contacted them for a reference, and it was probably the most glowing reference I have ever heard about any distributor I have had dealings with. A great result.
A couple of years back I was introduced by RBS to The Customs People, a company of VAT specialists, and they had just saved a client of theirs £140,000 by scrutinising their VAT returns. David Miller from The Customs People is now also an Associate of Strong & Herd. David referred Strong & Herd to a company in Berkshire who were having a significant Export Licensing issue at the time. By analysing the issues and communicating effectively with HMRC, Sandra Strong provided a solution that put the company back on track and gave them a formula for the future that would ensure they did not repeat the same errors. My accountant referred one of my clients to a company who specialises in R&D tax credit claims, and that resulted in a £16,000 windfall net of his commission. A couple of years ago I referred Virtuoso Legal to an Exportaid client in Scotland, and Liz Ward, Principal of that company, helped them obtain an EU wide trademark for their brand of fabrics. And to complete a rather nice loop, it was Virtuoso Legal who referred Exportaid to the company in North Yorkshire! These are examples of the kind of deep knowledge and professional support that can only be found in professionals who have been in a certain line of business for the whole or most of their working lives.
Finding good quality international trade help can feel like a bit of a minefield, but there is plenty of help out there, from the UKTI services outlined in Tale #30 through to the recent and ongoing examples in the paragraphs above. There are multiple ways in which you can connect with our informal network of independent and professional international trade specialists, so give us a call, send us an email, contact us through our websites, or connect with us via our multiple social network pages. We would love to hear from you.