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Looking for support to grow your business? Here are some things to consider to fast-track your growth in the UK and abroad with our support.

Woman business owner making a call

1. Have a plan 

Set the direction for your business in terms of sustainable growth and plan for it. By making small changes to your business practices, "the rewards to the company and business profits can be significant," says Morag Eaton, one of our innovation specialists. 

Start by improving your systems, make better use of your team and be more productive. Streamline and improve your business practices. 

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Small ideas can make big things happen - watch our video to discover how innovation has helped Scottish business like yours find success
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But you don't have to go it alone, she adds. "We have teams who can help you look at your culture, look at your innovation and work out how you can go forward."

2. Spark your creativity

From developing a new product or improving an existing one, changing manufacturing methods or finding fresh routes to market, innovation has a key role to play in helping businesses expand and stay competitive.

Innovation is a journey, not a destination. Maybe you're looking to develop or improve products or services or you're exploring ways to increase efficiency or productivity. If you are, we can help you at every step.

Need help to refine concepts for new products or services? 

Ask our innovation advisers

Across Scotland’s small and medium sized firms, there is no shortage of innovative ideas. But time and financial pressures often mean turning ideas into commercial reality can be difficult. Our 'Make it to Market' grant is one solution and is designed to help SMEs like yours innovate and reach international markets. 

Find out about our Make it to Market grant

3. Get help with funding

When it comes to raising the right finance there’s often a misconception you need to jump through many hoops to get results. That’s not always the case. The challenge is often in identifying your needs and deciding on the most appropriate type of finance. 

If you’re looking to secure external finance you’ll need a robust and up-to-date business plan that outlines your financial forecasts. It should clearly state the financial need and related funding proposition. Our contacts at Business Gateway can help you with that but we’ve got some tips to get you started:

Tips to seeking finance

  • Have a clear understanding of what you plan to do with any external investment 
  • Have a robust and up-to-date business plan that outlines your growth expectations and potential, and your funding needs
  • Think about what finances you already have in place and if you can make them work better or harder
  • Ensure your management team is fully on-board to avoid potential issues further down the line
  • Be prepared to answer tough questions about your business from potential funders

Need help to raise finance? 

Talk to our financial readiness specialists

4. Maximise your online presence

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How companies can manage risk when trading online
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Global ecommerce, if approached strategically, can be a significant benefit to a company. However, if you want to succeed it is important that you get the basics right.

"While some businesses undoubtedly suffered during the recession, others were able to recognise and take advantage of new opportunities and economies afforded to them by trading online," says Alan Linton, Scottish Enterprise ICT specialist. "Certainly we're now seeing businesses of all sizes and sectors looking to trade internationally."

Maximising your online offering is one way to do that. And it needn't be costly as Alan explains: “Businesses today recognise that international ecommerce represents a way of reaching huge new markets for relatively limited outlay.” 

For practical advice, solutions and support, come along to our ecommerce workshops. 

Book our free ecommerce workshops

5. Look beyond Scotland

Want to sell into the EU?

Follow these 10 steps:

  1. Why trade with the EU?
  2. Get ready to export
  3. Find the right market
  4. Routes to market
  5. Visit markets
  6. Logistics
  7. Get your pricing right
  8. Sales and marketing
  9. Selling online
  10. Make an export plan

Seizing opportunities beyond your domestic market will safeguard your company's future growth. And doing business outside Scotland doesn't need to be difficult either with the right support and preparation.

“First, you must establish a reputation in your home market,” says Paul Grant, chairman of Mackays. “Thereafter, you can begin to think internationally. People can be interested in the product, but they want to know what you've done at home.” 

Whatever country you’re looking at, industry sector you're in or stage your business is at, we can help. 

You’re never too small to trade overseas as Frances O'Neill of Sainted Media explains: “I was the smallest company possible, with one person and one app, and Scottish Enterprise helped my business grow substantially.” 

Almost all of our support is free or heavily subsidised whether your new to international trade or an experienced exporter looking to explore new markets. We understand the challenges Scottish businesses face at home and internationally using our extensive networks and contacts to help companies like yours achieve their international ambitions. 

