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No business is too small to join Ireland's big drive for exports


Enterprise Ireland has launched a new webinar series called Export Compass

Enterprise Ireland has launched a new webinar series called Export Compass

Enterprise Ireland has launched a new webinar series called Export Compass

As an open economy with a population of less than five million, developing export activity is of critical importance to Ireland.

That goes for businesses of all sizes, including small and medium ones as well as micro businesses which employ fewer than 10 people.

It includes businesses already in operation and start-ups too because, put simply, Ireland needs to export more.

An OECD report in 2019 found that just 6.3pc of Irish businesses exported. That figure, it suggests, needs to be closer to 10pc if Ireland is to have the resilience we require in our enterprise base.

That was before a pandemic which has greatly increased our exposure to risk.

Being a small business is no impediment to export success but preparation is key.

Because developing exports is an important strategic objective of Enterprise Ireland, it has partnered with the Local Enterprise Office network to launch a new webinar series called Export Compass.

This online series is free and is open to all companies. As well as expert advice it features small business owners willing to share the benefit of their experience in terms of tips for success and pitfalls to avoid.

The webinars are tailored to suit micro and SME businesses who are either just starting out or who wish to grow an existing business through export sales.

There are five webinars in the series, the first two of which are available to view now on Enterprise Ireland's website. Three more webinars will take place on February 25, and on March 11 and 25.

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Each covers practical advice on specific issues, including assessing your reasons for exporting - or not, choosing the right market and identifying customers within it.

Understanding business culture in your priority markets is vital too, and the series includes representatives from some of Enterprise Ireland's 40 overseas offices.

While the pandemic has created huge challenges, it has also accelerated the adoption of digital business practices.

It is now the norm to seek and win new business overseas entirely online, a fact which presents Irish businesses with enormous opportunities.

The Export Compass webinar series outlines tools and techniques to help win export customers in a digital world.

It also provides information about the funding and finance options available as you prepare and execute your export plan.

Research is vital.

Developing exports has never been less about jumping on a plane, but about developing a strategy and putting the necessary structures in place first, including management capacity.

Businesses are already mindful of how, as a result of Brexit, there are now additional costs involved in trading with the UK, the Irish exporter's traditional first port of call.

Some 31pc of export sales by Enterprise Ireland clients still go to the UK, and it will remain an important trading partner, but the webinar series also looks at the opportunities that exist across the Eurozone.

It is a market to which we still have unfettered access and which, at a population of almost 450m, is still huge.

Over the past 12 months we have all seen a dramatic digital shift in the way consumers and businesses buy.

Despite the challenges, the pace at which the global digital economy is opening up is generating enormous opportunities.

Helping businesses to realise their export potential is the cornerstone of both Enterprise Ireland's and the wider Government's strategy.

Last month's report of the SME Taskforce reiterated this, highlighting the need to support all potential exporters, including micro businesses.

That is because our resilience - and our growth - will come from an ability to achieve export success, both as companies and as a country.

Global exports hold the key to growing our economy and our employment levels.

We need to encourage as many companies as possible on the road to export success.

The Export Compass webinars is a good place to start.

Mark Christal is manager of regions and entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland. Find out more about Export Compass www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Export-Assistance/Exporter-Development/ or search Enterprise Ireland Export Compass.