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International Trade Graph Explorer
Read this guide to a tool we created to help with background checking companies and exploring your business landscape
Part 1/3 - Exports: Crisis or Opportunity?
Part 2/3 - The Outlook for Looking Outwards
Part 3/3 - Trading in the Old Way for Trading in the New Way
Boosting Industrial Goods Exports - #infographic
Small Business in International Trade - #infographic
Exabler's first published article
Published in Surrey Chambers of Commerce magazine in 2016
1/3 - Exports: Crisis or Opportunity?
The government's goal was to double exports to £1 Trillion by 2020. We are less than 60% of the way there.
One reason for this is that many businesses do not have the tools, processes and resource necessary to trade compliantly and ultimately profitably - some only see risks in exploring outside their home market. Every international order in a new or existing market with a customer requires compliance to customs requirements, export controls, anti-fraud measures, 3rd party screening, etc.
Doing it profitably requires a firm grasp of commercial processes such as customer due diligence, evaluating risk of delay, dealing with fluctuating exchange rates, getting finance or credit insurance and guarantees, or assessing working capital needs, agreeing pricing and payment terms, product market localisation. Traders, therefore, must organise themselves effectively.
According to a study by Maersk in 2014, about 30 people and organizations are involved in the shipment of a product using a shipping container, resulting in over 200 separate interactions, each requiring a new set of documents, and earlier communication to determine duties and tariffs, carry out certification and organise valuations. Involving financing and credit insurance adds a level of complexity that is often simply overwhelming.
Many small firms under £2m turnover rely on an owner-manager or one or two key individuals. We surveyed this group revealing that 55% rely just on the CEO/owner to run the entire export process and a further 10% still need the involvement of the CEO/owners themselves.
A typical medium to large enterprise organises themselves to better spread fixed costs across many transactions. As these organisations are often serving many countries, each full time employee can cover 4-5 countries according to industry benchmarks. These businesses get tailored support from banks and specialist service providers, and they have greater choice of available technology solutions. In this way larger entities are more able to withstand uncertainty in periods of change, such as now.
However, if well-prepared, smaller businesses can be more nimble than a badly organised large business. And in an environment like today, more nimble means more profitable.
This continues in the next post
2/3 - The Outlook for Looking Outwards
One approach for a business to profit from exporting while reducing risk is getting help from the many good service providers - training, finance, freight forwarders, inspection agencies, consular services agents, customs brokers, lawyers, accountants, translators and of course Chambers of Commerce – but as this long list suggests, the industry is highly fragmented.
Businesses are faced with the challenge of finding and selecting providers – starting with conversations to understand who is needed, then assess their qualifications, agree terms, manage their activities - all the while retaining ultimate responsibility for compliance. More often than not, every new market needs different providers with special capabilities to fulfil the order. When you must also find a buyer and secure the order in the first place, it is not surprising that many businesses regard international sales as a non-starter.
It is possible to create commercial export relationships by striking deals with distributors or dealer networks who can do much of the legwork. For example a North West based trader in sport equipment sells goods through a worldwide network of dealers across 6 markets. Large dealers pick up Ex Works, so the trader can manage with just 2 FTE in the export department shipping direct to worldwide dealers in this way.
This is an effective way to establish relationships and learn about the market, but there is a corresponding loss of control, brand recognition and perhaps profit. It also requires a whole layer of background checking and due diligence on these intermediaries, to protect the company from commercial and legal risks. Building this kind of effectiveness takes a long time – 40 years in this example.
Changing your business model is an option too. Many manufacturers have fallen into this approach by accident. De-emphasising big ticket but infrequent low-margin sales, and maximising after-sales support and parts business opportunities. Some of these smaller but more predictable revenue streams can be financed more readily and are more naturally carried out with lower overheads through B2B eCommerce, where there are many new and maturing products and services that can assist, such as Exabler.
3/3 - Trading in the Old Way for Trading in the New Way
Firms need to demonstrate they are not at risk of failing to fulfil their export contracts - both operationally and financially. Many times businesses sadly are ill prepared when applying for financing, resulting in swift rejection, or losing money on contracts due to bad planning and avoidable mistakes.
You can change your business model to maximize returns and minimize risks of exporting by de-emphasising big ticket but infrequent low-margin sales, and maximising after-sales support and parts business opportunities for example. Some of these smaller but more predictable revenue streams can be financed more readily and are more naturally carried out with lower overheads through B2B eCommerce, where there are many new and maturing products and services that can assist.
High street banks have struggled to support this delivery model in light of modern financial regulation and are pulling back from supporting smaller exporters. That leaves government and private sector service providers.
A default answer is to simply expect all businesses to develop in-house expertise and tools. Some businesses require closer, more targeted support. Even though some SME business owners sometimes find it difficult to accept, our survey suggests external services are broadly welcome - 25% want help with duties and tax, 25% shipping and customs documentation and 25% in both disciplines to give a fully costed quote.
Export support services have traditionally relied strongly on personal relationships. Tomorrow’s business leaders who have grown up on the internet will find this approach a little dated. It is also not scalable.
Technology plays a role in aggregating data and streamlining processes, and organisational culture and industry initiatives are also vital. Exabler has been helping firms lead the way in this transition.
Find valuable trade risk insights with GEX
We applied cutting edge data visualization software to often overlooked government datasets to reveal
hidden' information with our tool GEX. Today we introduce you to it and the kind of additional insights
and trade risk metrics that our customers glean with its help.
Two major areas where GEX adds value is Due diligence research, and exploring your business landscape.
When doing due diligence on a trade finance transaction, financial due diligence on the buyer and seller
are necessary but not sufficient.
Dealing with buyers and sellers that lack experience and track records of similar deals would normally
suggest a higher risk profile, but within innovative industries there won't be much financial or press
history to examine.
With GEX we can use our International Trade Graph to see which companies have a genuinely strong track record
of cross-border sales and dealing with customs clearance, etc.
It's essential to know who else shares or neighbours your niche in the market place. You can use GEX to find
your Peers and Competitors - which companies actually trade (export/import) similar goods to you?
We find it useful to use a two stage process - start with a large buyer, then drill down the graph to see
the deal volumes of smaller suppliers that may not publish accounts and not have frequent press releases
etc. about their business.
With GEX, finding and confirming new insights from the mass of trade data goes from being an intractable
problem to a rich seam of opportunity.
For instance, we established within minutes that most companies import a much wider variety of products
than they export. Maybe that ratio could be a useful metric of how far down the supply chain a company is?
In addition, smaller yet interesting insights can sometimes be found. For example, in the captioned image
you will see that both Group Lotus and McLaren export a significant number of T-shirts ... surely part of
their brand merchandising!
Email us for access to this tool, which is based on information published
by the UK Government on uktradeinfo.com