A survey of more than 150 SME businesses in the region found the top three characteristics for thriving exporters are flexibility (52%), attention to detail (52%) and the ability to think strategically (49%). Being a visionary (22%) or a risk-taker (16%) ranked outside the top ten (12th and 14th respectively).
The ‘Made in the Midlands’ label is seen as a key catalyst for international growth, with 44% of exporters saying they started selling overseas because they felt their goods or services were of a higher quality than those available in their target market.
Simon Smith, Regional Director for Global Trade and Receivables Finance in the West Midlands for HSBC UK, said: “The intrepid exporters of the West Midlands have confidence in the quality of their goods and services.
“The research tells us that having a revolutionary idea isn’t key to success – what’s really needed is a high quality product and the determination to seize upon opportunities.
“To continue to find success they will need to be flexible, ready to react and open to expanding into new markets to grow their customer base.”
The Department for International Trade estimates that 19% of UK registered businesses have goods or services which could be sold overseas but currently aren’t – presenting a huge opportunity for West Midlands business looking to find growth.
If they were starting their exports journey again more than a fifth (22%) said they would tailor their goods or services better to suit their target market and 18% said they would spend more time on establishing the right sales channels in overseas markets.
While West Midlands firms were pessimistic about growth of the UK economy over the next 12 months, they were more bullish about the outlook for the economy in the next three years and almost half expect UK growth in the next ten years.
Simon added: “Challenging times lie ahead for UK businesses but there remains opportunity for firms to drive growth through exports to either existing or new markets.
“Now is the time for exporters to make sure they have robust plans in place ahead of Brexit, if they haven’t already taken steps to prepare there is still time to do so. While the immediate future remains uncertain there will be opportunities for UK businesses and preparing now to seize those will put businesses in the best position to find growth in the future.”