According to new research released by specialist executive search and interim management company Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR), over a third of UK businesses have focused their export strategies for 2018 on countries outside the EU.
More than 50% of these firms are looking to the USA and Canada for further growth; China (17%), Australia (16%) and the UAE (18%) are also key target markets.
With growing sales cited as being the biggest challenge facing UK businesses over the coming months, the research goes on to reveal that almost a quarter of companies plan to export to completely new markets this year and 15% intend to open a new overseas operation.
Just 3.5% of the 127 senior business executives who took part in the research anticipate downsizing their international work in 2018.
When asked how Brexit had affected their export strategies, nearly three-quarters of respondents said it has had no impact while 17% said it has made them more focused on looking beyond Europe for growth and 10% reported that it has made them more determined to develop their export business.
Only a very small number of those questioned (1.8%) had put the brakes on their export plans as a result of Brexit and just 3.5% had revised their projected export sales downwards.
Graham Oates, Chief Executive of Norrie Johnston Recruitment, commented: “Against the backdrop of economic uncertainty that surrounds Brexit, it’s a real positive to see that UK businesses continue to be focused on growing their overseas operations.
“However, international business comes with its own set of challenges and so it is vital that companies have the right team in place to successfully deliver their export strategy – often those required to set up a new overseas operation are highly specialist hires with specific experience.
“For this reason, many companies turn to interim managers in the first instance to set up and support international expansion in its initial phases. This is effective because interims are rapidly deployable, heavily results-focused and can be hand-picked to have exactly the right skill set and language capabilities making them ideal for short to medium term overseas roles.
“In turn, this enables companies to take their time to recruit the best permanent team to manage their international work in the long term.”
To support businesses with their expansion plans, Norrie Johnston Recruitment has drawn on the experience of a selection of interim managers to compile a free guide to The Art of International Business.
The guide contains advice from international business experts who provide their thoughts on what companies need to consider when developing their export business.