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Why UK SMEs need a global vision to thrive in today’s business landscape

By Michael FitzGerald, Founder and CEO of OnePageCRM

Businesses across the UK are experiencing a period of turbulence.

As the nation continues to grapple with the potential outcomes of the nation’s departure from the European Union, many businesses now face an uncertain future over their ability to trade across the continent and are now calling to have their say on the final outcome.

Many small business owners are unequivocally dedicated to making their company a success. With issues such as Brexit now having a significant impact on their strategic decision-making, there is now more at stake than ever. Yet from this period of speculation also comes a real opportunity for SME leaders to take advantage of a changing business landscape and think more broadly about their growth strategies.

SMEs already play a fundamental role in national economies around the globe – generating employment, economic value and contributing to innovation. The Federation of Small Businesses found that 99.3% of UK private firms in 2016 were SMEs, earning more than £1.8 trillion in revenue. But despite their influence on the economy, many UK companies are struggling to find cut-through in domestic markets which remain dominated by bigger players.

Michael FitzGerald
Michael FitzGerald

Go big and think global 

With 75% of UK SMEs that go global becoming more profitable, there is clearly a huge prize to be won for businesses that adopt an international outlook on expansion, customers and trading. Yet, in order to kickstart this success, they must now take the first essential step; thinking about their strategies on a global scale from the outset and utilise the resources available to put this vision into action.

Knowledge sharing is paramount for understanding the tried and tested strategies for international growth and the pool of experience amongst the UK SME community is growing everyday. Therefore, collaborating with decision makers already reaping the benefits of adopting a lean and agile approach can help others open new doors for their own future growth and success.

New ideas, mindsets and attitudes to development can prove essential for motivating and encouraging small business leaders to think outside of the box and confidently embrace a global vision for their company and employees. That said, it is crucial that successful leaders themselves become a resource for helping others to drive their own success on an international scale.

Tell your company’s whole truth 

The current speculation over the future of trading has inevitably placed the processes of many businesses heavily under the microscope of potential customers. Today, companies are seeking more social proof, checking with both their peers and competitors to understand a business before utilising its service. SMEs can therefore no longer just sell the benefits, or try to hoodwink through clever marketing – customers aren’t reading the marketing, they’re reading the truth.

In today’s increasingly sceptical society, there is no such thing as an uninformed buyer and platforms such as social media, review sites, ratings and internet searches allow customers to find out the truth about a business quickly and easily. The original “build it and they will come” sales concept is therefore no longer enough and marketing can’t be the tool to make the sale  – you need the whole truth in order to achieve real growth. With more eyes on businesses than ever before, combining tools, evidence and product along with excellent customer service at every touchpoint will ultimately help to reassure customers and build the trust that companies need to expand in an increasingly saturated and competitive landscape.

Back to the basics 

Due to their size, SMEs can deliver more value in terms of service and quality and achieve this with fewer staff and resources than large industry players. However, this also makes them more agile and able to flex their business models to ensure they can unlock their full potential and meet the demands of various markets simultaneously.

Almost half (47%) of respondents to a recent Currencies Direct survey named the logistics of trading internationally as the biggest barriers for trading throughout the ongoing Brexit process. However, with this apprehension growing amongst businesses, those that create a simple and useful service and make its globally accessible can benefit from a huge competitive advantage.

Developing a simple yet efficient service is an essential step for SMEs wanting to take their product to market quickly and with minimal delay. Too much time spent refining a product inevitably reduces the window for sales and increases the risk of competing products emerging across the market faster. Sales are the oxygen of SMEs and their leaders should therefore look to build a system which focuses entirely on sales and efficiencies with internal communication – which will then translate into exceptional customer service.

The progression of technology can also play into the hands of SMEs wanting to succeed through a customer-centric approach. By adopting new solutions and innovating faster, small businesses can find new ways to market and distribute their products and services across a variety of nations most effectively. In particular, utilising solutions which can help to identify areas for improvements and nurture customers relationships effectively can help ensure better experiences and ultimately drive sales in a highly competitive landscape.

There’s no question that SMEs across the UK now face a number of hurdles when thinking globally about their growth, and that the route for international expansion will remain a tricky one to navigate for small businesses. Yet the opportunity for global business success must not go unnoticed and should SME decision makers take a more proactive approach to actioning this vision, we can look forward to a future of success.