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Conquering the UK market: David McCredie’s formula for export success

Every day, David McCredie assists Australian companies to successfully export to the UK and helps find local partners for UK businesses establishing a presence in Australia. In the first of our two-part interview (PART TWO HERE) with the Australian British Chamber of Commerce CEO, David provides a roadmap for exporting to one of Australia’s most popular trading partners.

Like most aspects of business, export requires detailed research, careful planning and focused execution.

“I think there’s a pretty simple process when you’re approaching any new market, whether it’s the UK or elsewhere,” says David. “The first thing is you need to understand the market you’re going into, understand your product, and where it may fit in that space.

“The great thing about the modern era is all that information is at your fingertips, on your keyboard. Do some market research, have a look at what other products are available in the market, decide whether or not you think you could be competitive. Have a look at their price points and get a sense of what that looks and feels like. Do that, and certainly come and talk to us at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce.”

David encourages people to access federal government support through Austrade, especially its Export Market Development Grant Program, and through state governments’ trade and investment bodies. The UK government also provides trade and investment resources to companies entering the market through the Department for International Trade.

One of the first things to decide is how you will get your products to the other side of the world. 

“Supply chains can be pretty complicated these days,” says David. “It’s not an easy one size fits all sort of a conversation, but we’re happy to have that conversation with people. And we’ve got lots of experts from professional services firms within our membership that do this stuff day in day out.”

The next issue is deciding what level of representation you need in the market, and David recommends asking yourself the following questions: Who will help you get your product into that market? Who are the buyers? What is your access to them? 

“Answering these questions is relatively easy if you identify specific distribution, such as through Sainsbury’s or Tesco,” says David. “If you’re selling a unique piece of equipment or a service, you may want to have somebody on the ground. When you get to a certain size, you probably want to have somebody on the ground anyway, rather than relying on a distributor to do it for you.”

Building an infrastructure

Some companies will need to build an infrastructure in the UK. 

“Most people’s company is based wherever they started it because that was where they lived,” says David. “When you’re looking at a new market, you can decide where’s the most appropriate place.  You want to look for a cluster of organisations like yours because they’re there for a reason, so try to understand what that region is offering.”

Finding the right people to introduce your business to a new market is critical.  

“Talent is a very good question,” says David.  “There are basically two models that we generally see. One of the key people from the business in Australia moves to the UK and heads up the UK business as a starting point, and then recruits locals from there. It might be that you need to bring a couple of key management people, depending on the size and what you’re doing.

“The other way, which has worked in a lot of cases that I’ve seen but I don’t think is quite as comfortable for most people, is to go out to the market in the UK and get somebody from there to set things up. I’ve seen lots of cases where that’s worked perfectly. I’ve seen a few where it’s been a disaster, but it really depends on your recruitment skills and who you work with. And we can help you with that.”

Cultural challenges

David says that most people think that Australia and the UK are the same culturally. 

“The reality is it’s the same, but different, as my kids like to say,” he explains.  “And the thing is that when you employ somebody in the other country without doing that transition piece, they will set their own culture. That can be challenging in terms of the culture of the whole business.

“But I also think that one of the dangers is trying to impose an Australian culture in the UK. And the reason I say that is not because an Australian business culture can’t work over there. It can. Absolutely. And there are lots of British people who work here in Australia. There are also Australians who work in the UK. There’s a level of familiarity, but as I say, same but different. You can miss the nuance.

“Broadly speaking, Australian values and British values are very similar, and that’s the same part. The different part is how that then plays out. If you’re a young Australian, we tend to tell you that you can be anything and do anything. And the idea of being very entrepreneurial, even within a business, isn’t necessarily something that is tightly controlled. But I think as a generalization, the UK is still a bit more staid and conservative in some ways, in some sectors. It’s understanding how your business and the people you might employ fit into that sector, compared to how it might be in Australia.

“We tend to be seen as relatively straight talkers and the UK generally speaking are too, but they can be more nuanced. They’re not necessarily very quick to say no. But they’re not going to say yes if they mean no. 

“On the whole, I think people are pretty happy to hear what you’ve got to say and tell you what they think. But be really clear about what you’ve taken away as the message, and feel free to soundcheck that back to them. I think Australians are pretty happy to call a spade a spade. It tends to be a little bit softer in the UK, but it’s still usually clear as long as you know what you’re listening for.

“We want to build relationships and relationships are really important in British business too, unless you’ve got something which is genuinely transactional. People want to know who you are. They want to understand what your business is about. They want to understand more than just the transaction because they’re generally looking at you as a potential long-term supplier.”

Partnerships in Australia

David says local companies should also be open to partnering with British companies coming to Australia.

“Look, there’s lots of opportunities. I’m a believer that globalization is happening whether we like it or not. We’ve seen it happening for the last 20 years. There’s probably a little bit of a deep breath being taken in some respects at the moment, but globalization is happening regardless.”

David says to partner with a UK company profitably, Australian companies need to know their market and understand their own supply chain and capability. 

So, gazing into his crystal ball, what does David see for Australian exporters?

“Only a very small percentage of Australian companies actually export, and there’s a much bigger opportunity for us to do that in this globalized world,” he says. “And the opportunity to partner with other organizations in other geographies to help us deliver that, and for them to help deliver more products and services locally, it can be a two-way street.”

If you are considering exporting to the UK, advice and resources are available at the Australian British Chamber of Commerce.

Take a look at PART TWO of our interview with David McCredie HERE.

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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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