The Leap 100 August Poll – Climate: Exports

Exporting: Is the government doing enough to help?

GETTING products and services into new markets is a high priority for The Leap 100. Nearly 70 per cent already export, and over a third intend to do so within the next year. Several are satisfied with current government support for fast-growth businesses exporting, highlighting UKTI and the “passport to export” programme as particularly beneficial.

Yet one in eight is concerned about the implications of tax for exporters. For Diane Young of The Drum, which recently opened its first non-UK office, the “greatest challenge is trying to understand tax and law in the US”. She adds: “I’m not sure what the UK government can do about that, except perhaps give some financial support for the professional fees that occur when you set up in another country”.

Several of The Leap 100 say the government should do more to stabilise the pound. Fourteen per cent of respondents said that it is currency movements and the strength of sterling which deter them from exporting. Indeed, Peter Bowles, founder and managing director of Original BTC, said the government needs to “actively work to reduce the value of the pound”.

Regulation is also a problem, with a quarter of the Leap 100 saying it holds them back. One respondent called for fewer trade barriers between the UK and the United States, and Alex Cheatle, chief executive of Ten Group, says that worsening visa restrictions are preventing his firm from growing. For many, clarification and further information are key. Nick Day of Small World FS, who intends to start exporting in the next year, echoes others: EU regulations are applied differently across member states, and it can be difficult to determine what’s relevant where.

While government regulation is an issue for many, most of The Leap 100 think the state needs to do more to make it easier for fast-growth companies to export. “It would be helpful for the government to facilitate and broker introductions to vetted foreign service companies,” says Nish Kukadia of Secret Sales. Another Leap 100 founder suggests that government should promote embassy trade days. Others call for centralised collation of best practice for SMEs. Unbound’s founder Dan Kieran makes the same point as a number of other Leap 100 members: the government should do more to build awareness of UK firms in overseas markets, particularly in the tech sector.

Finally, 60 per cent of The Leap 100 say that leaving the EU would damage their ability to export. The remaining 40 per cent are split between believing it won’t have an effect, and not knowing the outcome. One respondent said that the government must stop “EU bashing and damaging the UK brand on the continent. Europe is the biggest and closest export destination after all.”

This article first appeared in City A.M. on Thursday 27 August 2015. You can view the full City AM article here.