But most importantly our team of 15 business consultants and researchers have been busy creating a high quality suite of consultancy services, charged at a matched rate to our UKTI xcolleagues, with whom we co-operate to deliver campaigns, projects and provide advisory services for companies of all sizes across a wide range of sectors.
Holidays and key dates like anniversaries are usually times of the year when people start to look back at the experiences and connections they’ve made. The business world has its own key date, the end of the UK financial year on 31st of March, which for me has been a moment in which I’ve been contemplating the achievements and progress the BPCC Trade team has made in becoming one of the leading providers of consultancy services for British businesses looking to enter or expand internationally.
The BPCC signed its agreement to work with UK Trade & Investment, with whom it already had a long history of co-operation on a day to day basis, in April 2013. We started the project properly in July 2013. Expressed purely in terms of the numbers of business cards I’ve collected, it’s clear that the past 8 months have been some of the most active I’ve ever seen!
So what I have we been doing and what have we learnt as we’ve launched the team and begun helping British companies?
Chambers of Commerce are unique beings, neither fully private nor fully public. One particular characteristic is their unique network of chamber members, service providers, strategic partners and similar organisations all operating – and not always competing - within a similar ecosphere. The power of the chamber network is something our UK delivery partner, the British Chambers of Commerce, rightfully stress, and I’ve seen that with my own eyes over the past few months. It’s one of the reasons why I need a second box to hold my business cards as the first is now stuffed with over 300!
Whether it’s a highly technical question on chemical labelling, or discussing how to remove excise duty on UK cider, whether it’s translating your product into technically perfect Polish, or bending the ear of a friendly lawyer for advice on how to end a contract with a poor performing distributor, the British Polish Chamber of Commerce’s network is here to help UK exporters. Our role as BPCC Trade is not only to provide a complete package of end to end services for companies, but to connect them with service providers who can support them with the best possible solution. We are also fortunate to benefit from the active support of BPCC Policy’s 11 policy groups – providing business with access to key decision makers across the country – and the work of UK Trade & Investment and the British Embassy, Warsaw. Our network is strong, connected and much more powerful as a group than one business going it alone.
Since we started, we’ve tried to be as active as possible in getting out and about and meeting businesses across both Poland and the UK. In just the last 8 months we’ve been to Bradford, Kent, the Isle of Wight, London, Leeds, Derby, Liverpool, Shrewsbury, Glasgow, Inverness, Manchester, Lincolnshire, Dorset, Aberdeen, and Plymouth. In Poland we’ve been to Krakow, Katowice, Chorzow, Gliwice, Walbrzych, Opole, Zielona Gora, Gdanks, Bydgoszcz, Torun, Olszytn, Lublin, Rzeszow, Bialystok. On each occasion we’ve been feeding leads and building relationships which we use to benefit our UK clients to enter the market and do business. Our mission is, every year, to be in every small, medium and large city in Poland and the UK talking to business about doing business.
BPCC Trade meeting 20 businesses interested in trading with the UK in Zielona Gora in March
We’ve had VIP visits from all sorts of people, including Trade and Investment Minister Lord Livingston, former CEO of BT, Ken Clarke QC MP, senior FCO official Barbara Woodward. Scottish Development International, the Welsh Assembly Government and Invest Northern Ireland have also been to see us to discuss how we can help companies in their region. We’ve had Secretary of State for Energy Ed Davey discussing the UK’s energy sector potential in Poland. We’ve seen Minister of State for Energy Michael Fallon also come to discuss the nuclear energy. We’ve hosted UKTI and Chamber colleagues from many countries, including Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic and countless other seminars, discussions and meetings.
Trade & Investment Minister Lord Livingston talks to British and Polish businesses about opportunities in the rail sector at our British Polish Business Centre.
We’re building systems which allow exporters to understand demand much more quickly than they’ve ever been able to before. Our instant demand generator is available free for UK companies to use and is the first of its kind anywhere. We’re also building the first chamber specific account management tool to help handle the hundreds of British companies we service each year – making our support efficient, stream lined and cost effective.
Our instant demand data engine analyses total imports (red) and UK performance (blue) in 4000 codes
We’ve tried to always bring a spirit of innovation to everything we do – which is precisely what our Ambassador Robin Barnett asked of the BPCC when this project first began. We’ve trialled an innovative strategic market entry programme for over 30 British food and drink companies representing over 130+ GREAT British food and drink products called #FoodisGREAT – Tase of Britain. This campaign is a multi-levelled market entry process which will, in September, see the biggest ever match-funded promotion of British food and drink ever seen in Poland and possibly the world. This week our British producers have been in town meeting with national and regional buyers, from big chains to wholesalers. The reaction from both consumers, buyers and producers to this complex market entry project has been overwhelmingly positive. Check out this short video to see how Stage 1 of the #FoodisGREAT project went.
HM Ambassador Robin Barnett checking out just some of the innovative food and drink products in our #FoodisGREAT campaign
We’ve also built the first ever British Business Centre in a market, part of the Government’s desire to see physical landing spaces for UK exporters in high opportunity markets. Since launching the space in July 2013, we’ve seen hundreds of British and Polish businesses pass through our doors, and we’ve collected information on them along the way. We’ve hosted product launches, political events, networkers and business mixers for thousands of companies. We’ve seen UK companies take advantage of our unique mix of hot-desking and free wi-fi and meeting room space. To quote just one user, the ‘facility is first-class.’ And it made the ideal space to host businesses from the East of England on a trade mission this year. Our webinar facilities, going on-stream shortly, will allow us to communicate with hundreds of UK partners to communicate business opportunities in Poland. Check out this 1 minute video to see the Business Centre offer.
Our Business Centre is Grade A business space in central Warsaw offering hot-desking, meeting rooms, access to UKTI and BPCC advisors and events space.
But most importantly our team of 15 business consultants and researchers have been busy creating a high quality suite of consultancy services, charged at a matched rate to our UKTI xcolleagues, with whom we co-operate to deliver campaigns, projects and provide advisory services for companies of all sizes across a wide range of sectors. Connecting Business, Creating Trade was the strapline we came up with as a team in July 2013 and I am pleased to see that this was not just yet another meaningless corporate slogan, but an accurate summary of a high performing British Polish Chamber of Commerce team. A team that’s been busy working to grow a business supporting UK companies with a high quality package of risk analysis, competitor identification, price point studies, route to market solutions, sales and marketing proposals and business partner, distributor and representative identification. It’s this work we’re most proud of having developed so quickly and to date we’ve helped British business over 750 times.
None of this would have been possible without the support and expertise of our colleagues within UK Trade & Investment in both the UK and Poland. BPCC Trade is just one part of UKTI’s mission to increase the number of UK exporters to 100,000 by 2020 and to double our annual exports to £1 trillion. This next year will see us developing our business model and helping more companies than ever – here’s to another several hundred business cards this coming financial year!
Patrick Ney is the Director of BPCC Trade. For more - get in touch with BPCC here.
All views expressed in guest blogs are that of the authors, and not of the British Chambers of Commerce.