The 2019 Top Track 250 league table shows substantial growth by companies with international operations
So how are mid-market businesses navigating these turbulent times for trade and what can you do to follow their lead?
Introducing the top 10
The Sunday Times Top Track 250 league table recognises and celebrates Britain’s top-performing private mid-market growth companies by sales. This is the 15th year of the Top Track 250 and more than half of the included companies trade overseas, with average international sales growth at 19%. The top ten companies in the category for fastest international sales growth are from a wide range of sectors, all with well-established international operations.
Growth can largely be attributed to bold mergers and acquisitions or commencement of large-scale projects. On the whole the Top Track 250 report shows cause for optimism. This year’s companies generated combined sales of £63.3 billion, up by £991 million from £54.8 billion in their prior year.
Rising to the challenge
The Top Track 250 results align with our research into the impact of geopolitics on international trading, which showed that Brexit was causing 68% of UK businesses to exercise increased caution around international growth, but was also encouraging companies to look further afield for new opportunities. The impacts of Brexit vary enormously from region to region, therefore in order to address any potential negative effects, you should carefully consider what drives your customer base and ensure you are delivering on the things that your customers really value. Understanding how your company is perceived in the market place is critical to overcoming short-term obstacles for long-term success.
We asked our clients with successful international trading to share their insight.
Brompton Bicycles CEO, Will Butler-Adams, explained the benefits of staying positive while being practical and prepared.“If you have the right attitude and can quickly assess the seriousness of potential unknown crises and face them head on, you can then put measures in place to protect yourself against worst case scenarios and get back to the core priorities of running a business and doing the positive work.”
As well as opportunities presented by changing landscapes you should look to apply an innovative approach to all aspects of your business. Don’t limit innovation to new products or different territories. Look creatively at ways to broaden existing markets through new distribution channels or potential partnerships. For example, could you adapt from direct sales to incorporating your products in integrated offerings from others? There are many interesting ways to add value to your service.
The Top Track 250 contains a wide selection of retail and consumer brands that have fared well in their latest year. Many have diversified away from the UK high street into different channels and overseas markets.
There are always new opportunities to explore, but beware of using international trading as a distraction from addressing domestic difficulties. However tempting overseas opportunities might be, you need to be sure that your UK business is the right platform to launch internationally.
Vital to any company trading overseas is knowledge of local practices. A sales team working in their hometown will be consistently more successful than someone working in unfamiliar territory. When looking to new markets, reach out to existing businesses who know the region; join forces with locals or work with a professional service firm with global reach who understands your business needs. Due diligence and local experience will pave the way to success.
Recognising opportunities and adapting to constantly changing markets is an ongoing challenge for all UK and global businesses. We are ideally placed to seek out and exploit opportunities that can be tailored to your business’ goals.
At K International, our client who is one of the UK’s leading language translation and interpretation services providers, initial concerns that the referendum would result in dissolution of staff and difficulty servicing accounts, have proved unfounded. Instead they were encouraged to re-assess their priority markets, enabling them to further diversify their business and ultimately generate more work. Richard Brooks, CEO is positive about the company’s future. "The computerised and digitised nature of our work means it’s transient and we’ve been able to couple digital technologies with the best practice we’ve acquired from the EU and the UK and introduce it into new markets. We’ve gone from doing projects with 20 languages to projects spanning 40 to 50 language translations.”
Although all the companies in the Top Track 250 have faced challenges posed by changing political landscapes and the impact of cost increases, such as the higher national living wage. Their resilience and resourcefulness give cause for confidence in the continued growth of the UK economy.
If you would like to discuss your international plans and find out how we can support your business, please get in touch with Andrew Howie.