Making exports as easy as 1-2-3: 3 government agencies you can turn to when you want hassle-free exporting
In the last post we talked about multinationals and all that Ireland and the Irish government do to attract them and make sure they stay.
But you might be wondering – that is all very well, but what are we doing for Irish indigenous companies? Especially as my conclusion in the last post was that we should be using everything we learned from doing business with foreign multinationals, and apply it for the benefit of Irish companies!
Fear not, Irish companies that want to export are not forgotten. In fact, I really do think they have a leg up in this regard – they are helped to an incredible level and have three agencies that offer them priceless services.
And by priceless I mean two things: free or mostly free, and invaluable! What’s not to like?
My experience: Exporting financial training services to Malta
My company is currently celebrating its first birthday. In one short year, I went from company creation to European expansion. I still find it difficult to believe! And in order to achieve this, I got help from these agencies.
Last year, I decided that I wanted to export my services. In November, I met Maltese business leaders who were on a trade mission to Ireland, organised by Enterprise Europe Network. I also got in touch with Marion Jammet at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. She, in turn, put me in touch with Lizianne Gauci of Finance Malta.
In January 2010, I went to Malta for a feasibility study. Having ascertained that there was indeed potential for my company to export to Malta, I went back for the entire month of May.
I delivered financial training to staff at the Bank of Valletta and the Malta Institute of Accountants, I gave a talk at the University of Malta, I also attended many conferences and events, and met representatives from different companies and agencies.
I basically took the time to build my network, create familiarity with my brand and to really experience what it was like to do business in Malta.
When I put it like this, it sounds so easy… and in a way it was. Consider this: when I went to Malta in January, Lizianne had set up for me 20 meetings with different business people. She just asked me who I wanted to meet and set up the meetings to take place over one action-packed week. I didn’t have to lift the phone once. I didn’t have to do any cold calling.
It was like having an extra member of staff, and a highly effective one at that, for free. And all this just because I turned to government agencies and asked for help. So think of this next time you complain that the government is not doing enough to fight the recession: are you taking advantage of all that the government has already put in place – just for you?
Are you a micro-enterprise? Get in touch with your Local Enterprise Office
The three agencies I am going to mention here have several elements in common:
– their services are offered free of charge, or for a very small fee (for certain workshops or mentoring programmes);
– they have a wealth of information to share, through meetings with advisers and other resources, like libraries that offer huge market research reports, among other things;
– they offer funding and grants for specific purposes, like undertaking a feasibility study or attending a trade fair abroad;
– they offer training and workshops year round;
– and their sole aim is your success.
Funds, contacts, information: the three essentials of business, for free. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true!
One last note: their programmes really work, but you have to really work the programmes!
Let’s begin with your Local Enterprise Office. If you are a micro-enterprise employing less than ten people, if you are just starting out in business, or thinking of setting up a business, they should be your first port of call.
The resources they offer are incredible. They provide financial support, training events, a “first stop shop”, various business networks and mentoring programmes. Get in touch with them and they will offer to meet you one-to-one to discuss the specific needs of your business.
And if you want to export, that is totally something they can help you with. You can also apply for a business expansion grant (other types of grants are available). A bonus: bigger grants are awarded to businesses “that clearly demonstrate a potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland and/or to export internationally“…
Are you an SME? Enterprise Ireland is your next stop
Enterprise Ireland‘s motto is “Helping Irish Companies to Achieve Global Success” – and indeed they do just that. They work with High Potential Start Ups (that is, a business with the potential of turning over €1 million in three years and employing ten staff), SMEs, and large companies (more than 250 employees). Again, they provide funding, training, exports assistance, as well as connections and introductions to overseas customers.
Once you become one of their clients, they will assign you a Development Adviser who will be your constant companion: they will act as a sounding board and will introduce you to key people.
Enterprise Ireland has an international office network that is present in more than 60 countries in the Americas, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This means that you can just pick the country you want to export to and your Enterprise Ireland adviser will put you in touch with the relevant office in that country, who will be your eyes and ears on the ground.
From assessing opportunities to finding distribution partners and introducing you to buyers, there is an incredible number of things they can help you with.
Have a look at their “Excel at Exports Selling” programme: a one to two day workshop, with mandatory one-to-one follow-up and support… They stack the odds in your favour. One of the workshops in the programme is “Doing Business in Different Cultural Environments” – imagine how valuable such a training can be.
I personally attended their “Finance for Growth” series… It really opened my eyes to the vault of information contained in one’s statutory accounts, how to treat finance properly and how to grow the correct “Key Performance Metrics”.
In addition, they organise a huge amount of events, like International Markets Week, where you can meet Enterprise Ireland’s international marketing staff. For example, I am scheduled to meet with the representatives in four different countries in the RDS next week.
Some events are extremely specific – for example they set up a visit of dairy industry buyers from China, who attended the National Ploughing Championships this September! How targeted is that?!
And don’t forget to contact Enterprise Europe Network, too!
Last but not least, Enterprise Europe Network was created by the European Commission, to enable businesses in member states to make the most of the EU. After all, the EU was set up as a trading bloc, and should be used accordingly.
Are you looking for another European company to partner with? Enterprise Europe Network will put you in touch with companies in Europe who are a match, through their database and regular matchmaking events.
Just like Enterprise Ireland, the network has many branches Europe-wide. They have 6 offices just in Ireland! EEN doesn’t distribute funding or grants of their own, but they will help you apply to European grants that are relevant for your business.
I can say from experience that I couldn’t have done it so quickly and so successfully without the help of these agencies. The things that might have held me back before were absolutely blown away, they didn’t even matter. Everything was served to me on a plate!
After that it was only a matter of actually going and doing the hard work of business… but without the obstacles and the confusion!
So what are you waiting for? These agencies are there for you, use them.
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