IOE Reinforces Importance of Evaluating Global SME Support at International Trade Conference

Fri 4 Oct 2013
Posted by: IOE News
IOE News

The Institute of Export’s Director General Lesley Batchelor stressed the importance of defining and evaluating focused strategies to help SMEs trade internationally at the IATTO International Trade Training Organisations Conference.

Entitled ‘Inspiring Trade Globally’, the 39th  three-day IATTO forum in Thessaloniki, Greece, brought trade experts from government organisations, companies and training bodies from all over the world to debate and share best practice in communicating the skills and competences of international trade.

Lesley said: “The conference provided a great opportunity for us to survey SMEs to help shape the right training strategies and support to enable them to successfully trade internationally.  We can add data collected from businesses throughout Europe to findings from similar surveys in countries and continents including Malaysia, North America, and South Africa.  IATTO provides an ideal network for both collecting the data we need, and for disseminating findings.”

The high-profile gathering saw the Greek International Business Association discuss National Export Promotion strategy and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attended the reception and Gala Dinner.

Key-note speaker Professor Per. V Jenster from the Nordic International Management Institute spoke about the challenge to go international and how to do business in China.

Lesley Batchelor presented on opportunities for the internationalisation of SMEs and the support measures offered at European member state level.

Citing the EIM Panteia report produced in May 2011, Lesley explained how its findings highlighted a scarcity of evaluations to explain exactly how the support programmes impacted on SMEs and on their business performance as a whole.

Lesley said: “The report revealed that only 46 programmes were evaluated out of a total of 310 – just 15 per cent – with most evaluations considering the process and the satisfaction of the clients with the services, as opposed to the outcomes in terms of additional export, turnover or employment. Equally worrying is the report’s conclusion that a lot of money is spent on these support measures – so it is alarming that so few of them are properly evaluated.”

The Director General explained how the support programmes target specific markets and specific areas of help such as finance or research. Rated on a 5 point scale with 5 being very bad to 1 being very good, they span six key areas and comprise:

1.       Accessibility (ease of access, red tape etc.).

2.       Relevance (does it indeed address barriers of SMEs).

3.       Reach (is it indeed used by SMEs).

4.       Complementary in relation to private suppliers of services (evidence of market gap to avoid unfair competition with private sector).

5.       Effectiveness.

6.       Efficiency

Lesley recommended to the high powered gathering that the support measures should not only help with the first step on the new target market, but should be a major step in the learning curve and internationalisation strategy of the respective companies.

“As well as a well prepared entrance on the target market, the international competences of the enterprises should be trained, one way or another,” she urged.

“In practice this is achieved by different approaches: a group of enterprises can be led by an external export manager or an accredited trade organisation where an enterprise draws up an internationalisation plan with help of an advisor.

“Support then dovetails with a company’s international strategy plan agreed with the executing agent and can include international mentoring and employee training – the effectiveness of which will depend on the companies’ ability to maximise their trainees’ learning.”

Lesley concluded her presentation by stating how the collective influence and standing of IATTO is ideally placed to take this European centric research a stage further by translating the same questions to a worldwide platform.

She said: “To this end we have generated a short survey that will give us feedback vital to understanding the actual benefits of both training such as short courses and seminars, and education, ie long term training using an academic structure providing qualifications or professional status at the finish.”

For more information contact us here or follow us on Twitter @IOExport and @LesleyIOExport.