In a recent InterTradeIreland report, one short paragraph summed up exactly the type of help SMEs need to succeed:
“Ideally, they would have senior individuals typically based in the target market, who had existing experience of the sector, along with a clear understanding of how the market worked and how business was done, with extensive networks and access to clients.”
This is available in abundance within a variety of networks and agencies. While these people won’t work exclusively for you, they also won’t ask for your money, but your responsiveness, interaction and appreciation.
As I promised in a previous post, here is a list of a number of associations and government agencies that can help you export, to the UK in particular.
First, those agencies that can help your business in general;
1. Your local chamber of commerce
Chambers Ireland website says they are “Ireland’s largest business network”, and they certainly have a point! There are 54 chambers listed on their umbrella website; the Dublin chamber alone organised over 100 events last year.
Through the Dublin Chamber I was able to meet a Maltese delegation in Dublin in 2011. Then in 2013 I went on a trade mission to Manchester, also organised by Dublin Chamber. It is thanks to their initiative that I found a concrete way to engage in exports, when I was looking for a way to begin in this new business plane.
2. Your local (county and city)
Local Enterprise Office
If your business is a micro-business of 10 employees or less, your Local Enterprise Office may be your first port of call. They offer mentoring, grants, training, advice and so much more. They can orient you to a number of business networks, like EUGO (a European programme that provides a single point of contact to take care of formalities) or Skillnets (a nationwide association that offers subsidized training.
3. Enterprise Ireland
Enterprise Ireland is the government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. If you are in the field of exporting, they can help you grow and execute your development plan via mentoring, training and particularly put you in touch with their global office network, which I have personally found invaluable. For example, I use the workspace at their London office on Shaftsbury Avenue when in the City.
They have a variety of fantastic programmes including, “First Flight”, for businesses who want to start to export or want to target new markets, as well as several others, like “Excel at Export Selling” and “Finance 4 Growth“.
They were and continue to be a great help to me when I started to export to Malta and the US.
4. Enterprise Europe Network
This programme is funded by the European Commission and helps small businesses make the most of the European marketplace. Like Enterprise Ireland, with whom they work in synergy, they offer research services, business advice and a European and global network of advisers.
They will alert you to partnership opportunities, pairing you up with other European businesses; they will keep you posted about research and development grants as they become available.
Marion Jammet, was their representative at Dublin Chamber when I first looked into exporting: she became a bit like my outsourced international strategist – she was the one who put me in touch with Lizianne Gauci at FinanceMalta when I first went there to open international doors. This is the largest business network in the world and I would highly suggest reaching out to your local contact point today.
5. The Irish Exporters’ Association
The IEA is an advocate for all Irish businesses that export. Their website offers a lot of good tips on exporting and they regularly publish reports and data about how well Irish exports are performing. They can also help with obtaining visas and paperwork, and they host the secretariat of a number of bilateral associations.
6. Fáilte Ireland
If you own a tourism business, Fáilte Ireland will help you make the most of it, with advice, regular training sessions and more!
If you like networking, you’ll love LinkedIn. And if you don’t like networking, you’ll love LinkedIn too! Network from the comfort of your own home or office, with an ambitious business community – worldwide! Join groups that are relevant to your business and your business objectives and listen in to the conversation.
LinkedIn is great for business generally, but of course it makes special sense to join and be active if you want to export, since it’s a global community.
Twitter is a great tool to form light, digital relationships with people who might become business champions, leads and clients. For a start, you can interact with hashtags like #BritishBizParty. As you participate in trade missions or attend international conferences, it’s useful to engage with the speakers, companies and fellow delegates. It’s even better if you write about your experiences, tweet these links and include the people you met along the way within those 140 characters.
I always check out Eventbrite if I have an hour or two free while travelling for business. This is an app that allows your to scan, filter and book events in a city. Perhaps a highly relevant group is having an open evening two streets away from where you’re staying? Two taps of the app later, you’re on the guest list!
And now those agencies and associations
that can help you export to the UK specifically:
IIBN focuses on creating a vibrant network of Irish entrepreneurs globally, and those with an active Irish connection. It is the network of choice for people who want to start exporting or grow their international expansion while tapping into the Irish diaspora.
I have been a speaker at their annual conference several times and it is always an amazing event! Suffice to say, it was indeed the right move for me to start exporting to the UK and I’ve now joined their Dublin board.
2. InterTrade Ireland
This is an agency that encourages all-island trade, between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 25,000 SMEs have benefited from their cross-border information, generating £700M worth of trade and business development.
3. The Irish Embassy
Our embassy in Great Britain is of course a great source of information on Ireland and Britain and on the cultural, economic and political links between our two countries. It’s also a most networked office with a lot of tacit knowledge about the market and a very deep database.
4. British Irish Chamber of Commerce
The British Irish Chamber of Commerce is a fantastic organisation that serves businesses who want to start or develop trade links between Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. It offers high-quality networking events, industry research and policy lobbying for members.
I have participated at a number of their Annual Conferences and SME Breakfasts; it truly is a great network as a springboard into the UK.
5. UK Trade & Investment
UKTI assists overseas companies to bring high quality investment to the UK. I have dealt with them in Manchester and they are a very professional, hardworking group of people that try extensively to make connections between their client businesses.
This is Manchester’s inward investment agency. I met their representatives when I went to Manchester, and the least I can say is that I was impressed by their professionalism and business-friendly attitude.
Now that you have this handy address book, it is my hope that you will make a short list of the most relevant three organisations, call them and start exporting very soon.
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