COP26 is an ideal opportunity to build international connections, says RUSSELL DALGLEISH
As international travel is only now starting to open up and the Brexit hangover continues, the idea of exporting can seem counter intuitive but please bear with me. Over the last week I have spoken with SBN Ambassadors and members around the globe, and they all share the same message. Scotland is mentioned in their local press on an almost daily basis from Singapore to Seattle. The reason of course is COP26, the UN summit to be held in Glasgow in November.
Whether your product or service is directly relevant to Climate Change is irrelevant as the key message here is that for the first time since 2014 (Independence vote) Scotland is highly visible around the world and this will certainly increase interest Scottish products and services.
To my mind though there is another reason why exporting should be on your list of things to do. Over the last 18 months we have witnessed a technological revolution with video conference calls moving from the purview of major corporates to the default option for every meeting.
More of us are comfortable with the technology and have attended events where fellow attendees are as likely to be in New York as in Cumbernauld. My guess is that your LinkedIn network will have more connections based outside Scotland than ever before.
This growth in low-cost, internet-based video communication has, in effect, opened the world to us. Previously, any export plan would have contained a large budget to cover flight and hotel costs, but this is no longer the case. In the last 18 months I have landed profitable deals with individuals who I have not met “in the real world”. This may have happened pre-COVID, but at best it would have been the exception and the plan would have been to travel and arrange a face-to-face meeting at some point.
Consider the benefits of exporting:
– Access to a large market: 5 million people in Scotland, 7 billion in the world today, 15% of whom exist in what we describe as the First World.
– Broaden your customer base, thus protecting your business from a downturn in a local market.
– Opportunity to increase turnover and develop operational efficiencies to improve productivity.
– Enhance company profile – don’t underestimate this one.
– Scottish goods and services are held in high regard around the world providing a competitive advantage to you.
– Enhance product development through access to a broader range of customer needs.
– Potential to access high value markets which can, on occasion, be less price sensitive than home markets.
– Expand lifecycle of mature products and services by delivering these to new markets.
Of course, there are challenges. For those exporting products to the European Community the administrative and cost overheads are excessive at the moment, shipping costs are also high at this time. However, these challenges don’t affect services businesses and solutions can be found.
This is a unique opportunity for Scottish companies as we ride the COP26 publicity bandwagon, though you may be concerned about the time and investment required. Don’t worry: help is available.
Through our work at SBN, the growth in the GlobalScot network, investment in Scotland by the Department of International Trade and the ongoing work of SDI and Scottish Chambers there is a support network of trusted connections in place which will de-risk international business for you.
As part of my passion to encourage Scottish companies to export I am running a survey, with the support of GPS Capital Markets, to capture the views of Scottish business leaders and entrepreneurs on the subject of export. This will take no more than two minutes to complete and it would be great to hear your opinion.
Russell Dalgleish is co-founder and chairman of Scottish Business Network