5 tips for building your business overseas

1. Look beyond your domestic market

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, UK SMEs that export are more likely to survive, grow and innovate.

Global demand for UK goods and services continues to grow, with exports in the year to November 2018 totalling £630bn.

The number of UK businesses exporting increased by 6.6% to 232,000 in 2017. That’s almost a tenth of UK SMEs.

Exporting can transform your turnover. It reduces the risk of relying solely on UK sales and can help you to grow your business faster.

2. Pay attention to export rules

Small orders can be sent overseas by post, but for larger orders you need to use a courier or freight forwarder. If moving goods within the EU – while the UK remains a member – first find out whether you need a licence to sell your goods.

Your courier or freight forwarder will ask you to complete a proforma invoice, which they’ll attach to your consignment.

When exporting beyond the EU, find out about specific import rules and whether you need a licence. You will need a commodity code, which determines import duty payable. You’ll also need to give your business’s EORI number to your courier or freight forwarder.

They’ll ask you to complete a commercial invoice, stating the commodity code, which must be attached to your consignment. Your courier or freight forwarder will use your commercial invoice to make an official customs declaration.

3. Learn about import requirements

Most businesses use a courier or freight forwarder when importing goods in volume. If they come from within the EU – while the UK remains a member – you need a commodity code (which provides classification for tax and customs purposes). You give this to the courier or freight forwarder for each consignment. Your business will pay VAT (at UK rates), but not import duty on goods produced in the EU. Usually, you don’t need an import licence.

When you import goods from non-EU countries you need to: find out their commodity code; register for an EORI number if you don’t have one; declare your imports to customs (a courier or freight forwarder will do this for you); and pay any VAT (at UK rates) and duty due. An import licence is necessary for some restricted goods.

If you import goods from another EU country, you must total them and any tax due in your VAT Return. You can reclaim VAT paid if goods will be used by your business or to make taxable supplies. There are separate rules when buying services from overseas. When it comes to tax rules, seeking expert professional advice is recommended.

4. Find the right products

For some UK businesses, quality is not the primary issue. They’re simply looking for reasonable quality at a low price. But for other businesses, quality is essential. So, how do you find it?

The British Chambers of Commerce has 53 offices in the UK and many others around the world. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to get on a plane and carry out research on the ground in countries where you’re most likely to find suppliers who can deliver the quality you need.

Alternatively, your trade association might be able to help you, while many countries have UK-based trade teams that can help with supplier-related enquiries.

5. Choose a reliable money transfer provider

To buy products, pay staff and invest overseas, you’re going to need to work in more than one currencies. If you’re looking for a fast, low-cost service, don’t use your bank. Banks often hide the true cost of transfers by giving you a poor exchange rate that’s tilted in their favour. They are also slow, with some transfers taking up to seven business days.

Digital money transfer providers like Azimo Business provide a fast, easy and low-cost way to send money to more than 200 countries and territories around the world. With an award-winning mobile app and a dedicated account manager to help answer your questions, you can start sending in minutes. Even better, your first five transfers with Azimo Business are fee-free.

Sign up to Azimo Business and send your first transfer in minutes.