Mark Evans, MD of NomadiX Media
"Exporting has created an international feel to the business, opened up additional revenue streams and introduced some interesting challenges that drive new skills." - Mark Evans, MD of NomadiX Media

You can benefit from bespoke advice from our international trade advisers tailored specifically to you and your business. Their in-depth local market knowledge allows them to advise on the most relevant opportunities for you and they’ll support you to create a robust plan to help you grow your business internationally or start doing business outside of Scotland for the first time.  

They are specialists that understand your industry, are experienced business professionals who have a proven track record of helping companies like yours realise their international potential. 

Get advice from our experts

6. Expand your networks

To grow a business it's often about having the right connections. With 13 local offices across Scotland and 30 Scottish Development International offices in key markets we can connect your business anywhere in the world.

If you want to promote your business on an international level, you need to get out there and start networking. This is one of the best ways you can market yourself and your business. 

Depending on the nature of your business, there are different opportunities for networking out there. Throughout the year across Scotland, we host conferences, seminars, training workshops and forums where you can meet like-minded Scottish businesses to share experiences and insight. We run industry-focused events as well as market specific events and others geared towards specific business skills.

Why attend our events? 

  • Learn how to get started in international trade
  • Gain practical tips and advice on your next steps to take to realise your export potential
  • Get tailored support from our global network of expert advisers
  • Find out which markets are suitable for your products or services
  • Remove any barriers your business may have to export successfully
  • Develop your international trade strategy
  • Gain free access to year-round workshops, forums and events in Scotland
  • Share tips and best practice with like-minded Scottish businesses

You’ll find many of our events are run in partnership with other business support agencies such as Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), Business Gateway, Department for International Trade (DIT) and the GlobalScot network. This means you’ll have the right contacts in place to best meet your business needs.

Scottish Enterprise has been massively supportive of our efforts and our participation in three recent trade missions has allowed us to explore the market place potential not only in Canada but also in other areas of the world.

Alan Goodwin, director of Adrok

Our events are free, so attend as many of these as you can but also keep an eye out for forums and webinars online or get connected on social networks where you can join in the conversation. You’ll be able to pick up advice from industry experts and share your own business expertise. You’ll also rub shoulders with others in a similar situation. This could lead to extra business promotion or collaboration.

We also offer support packages to attend international trade shows not too far away that you might like to attend. 

Trade missions are also an excellent platform to visit and export market, appoint an agent or distributor or visit existing clients − and we can help you prepare for them by ensuring you’ve researched your target market thoroughly in advance of visiting a potential market. 

Search our events calendar

7. Boost skills within your team

Kirsteen Higgins, Smart Exporter operations manager
Kirsteen Higgins, heads up our Preparing to Export programme

Our Preparing to Export programme will help you create your international business plan. It will also give you the confidence and skills to start doing business outside of Scotland or expand internationally. 

We run three different courses each aimed at people with different levels of experience of exporting so you can choose the level right for you. 

Hats off to a smart Scottish exporter, Alison Burn of Wonky Woolies – the bespoke bobble hat maker based in Glasgow. Wonky Woolies entered the world of exporting by accident, when a Japanese buyer approached Alison at a trade show in Glasgow. Up to that point she had only considered selling her products in Scotland and possibly to the rest of the UK.

Alison joined one of our Preparing to Export Introductory workshops over two days, which she said gave her the confidence to operate in overseas markets. “I was excited but got really worried that it wouldn’t work out,” she says. "But it did, and now Wonky Woolies bobble hats are selling in Japan."

"There was a really good cross-section of businesses there who were at slightly different stages in exporting and we were all able to learn from each other’s ideas and experience,” she added.

Look out for our next series of workshops 

8. Collaborate with your peers

A collaborative approach can help small firms to start exporting and exploring new markets, by sharing costs and risks. Our partners at Cooperative Development Scotland can help you with advice on what’s involved and how to look for collaborative opportunities.

“Pooling resources with other local companies has helped us to expand our brand with minimal capital investment. We have also been able to get new products into the market place much more quickly than if we had been acting alone,”  says Mark Bush, MD of Summer Harvest

Another example is France's Open Ocean and Scotland's Aquatera who joined forces to make the most of the rapidly-emerging opportunities in the French marine energy market.

Where next for your business?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of some of the ways we can help you grow your business. You may have ideas of your own you may wish to share or explore? So, get in touch to see how we can help.

Get advice from our experts

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