PLAT­FORM Strong growth in Iberian econ­omy has cre­ated ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - Byem­manai­smith, In­vest­nire­gional Man­ager­for­spain and­por­tu­gal

Com­mer­cial, cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal links be­tween the UK and Ibe­ria will mean there will al­ways be op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­port to this mar­ket. Spain is cur­rently one of the fastest grow­ing economies in Europe. This growth is driv­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence and spend­ing. North­ern Ire­land ex­ports have been in­creas­ing but they are still a small pro­por­tion of all ex­ports and there is def­i­nitely room to grow.

There are op­por­tu­ni­ties across mul­ti­ple sec­tors. Spain has a very strong ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor with ma­jor au­to­mo­tive, rail­way and air­craft com­pa­nies. Con­struc­tion is tak­ing off again af­ter many years of re­ces­sion pro­vid­ing great op­por­tu­ni­ties for both con­struc­tion com­pa­nies and those in the sup­ply chain.

There are also good op­por­tu­ni­ties in the en­vi­ron­men­tal sec­tor, specif­i­cally re­new­able en­ergy, waste man­age­ment, wa­ter treat­ment and air qual­ity.

Even though Spain is a food pro­ducer in its own right, there is a mar­ket, al­beit a com­pet­i­tive one, for in­no­va­tive, qual­ity food and drink prod­ucts.

Agritech and life and health sciences are ex­ist­ing strong ex­port mar­kets for NI com­pa­nies.

Spain is di­vided into 17 au­ton­o­mous com­mu­ni­ties, each with its own lo­cal gov­ern­ment and pro­cure­ment pro­cesses (and in some cases unique lan­guage, cul­ture and tax regime).

Con­se­quently, sell­ing into Barcelona is not nec­es­sar­ily the same as trad­ing with the Ca­nary Is­lands. I have been liv­ing and work­ing in Spain for over 15 years so I am very fa­mil­iar with the lo­cal busi­ness cul­ture and can help you nav­i­gate th­ese nu­ances.

In Por­tu­gal, the econ­omy has also sta­bilised and is now grow­ing. It is ranked in the top third in the World Bank Do­ing Busi­ness rank­ing. In par­tic­u­lar it is be­com­ing a hub for cre­ative and tech start-up.

Por­tu­gal is a mar­ket that of­fers ex­porters a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity and can be eas­ier to trade with than Spain given its bet­ter level of English and close affin­ity to the UK.

As a smaller mar­ket on the pe­riph­ery of Europe there is of­ten less com­pe­ti­tion and bet­ter ac­cess to se­nior de­ci­sion makers.

Re­gard­less of which ter­ri­tory you wish to ex­port to, do your home­work in ad­vance to make sure that your prod­ucts and ser­vices can be sold prof­itably in the mar­ket.

Long pay­ment terms are com­mon here and can be a chal­lenge for ex­porter cash­flows. While terms have be­gun to im­prove re­cently it is still im­por­tant to en­sure you have a de­tailed, mar­ket-spe­cific, ex­port strat­egy and sound fi­nan­cial plan­ning. In­vest NI can pro­vide ad­vice on de­vel­op­ing ex­port strate­gies and re­search mar­kets. UK Ex­port Fi­nance can pro­vide sup­port and guid­ance on the fi­nan­cial as­pects of ex­port­ing.

As re­gional man­ager for Spain and Por­tu­gal, my role is to help North­ern Ire­land com­pa­nies iden­tify and qual­ify op­por­tu­ni­ties and in­tro­duce them to po­ten­tial part­ners and cus­tomers.

As well as my own knowl­edge we have a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the De­part­ment of In­dus­try and Trade (DIT). DIT has spe­cialised teams in Madrid, Barcelona, Bil­bao and Lis­bon and North­ern Ire­land com­pa­nies can use this network to help de­velop ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties.

If, af­ter re­search, you de­cide Spain and/or Por­tu­gal are vi­able ex­port mar­kets for your busi­ness, you will need to spend time visit­ing suit­able part­ners and cus­tomers. It is much eas­ier to un­der­stand their needs, and how you can meet them, if you have face-to-face meet­ings.

In Spain some or­gan­i­sa­tions can be hi­er­ar­chi­cal and bu­reau­cratic. This can slow down the de­ci­sion mak­ing which can some­times be frus­trat­ing.

It is just the na­ture of do­ing busi­ness here. If you’ve in­vest-

ed time in build­ing good re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers and dis­trib­u­tors man­ag­ing th­ese bu­reau­cra­cies can be eas­ier.

Once you have es­tab­lished dis­tri­bu­tion net­works or se­cured cus­tomers in the mar­ket make sure that you stay in touch and con­tinue to pro­vide them with on­go­ing sup­port — don’t just as­sume that once the deal is done, or­ders will just start com­ing in.

You need to stay proac­tive and en­gaged to en­sure that your prod­ucts are high on your part­ners’ list of pri­or­i­ties, and stay in tune with chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions. If you would like to explore the Iberian mar­ket, In­vest North­ern Ire­land has the ex­per­tise, ex­pe­ri­ence and lo­cal knowl­edge to help you suc­ceed. Please con­tact a client man­ager or busi­ness sup­port team on 0800 181 4422

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