As HMRC trade statistics reveal East Midlands exports to have reached £10.2 billion between January and June 2013 and is one region of only four to record growth, the House of Lords, during a recent debate*, said a lot of the credit must go to UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) East Midlands’ pioneering language and culture programme.
Since 2009, UKTI East Midlands has employed a dedicated language and culture specialist, Suzannah Hutton, who has run more than 40 day-long language and culture courses, from Arabic to Chinese to Russian, to ignite interest in overseas markets and help firms boost their sales. As well as organising these workshops, she provides dedicated support on all aspects of international communication to the region’s companies.
The latest statistics show the East Midlands continues to see an increase in the number of companies involved in international trade.
The news comes during Growth Month, a major effort by UKTI, in collaboration with Manufacturing Advisory Service, (MAS) GrowthAccelerator and other partners, to help firms across the East Midlands to grow.
During the first half of 2013, almost 4,000 East Midlands firms exported goods around the globe, an increase of 1.6 per cent compared to the first six months of 2012.
For Peter Hogarth, Regional Director for UKTI East Midlands, who is retiring in September, it will be a key legacy, having been at the helm of this project.
“The region has enjoyed another excellent export performance for the second quarter of 2013 (April-June) – more than £5.3 billion – marking the region out as one of only four to have maintained our exports.
“It’s great news that our pioneering language and culture programme has been recognised as a key mechanism for this growth and is being replicated by six other regions.
“We knew that providing dedicated language and culture support was vital to help the region’s businesses communicate better with their overseas customers. The one-day courses have been a central element in providing our exporters with the confidence they need to do business overseas. Every course has sold out and we have had to run more.
“The UK has a reputation for monolingualism and our companies have told us that they are keen to show their clients overseas that they have taken the time and trouble to learn something of their language and culture. They realise that this approach can really open doors for them.”
Forthcoming courses in the region include the International Communications Masterclass being held at the Nottingham Belfry on Friday 27th September which is , another of the Language and Culture initiatives highlighted by the House of Lords. There will also be a Business Mandarin for Beginners at the Derbyshire Hotel, South Normanton on Friday 13th September featuring a live Skype link with the consulate in Chongqing, who will be offering expert tips on doing business in China.
One Nottinghamshire businessman who has attended several of these language UKTI courses is Andrew Kemp of Nottingham-based Q Medical. The firm specialise in Infection control in hospitals and the food industry.
He said: “ These courses have been very relevant and helpful to our firm in terms of both their language and cultural content.
“The sessions are ideal for giving you the language essentials in business. I’ve attended ones focusing on Arabic, German and Chinese.
“Understanding the background and insight of the business culture of an overseas client is invaluable, as it can even help you decide whether that market is right for your company. After attending a Russian course, the cultural insight given on the day led me to change my mind about opening there and I postponed the launch.
“That has potentially saved us thousands of pounds and allowed us to focus more on other markets. We will go to Russia one day, but not until we are more ready.
“So it’s well worth the time to attend these sessions. I’m already planning on attending my next course to learn more about Indian business culture in January.”
Today’s HMRC figures also revealed the fastest growing single market for the region during the first six months was Singapore, with exports to that country increasing by 28 per cent in the past six months. The USA remains the largest single market for East Midlands goods with a six month export value of £1.6bn.
Germany remains our largest EU market with exports at 1.1 billion for the first six months.
Heike Bieber, Senior Trade Adviser from the British Consulate in Munich said,
“Although most Germans are able to speak fairly good English, it is important for foreign companies in this competitive environment that they demonstrate commitment to the German market and understand the local business mentality. Basic language and knowledge of German business culture will make you feel more comfortable and can make a real difference in building up trust and a good relationship with potential business partners.”
To find out about forthcoming language and cultural events, and the range of support available through UK Trade & Investment to help companies achieve their overseas trade ambitions, call the East Midlands team on 0845 052 4001