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04 May 2012

Exporting for growth

Tony Attard, group chief executive of fabric manufacturer Panaz and chair of IoD North West, explains how exporting can be the key to business success...

Tony Attard

When business consultants talk about exporting to grow sales, the natural reaction of many company directors is fear of the unknown. A huge number of firms rely completely on sales from within Britain - with the result that the success of the business is tied inexorably to that of the UK economy.

Yet that reluctance to push into foreign markets is usually misplaced. I should know because I was in that position 20 years ago before my business, Panaz, started selling products abroad.

We began with the 'easy' countries first: Belgium, Holland and France. Being close and within the EU, these are obvious - and potentially profitable - markets to trade into. Although it can be difficult to take that first step, help, most obviously in the form of UK Trade and Investment, is available for those who want to begin exporting.

Very soon after our first foray into exporting we started selling to Germany and Scandinavia and then to countries outside Europe. It can be very difficult at first to establish a presence outside the UK and learn about other business cultures, but that know-how very quickly becomes an asset.

At Panaz we now export to 46 countries and have offices in the Middle East and Los Angeles. After 20 years, exporting is part of our company culture and our long-term strategy. It gives us a clear advantage when we design new products, add to our supply chain and, perhaps most crucially of all, it helps us spread risk.

Part of my role at IoD North West is meeting businesses and helping them when I can if they are looking to export more. I am delighted that our partnership with The North West Fund for a series of events in the coming months will help me spread that message to more and more businesses.

I will continue explaining to company directors and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow the satisfying feeling of seeing a warehouse full of boxes destined for every corner of the globe. And it also helps you sleep better when you know there is someone somewhere far off selling your products!

In partnership with The North West Fund, the IoD will be hosting a series of events across the North West in Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside for ambitious entrepreneurs. To find out more or to register your interest please click here.

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