In his latest column, Engineering and Manufacturing Network operations director Ben Gilhespy explores the world of export, analysing why there aren’t more regional companies choosing to sell their products overseas and what support is available to help encourage more firms to exploit the international market.

The Engineering and Manufacturing Network engages with a wide range of businesses right across the North East, many of whom are looking for new ways to grow their business by exploring innovative products, international markets or by achieving greater recognition as a supplier of their current goods or services.

Export is one area that we excel at as a region with a huge range of businesses taking their products to overseas markets and becoming very successful at doing so.

That’s begs the question as to why more of our businesses aren’t exploiting these opportunities when they are available?

Conversations with our friends who support businesses strategically has provided an interesting insight into the common obstacles identified as a barrier to export which may not necessarily be what you would expect.

In the North East round 80 per cent of businesses turnover less than £1m. We also know that because of their size, both in resource and finance, that they’re limited in their capacity to explore new markets. Which one gets in the way the most? Well it’s time.

Many businesses explain that they are time poor, having to balance operational, strategic and administrative duties in many cases without the support of departments to perform these, this therefore resulting in the lack of appetite to spend valuable time exploring a new market that may not necessarily reap rewards.

The reality is that there is a world of support out there to help businesses understand and explore these new opportunities through organisations like EMN and DIT who will happily look at how your business could potentially work oversees, even helping you to find these new markets and in some cases finding ways of part funding trips and trade missions to help.

This would therefore reduce the time and money businesses need to personally invest, however the onus is still on them to commit if they’re serious in wanting returns from their personal and organisational investment.

Currently the UK is in a state of change and uncertainty, therefore looking for ways to secure new business while maintaining current orders is crucial to our success.

The North East has an incredible heritage and is known worldwide as a leader in various markets which we need to maintain.

So why not look long and hard at your business and see if there is potential to market your product or service oversees. You could be surprised at what you discover.