There has never been a better time for small and medium-sized agile Australian businesses to export. I know this is not what you would expect to hear in the middle of a global pandemic! Since March 2020, I have been ‘stood’ down. From monthly commuting between Sydney-Frankfurt, I have switched exclusively to international Zooming. And I have to say, it has happened very smoothly and very successfully. My team and I have transitioned towards an online lead generation and sales process. The pandemic’s impact on international business has been unexpectedly amazing. I have come to the realisation that small businesses, that are smart and agile, are best positioned to make the most of these challenging times.

And here is why.

1- Technology companies: It’s your time to shine on the global stage, and Europe is a great market for tech! Let’s look at the opportunities it has created for technology companies. COVID-19 has revealed a lot of weaknesses in organizations across different sectors. And it has created a number of opportunities for smart technology businesses to access international markets. For example, many very large European corporations have struggled during lockdown. When they sent their employees home, it made them realize that employees would have to take some paper files home. Even corporates that thought they were 100% paperless realised they were not. The Covid 19 crisis creates enormous opportunities for companies developing and commercialising solutions to digitise documents and processes. Companies offering cloud-based solutions are at best positioned to leverage this opportunity. In Europe and other parts of the world, factories had to stop production, because organisations had to maintain a safe social distance at work or otherwise had their employees working from home. They had to rethink touchpoints. How should their employees be securely identified when they come in to work or to a work site. There were a lot of things that businesses did not anticipate. It has forced them to consider how they can automate their businesses even more. And see how they can minimize disruption in a pandemic. Again, this has created opportunities. And this has been reported back to me by a large German industrial manufacturer of mining equipment. Their focus over the next 2 years will be to make their factory a safer working environment for their workers, by implementing contactless infrastructure and equipment throughout buildings, enable social distancing and also further increasing automation This again creates opportunities for companies that manufacture equipment and machinery, but also for smart buildings, engineering services and Industry 4.0 projects. During lockdown, employees have been working from home. What it means is that suddenly your employees work using unsecured internet connections. This has created additional exposure and risks for businesses. We have seen major cyber attacks on large European corporates and small businesses have also been easy targets. Companies are concerned, because even beyond COVID, employees have adopted the habit of working from home. It leaves these companies very exposed. This creates new opportunities for companies in the cybersecurity space to assist companies increase their protection against cyber attacks. On the macro-economic level in Europe, President Van der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced in July 2020 a very large stimulus plan of 750 Billion Euros, called Next generation EU. This scale of investment is unprecedented. It’s really interesting to note that the focus areas of this stimulus plan are modernisation using artificial intelligence, industrial digitisation, 5G, Grid infrastructure. In addition, the EU will pursue a focus on the fight against climate change, particularly renewables, sustainable transport, energy efficient buildings.

2- COVID-19 has broken down a lot of trade barriers for small businesses. It has demonstrated that while curtailing face to face meetings we now have readily accepted the opportunities to conduct more meetings online. I realized this, because I usually spend half of my life on an airplane going to Europe and back to hold face to face meetings for my clients. Since March, we had to shift and conduct meetings and to continue to sell Australian products and solutions over Zoom. We had to get on with business. That’s why I have told my clients, COVDI-19 is not the time to stop working on exports. It’s time to push harder. We can’t wait for COVID-19 to end to generate leads and sales! We are currently continuing to grow sales in Europe for our customers at an accelerated pace.. The requirement for face to face meetings has been removed. And that makes it so much easier for small businesses to reach out to international customers. It’s much easier to plan back to back meetings in multiple time zones as well. We have also realised that some healthcare facilities or large multinationals actually do not want on-site visitors at the moment, they very much welcome the opportunity to do business online.

3- New exporters should not wait till the end of COVID-19 to get started in exporting to overseas markets. There is no expiry date on COVID-19 we don’t know when the end date will be? So new exporters have to get started now. Businesses that are not exporting by now, should have learnt the hard lessons of the risk of relying just on your domestic market. We also know that we need several export markets to minimise our risk.

4- Current exporters. It’s not time to put your international customers on hold. International customers won’t forgive you if you let them down during COVID-19 . They will move on and forget about your business. They will think that you have closed down. It’s time to continue and push through to keep your market share and grow your sales. There are a lot of opportunities. Many companies have gone into limbo and are waiting to see what happens. It’s time to target new customers that just want to be served and gain market shares.

5- Australian manufacturers have the opportunity to be an alternative reliable supplier of technology products globally. According to IBIS, Asian competitors have failed a number of customers on the global scale , and they are now looking at diversifying their supply. “If the COVID-19 outbreak curtailed output across Asian factories, some Australian producers may benefit from enhanced export opportunities as global markets seek out alternative suppliers.” IBIS Report Update Aug 2020 Australian manufacturers have the opportunity to be an alternative reliable supplier of technology products to global markets. Australia now has the opportunity to position itself in that space.

6- More opportunities for Australian exporters as Canberra is currently working on a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union and the UK That will facilitate trade and make our life easier as a small business to export. It’s never been so opportune for you to export now. So while everyone is thinking “It’s all too hard’, imagine if you took advantage of these opportunities and context to start the process now! Imagine how your business would look if you managed to generate your first million Euros in sales in the next two years! What would your business look like?

Now imagine, if every single Australian technology business in advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and medical devices, in digital and cloud-based solution software, in electronics was to scale internationally! What would Australia look like? How many solid and resilient companies would Australia have? How many jobs would we create?