A Nation Of Shopkeepers

Amanda Slade, head of MSI’s export division says the company has assisted many fellow UK pool companies with overseas trade.

There has never been a better time to start exporting, says one of
the UK pool industry founding member’s, Bob Kent. And he should know.
Bob, who was fundamental in the establishment of Certikin
and now of Mineral Supplies International, was one of the first
people to see the potential for overseas trade.
With 60% of MSI’s business now undertaken overseas, Bob is
passionate about the potential for more UK-based businesses to
follow his lead – practicing what he preaches.
“Napoleon said we British are a nation of shop keepers,” says
Bob. “Napoleon should have said, we Brits have the mentality of a
shop keeper and like living in a comfy fur-lined rut!
“We are islanders – and unlike mainland Europeans this makes
us feel safe.
“Therefore, the British, in the main, don’t try to sell overseas –as it is assumed too difficult!”
One of Bob’s more outstanding claims to fame is having literally
sold sand to the Arabs back in the Seventies.
At that time, nearly 100% of essential pool equipment such
as skimmers, filters, pumps and ladders were brought in from
“Factory representatives from America would fly into the main
European airports and literally would meet with representatives of
the importing pool companies in the airport lounge,” Bob recalls.
“You would place your orders with the factory rep and then he
flew off to the next port of call. This they did every year,” he says.
Circa 1967, Certikin began to produce some of Europe’s first
home-grown products, slowly but surely reducing the European
markets’ reliance on America suppliers.
Certikin’s export arms began to sprout wings with temporary
offices in Germany and Bahrain as base camps for sales people to
undertake those early forays into Europe and the Middle East.
“My first export was in 1967 – a shipment of floating hose to
Austria,” recalls Bob.
“Since those times, my global involvement with the export
market coverage has been most educational and extremely
gratifying,” he adds.
Bob says the bureaucracy surrounding export documentation in
those days was not for the faint-hearted with up to six different
forms to be completed before a shipment could leave the country.
These days, we take instant communication for granted. Forty
years ago, all transactions were done by Telex or phone – faxes
didn’t come into play until the very early 80s.
At the same time, freight companies are now fighting for your
business. A shipment from the UK to the Mediterranean will, as an
example, take four to six days – nearly the same time as from Kent
to Scotland.
Travel is cheap with a huge choice of budget flight airlines flying into most European destinations for less than it cost for a
full tank of petrol.
But that does not mean you will not have to stay focused to
earn repeat overseas business, warns Bob.
“It was once said by an exporter: ‘Strong in your home market
strong overseas’,” Bob says.
‘’MacMillan said ‘exporting is fun’ – but he’d never stayed in
grotty hotels while trying to get a foot in the export door.
“Exporting is far easier now than it has ever been –
documentation is easy – and with the Internet, it is so much easier
to find and communicate with overseas customers,” he adds.
“There are 195 counties in the world to sell to. And you
don’t need to be a prime manufacturer – but service and
communication does count.
Amanda Slade, head of MSI’s export division says we have assisted many fellow UK pool companies.
‘’It is noticeable that more companies are looking to extend sales passed the shores of the UK and I am pleased to say, with our experience and product range – we, along with many and growing UK pool companies, have mutuallyprofited.”
Amanda adds: ‘’We are often called by the UK pool trade and have been happy to give
advice on overseas sales.”
MSI advise, if you decide to export then it is essential to have a dedicated person in your company responsible for all transactions with the customer and shipment.
If you’re selling to a company in Europe then get their VAT number – and ensure that it is valid – otherwise you will be paying it. If you’re selling to an individual then charge UK vat rates and
on the freight – unless it’s a non EU country then it’s no vat.
Packing is worthy of extra care and attention as the consignment well as it may be handled 10 times before it reaches its destination. Always get the customer’s full address and post
code – and telephone number – these all to be included on the packaging.
If selling outside the UK to a non EU territory you may need to include the products tariff
number. This is a code number that is a guide to the percentage of import duty that
may be payable by the customer; you need to show this on an invoice.
Check if the consignment is seen as hazardous by asking your freight company for advice. Your
freight company will need the dimensions and weight of the consignment.
Bob advises: “Don’t be afraid to ask a freight company sales guy to call so that you can
ask for advice on do’s and don’ts – ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’.
“We suggest at all times you ensure payment is received prior to shipping,” adds Bob.
“There is nothing wrong if you feel confident to start compiling the order – dispatch can be swift
once monies have been received.
And Bob concludes: “There is a lot of assistance given by bodies like the UK trade and Investment such as up to 50% of you exhibition costs – including hotels and travel – but beware, that is excluding meals and your bar bill!”
Mineral Supplies International Ltd.
Tel. +44(0) 1825 790524



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