Building Your Business
IntertradeIreland Report indicates the Value of Cross-border Trading to Enterprise Growth

18 November 2013

IntertradeIreland recently launched a report entitled: “Analysis of the Key Features of An Exporting SME on the island of Ireland in which it is advocated that “the cross-border market on this island is a first step into exporting for almost three quarters of businesses and that the experience gained acts as a stepping stone to further export markets off the island” (ITI, 2013, page 7).


The report sets out six key lessons that should be considered in terms of policy and programme development in order to encourage more non-exporters to become exporters and to develop the capabilities of inexperienced exporters:

1. The importance of Key Decision Makers (KDMs) to businesses becoming successful exporters. Agencies should assess the characteristics of the KDMs, particularly their ambition and aspiration to grow, as a criteria in

ing companies to support. In addition, management and leadership programmes are a significant element in the agencies’ offerings and provide an opportunity for opening up supports on a cross-border basis to businesses.

2. There is a pathway to exporting with cross-border trade being the first step for a significant majority (73%) of firms, many of whom subsequently go on to expand into markets off the island, particularly GB but also the Eurozone and North America. This suggests that the border might be used as a stepping-stone to exporting further afield and that these businesses are encouraged to progress along the pathway from cross-border trade to off-island exporting.

3. The report identifies the need to develop capabilities, particularly in the areas of innovation and strategy, so that inexperienced and new exporters can move on to greater success off the island. Agencies should consider how to better integrate innovation programmes with export development and consider the extent to which a company has adopted innovative practices as ion criteria for export support. In terms of strategy, there is recognition that companies will base exporting decisions on the immediate opportunities. However, in the longer run supports need to embed a more strategic approach into company capability as this will be key to further success.

4. Far and away the most important resource required by businesses is the availability of experienced in-market

resources offering identification of opportunities and immediate access to potential clients or customers. Agencies should explore the means by which experienced sales resources can be accessed by the first-time and inexperienced exporters. These supports need to be linked to the direct involvement of a senior management resource with responsibility for planned export activity.

5. Businesses expressed an interest in collaborative working with other partners in order to develop and exploit

market opportunities, including the provision of a complementary product, capability or service that would enable

all partners to export more effectively and efficiently. The development of such partnerships could be explored

on a North/South basis.

6. The survey results reveal that experience is an important factor in how businesses develop or acquire the strategic attributes necessary to become a successful exporter. Support programmes should be tailored to the level of export experience of businesses and cover their needs in the transition from an non-exporter to an inexperienced or experienced one. For example, participation on a trade mission would be too daunting and less beneficial for most first-time or inexperienced exporter. However, participation in a tailored ‘market study trip’ in which the business gains both international exposure and a taste of the market will allow them to take an informed next step (i.e. develop a export strategy for that market or keep looking for alternatives).


The Report also revealed that firms engaged in cross-border trade and exporting bucked the wider trend of employment losses in recent years (p.12). For companies to engage in internationalising their company it does need significant commitment from senior management (p.17), those actively seeking to develop sales in other markets resulted in opportunities to grow the business. The Report also shows that the lack of a planned, “strategic approach to exporting is a major disadvantage and a significant barrier to the development of an export business, particularly the development of ongoing and recurring sales” (p.24).


In terms of the support which companies require to help them to internationalise their company, companies cited that they required knowledge about the market and it was difficult to get the matching process right when working in collaborative partnerships, highlighting the importance of people in the process.


PLATO EBR welcomes this report in light of its recent recruitment drive to establish a cluster on internationalisation for its micro-enterprises and SMEs. To find out if your product or service is exportable, you may need assistance with getting it to market; perhaps you need the confidence in getting it to market from experts that have been through the process many times over. Since more and more SME’s are recognising the value of internationalising their product, PLATO EBR is offering a series of workshops for businesses interested in exploring whether or not they should expand their marketplace. To find out more about how to apply for the Internationalisation Cluster, please visit Here.


To download the Full Report, Click Here.



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