I attended a fantastic business trade and export seminar sponsored by Barclays Bank and the IOD recently.

The stories from the business owners who have obtained success were inspiring. However, there were still some questions from the audience about the availability of support, advice and funding to export.

But my learning was that it is out there, you just need to get out, look and ask for it!

If there’s one piece of advice I would give every business owner to do more often, it’s getting out there!

Take the opportunity to meet, listen, observe and network with your peers, your competition and other industry sectors along with the professional support services, as you may be surprised what you learn!

You may ask why? But I am sure you know, owning a business can be a very lonely place!

Most business owners are in the same situation, but many when in a neutral environment will share their stories, whether it be the good, bad, or even the ugly.

The key point here is you’ll learn something from each other, which you can then apply to your business tomorrow, which may just make that difference in 2018!

The trade export event last Thursday was no exception, with over 60 business people in one room.

We received an update from Mauricio Armellini on the economy from the Bank of England , on what the likely trends and forecast will be, as we head into 2019 and beyond.

We also learned from Suzanne Caldwell, deputy chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, about the support available through Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and its Growth Hub business support arm for SMEs across the county.

Did you know the chamber offers an export documents service?

The Department for International Trade (DIT) shared the support work they offer to UK business wishing to export.

Paul Stowers, deputy regional director, had the key message of there’s no time like the present to consider exporting!

DIT connects businesses with specialist advisers, embassy staff and consulates across the globe and sponsor trade missions – 18 in fact during 2017 for North West businesses.

Did you know that during 2016, £28bn of goods and £17bn of services were exported from the North West alone?

However, the key learning for me was listening to the businesses whom have been successful and the detail around their stories and experience in exporting.

Tiffany Solender , founder of Pogu Ltd , spoke about how her business idea came about from an accident, well, a near-miss.

This inspired Tiffany to do some research into reflective safety products for children.

Then by collaborating with 3M to develop products, Pogu now has over nine child safety products being distributed across 16 different countries and is about to enter new sectors and markets.

Key learning – using the support available through DIT, ensure you spend time having a marketing plan and create sample material and then once in the market continue to develop your product to stay ahead of the competition.

Having fast internet if you’re an online seller helps too!

Next up was Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises .

It’s fair to say, Nigel is one Cumbrian MD with a clear purpose.

In 2017 there were over 41.7m overseas visitors to UK and Nigel’s objective was a clear commitment to get as many of these overseas visitors to visit Windermere and sail on his boats.

Windermere Lakes Cruises achieved over 1.5m visitors during 2017!

But Nigel went on, it’s one thing having a why, but it’s more important implementing the how successfully.

At this point, Nigel handed over to Jennifer Cormack, sales and marketing director for the business.

Jennifer took us through the steps of their marketing strategy and it was fascinating to hear how they start with the big picture.

While the overall objective is to get people on their boats, they start by focusing their efforts on getting overseas tourists to come to the UK.

Therefore Windermere Lakes Cruises collaborate with travel industry organisations all over the world, from China to Australasia to the US and Europe.

Jennifer attends tourism events, expos, trade missions and strategic partner meetings all year round across the globe to raise interest in the UK as a tourist destination

Many of these trips are part funded by the DIT

Jennifer said: "It's hard work, tiring, but you learn so much about other countries cultures their travel interests and habits.”

In fact, the biggest leap forward for Windermere Lakes Cruises has been from understanding their target markets culture and then marketing in their language and through their medium.

I learned that in China they don’t have access to Google, Twitter or Facebook.

Neither can the Chinese access many of the western world's websites.

Windermere Lakes Cruises gets round this by using Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat and Chinese website platforms and also invests in using local dialect specialists. An area the DIT can advise on too.

Some final learnings I picked up, when I got the opportunity to ask a question. “From the power of hindsight, what’s the one key thing you learned that you would advise a business owner looking to export? “

Barry Leahey MBE, Playdale Playgrounds: “Just go for it, (don’t procrastinate) just have the confidence to take that step.”

Nigel Wilkinson, Windermere Lake Cruises: “ Don’t play at it (exporting), commit to it , (resource, time and budget).”

Tiffany Solender, Pogu: “D on’t go for the whole world at once, have a clear target market , country or audience.”

Jennifer Cormack, Windermere Lakes Cruises: “Understand the culture, buying habits and adapt your marketing to the overseas buyers perspective”.

David Hymers, Totalpost Services: “Whatever it is you do, make sure you deliver quality throughout the process”

"If you want to be successful over the long haul, you have to have a sense of purpose that is clearly articulated and embedded in your organization and processes, but you also have to live it. There can’t be two sets of rules." Punit Renjen, chairman of the board, Deloitte.

So my question to you is what have you learned this week from your peers?

If you’ve been too busy and haven’t had the time, make one change next week, get yourself out there, as there’s a lot going on and you may just learn something new!

Want to learn more?

Business Doctors partnered event – Carlisle Business Seminar, Thursday March 15
Click link for further information: Economic update Breakfast

If you are looking to review and then grow your business, Business Doctors Cumbria offers a free business health check to help you to establish a clear vision and understand the steps to fulfil your aspirations.

Booking link: http://www.businessdoctors.co.uk/health-check

Contact: Peter Fleming 07966 686112

Email: peterfleming@businessdoctors.co.uk

Website: https://www.businessdoctors.co.uk/business-consultant/cumbria <script>var hideInlineMPU=1;</script>