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Bigger, bolder, braver: the secret to successful SMEs

David Binks, President for Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa, FedEx Express, reveals why SMEs will continue to miss out on growth potential unless they adopt a fresh way of thinking…

Your Growth Potential is on Emerging Economies.
Small and medium businesses may well be a mainstay of the European economy, but if they don’t change tact, they’re in danger of becoming outpaced:

  • By 2020, it is estimated that 70% of world growth will take place in emerging economies.
  • Only 13% of European SMEs are doing business beyond EU borders. There are more than 20 million SMEs in the EU. What is interesting is that much of SMEs’ potential lies on their activities overseas and not in what they do domestically.
  • Europe accounts for only 12% of the global population - businesses who do not export beyond the EU are missing reaching the other 88% - equivalent to approximately 6 billion future customers.

The secret to successful SMEs
One message that came loud and clear out of SME Week 2014 was the need for smaller enterprises to be bigger, bolder and braver if they want to succeed in the coming years. This means being bigger in their launch strategies, bolder in diversifying their offering and braver by tapping into new global markets. Here are some tips:

  1. Turn challenges into chances

    The path to international success is not always smooth. According to the Great British Export Report - research carried out for the FedEx Small Business Centre - common barriers when looking to export are knowledge, time and insight.

    Significantly, SMEs that participated on interviews for the report found China, the world's second-largest economy, as the most challenging market to export. From supply chain issues to language barriers and customs duties: these are concerns that I regularly hear from SMES across Europe. This means countless missed opportunities for growth.

    In short, European SMEs are missing the wood for the trees. They worry that exporting overseas is going to be a time and resource intensive venture. What they are forgetting is that as an SME, you don’t need to be an exporting expert. That is the job of your logistics provider. Which is why gaining the right support, early on, is critical to success.

    An example of an SME that is flourishing beyond its own border is Bremont.

    Bremont is a luxury watch company launched in 2007. The founders, Nick and Giles English, wanted to capitalise on the British revival of watch-making and demand for UK goods overseas. Bremont regularly navigates the complexities of watchmaking in the hyper-competitive world of luxury goods, importing watch components for handcrafting and exporting finished watches. It is an internationally complex endeavour. With guidance from global trade experts at FedEx, Bremont was able to smoothly manage customs and turn their attention to customer service and delivery – critical for a luxury brand.


  2. Unlock the value from your supply chain

    For bigger, bolder and braver SMEs, a key to sustaining success is assessing each link in your supply chain and anticipating potential issues before they arise. This can often spark additional value generation ideas or methods to streamline processes.

    For example, when exporting goods, think of creating a “passport” for your shipment, ensuring to make certain checks prior to transportation – exactly as if you were going on holiday. A good transportation and logistics provider can help here - seeing customer pain points, which may previously have gone unidentified, and explaining the local rules of play.

    Being bigger, bolder and braver doesn’t mean risky business for SMEs. It simply requires small businesses to have conviction in their exporting decisions, and recognise that going global, doesn’t mean going it alone.