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Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations
When Thomas Jefferson wrote those words he little dreamt of the way in which technology and the internet would transform the shape of international commerce. And yet his words ring as true today as when they were first uttered. In some ways Jefferson’s dream of global trading and values has been realised, in others it is as far away as it was in his lifetime. But if there is one thing which the internet has brought us it is the ability for everyone to stand on a level platform and trade across the globe.
But how much do we take advantage of that ability; are we all working in a global marketplace or are there still barriers to trade which are holding us back? Some of the answers may be found in a recent survey conducted on behalf of the National Business Awards. Entitled “Business Without Barriers” the report looks at the way in which UK business is stepping up to meet the government’s challenge of £1 trillion of exports by 2020.
Key findings from the report are that 40% of businesses now operate or export outside the UK and 80% of businesses believe that international trade will be a major factor in the growth of British business this decade. Leading the way in this drive to international trade are SMEs and businesses which are less than five years old. Interestingly, despite the high percentage of respondents who believe in the efficacy of international trade, 51% of those surveyed believe that Britain should leave the EU.
It is, however, the barriers to international trade which are most revealing. Despite the government’s drive to remove unnecessary regulation, 23% still cite red tape as a major barrier to trading overseas. Lack of investment and access to spending come next, but sadly 12% also believe that lack of talent attraction retention and development are also holding them back. To try and address this, 37% of businesses have invested in staff development and those hiring place communication skills at the top of their wish list (60%).
In its conclusion, the report highlights the way in which the best businesses not only adapt to economic challenges they also “invest in the resource and infrastructure to compete nationally and internationally.” This includes understanding “the value of talent and how to enable their people to deliver beyond expectation.” In launching the 2014 National Business Awards, the organisation is not only seeking to find Britain’s leading organisations and individuals but also to discover the innovative ways which businesses are using to approach growth in an global landscape.
Innovation set alongside a focus on engaging and retaining top employees is a powerful combination. In an increasingly homogenous world, innovation not only of product but also of service will increasingly differentiate the outstanding businesses from the also-rans. In the landscape of tomorrow how you deliver products and services will be more important than what you deliver and engaging employees in a clear vision is key to successful innovation. Creating a powerful company culture which attracts and retains the best employees is the first step in transforming a business into an agile organisation which leads the market in every area.
But in a global marketplace it is vital that this transformation takes account of global differences. Global customers, global suppliers, global employees; all require a careful and sensitive approach which takes account of local customs. It may be a global marketplace but if red is lucky in one country and unlucky in another, it makes sense to tweak the product to match customer needs. It may be a global marketplace but only when we have learnt to respect each other and celebrate our differences can we truly step up to Jefferson’s ideal of peace, commerce, and honest friendship across the globe.