Andrew Watson, executive director of Australia's export credit agency, Efic, told Accountants Daily that there are three key reasons why SMEs may stay away from taking their business global; making sure their domestic business is strong first, getting the right advice, and access to finance.
However, Mr Watson said that confidence is growing across industries and that those SMEs which are exporting are reporting a positive sentiment.
“Our latest Efic Exporter Sentiment research shows that 63 per cent of Australian SME exporters are confident they will be in a better financial position in the next 12 months, and 49 per cent expect to increase their staff numbers,” he said.
Mr Watson also highlighted that accountants play a vital role in proactively assisting their clients on the road to exporting.
“In our latest research, interviewing over 1,200 Australian SMEs, we found that 34 per cent went to their accountant for advice on international projects and export ventures. Accountants are also more likely to be asked for advice than government agencies or industry associations,” he said.
“This makes sense because understanding the financial position of your business is key in knowing which opportunities you can take on. Accountants play a critical role in this. They have extensive knowledge of the business’ finances and can provide advice on whether the business can pursue new opportunities, or provide options on different ways of expanding.”
Tilbrook Rasheed Chartered Accountants director Alex Turner told Accountants Daily that Australian SMEs can be daunted by the prospect of entering the export market.
“Expanding into new relatively unknown markets can be daunting for business owners. SMEs are challenged by the significant working capital requirement that is often necessary to fund exports,” he said.
“Due to Australia’s geographical location, there can be long lead times before an Australian export product ultimately reaches the consumer and payment is received. Some SMEs are not equipped to finance the expansion into export markets due to insufficient equity and/or a lack of support from traditional lenders.”
Mr Turner said that as business advisers, accountants should work closely with clients to assist them through their challenges.
“By working closely with clients, it is possible to pre-empt where working capital support may be required, then liaise with traditional lenders or an alternative funder to secure the funding. We find that by being proactive in this regard ensures working capital funding can be secured before a situation becomes critical or an opportunity is missed,” he said.
“This assists our clients in meeting targeted shipment deadlines to ensure the end consumer receives the product in a timely manner. Preparing cash flow forecasts at the start of the financial period and regularly reviewing how the SME is tracking to budget is a key aspect to the process.”