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21 November, 2014 - 10:57 By Tony Quested

UKTI CASE STUDY – The Business Performance (BP) Group

BP Group commercial director Nick Wilkinson

More and more businesses in the East of England are using UKTI support to help them make the most of the unique trading partnership between the UK and the US.

Interim UKTI East Regional Director Thinley Topden is urging more companies in the area to follow suit. 

“The US and the UK have a strong historic trading relationship and today remain each other’s largest foreign investors,” he says. 

“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, once formalised, could not only add significantly to both the economies of the EU and the US but importantly could boost the UK economy by as much as £10 billion annually in the long term. 

“Already around 17 per cent of all British exports were to the US in 2012 and trade in goods and services to the US was worth £135 billion, up 3.6 per cent from the year before.

“The USA is the East of England’s second highest export destination.  Export of goods from the East of England to the USA has grown from £2.7 billion in 2003 to £3.2 billion in 2013.”

“There are many benefits to doing business in the US including: minimal amount of red tape, no language barrier, similar business culture and access to global supply chains that can lead to exports for other markets.

“Last year, UKTI helped more than 4,000 businesses to export to the US, twice as many as the year before. We are keen to continue to help more businesses in our region access the many opportunities this key market has to offer.”

One business from the region which has had great success so far after using support from UKTI to accelerate its growth in the United States is The Business Performance (BP) Group. From a standing start in 2013 it now has a $1m sales forecast for 2015. 

Based in Saffron Walden, The BP Group is a business development agency that helps office product resellers win new business and achieve profitable growth. By accessing advice and support from UKTI, the consultancy has been able to gain significant US wins six months ahead of schedule.

Commercial director Nick Wilkinson said: “In July 2013 support from UKTI enabled us to attend the Advantage Business Conference (ABC) in Nashville. This is an annual event, run by a major US wholesaler of office products, which attracts independent resellers from across the continent. 

“We were able to exhibit at the conference and speak face-to-face with around 100 independent dealers and potential customers. This was crucial for our business, as it allowed us to progress in person the telephone leads we had generated in the UK.”

Unlike many companies starting out in export, The BP Group didn’t seek UKTI help to pinpoint its target market in the US.  “We operate in a very narrow channel, which means that we knew exactly who our potential customers were from the outset,” said Wilkinson.  “There are only two office product wholesalers across the entire United States, which has made it relatively easy for us to research our target market and develop our own customer contacts.

“Where UKTI has made a real difference to The BP Group, however, is in regard to our speed of growth. There’s no doubt that we have progressed significantly more quickly as a result of working with UKTI - that and our English accents, which seem to work wonders at opening doors!”

UKTI international trade adviser Martin Senior has been working with The BP Group for just over a year. He said:  “The company now has nine employees based at a new office in Atlanta and Luke Chapman, the managing director, is spending an increasing amount of his time leading the sales element there. The company grossed $600k within their first six months of trading in the US and looks on track to invoice a further $150k before the end of the year.”

The BP Group has also worked with UKTI to americanise its website, and online materials. 

Alison Sirkin, from the Consumer and Industrial Goods (C&I) Team, located at the British Consulate General in New York City, attended Explore Export in Newmarket on November 11 and held one-to-one meetings with businesses from across the region to help them explore opportunities in the US market.

The C&I Team covers the entire US market and promotes the following industries: Industrial goods (construction, architecture, and marine), consumer and luxury goods (food & drink, fashion & beauty, sports & education, homeware, interiors, gift, craft and children’s products). 

If you were unable to make it to Explore Export, UKTI East regularly holds US-focused events throughout the region and one such is being planned for early 2015. To find out more about it and other events to help you grow your business abroad, visit http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/ukti-east-6209108629 regularly for updates.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Nick Wilkinson, The BP Group

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