Colin McCullagh – 01 May, 2019 UK and Ireland Perspective

It would be easy and almost justified to give up on international trade with the dark clouds of Brexit hovering above and the distant thunder of Trump’s tariffs reverberating ever louder day by day.  With all the uncertainty, it’s not without merit to ask if the return is worth the risk. Well, fortunately, I have been lucky to have some recent experiences that reinforce why global trade is good for the soul as well as for business.

The benefits of market diversification, currency hedging, economies of scale and others are well documented, but the human element of personal enrichment is mostly overlooked.  I hope by sharing some of my recent experiences, it will shine some rays of light through the grey skies and bring back some meaning to the madness.

36 hours in Tunis airport transit lounge.  A kindly reminder to renew my seldom used Irish passport!  Suited and booted but confined to a transit lounge with metal benches for a bed and some fairly limited food options, it wasn’t the evening I had planned for! Yet from adversity came light.  On hearing my situation, one of my clients in Tunis who had just returned from Tokyo that day, promptly made up some sandwiches and made his way to the airport and got security to hand deliver them along with his coat, to serve as my blanket for the evening.  A Lifesaver!  I can’t imagine anyone doing the same at Heathrow.

In the same week, we secured a listing for a wonderful entrepreneur based in Tunis; Cotswold Fayre, a leading UK food distributor for independent retail stores.  Having never exported before and selling primarily through her delightful shop, The CEO was naturally nervous about making this leap.  We supported her through the registration process and the logistical challenges and in the end, she created the most elegant packaging for her delightful pates de fruits, coming to a shop near you this Christmas.   Our support meant a lot to her, but really, we were the beneficiaries of seeing an entrepreneur grow in confidence and realise her potential.

In January, we started working with a small Irish business that is bringing digital transformation to how care is delivered to people with learning disabilities, helping them achieve independence and get into paid work.  A rather shocking statistic of only 1 in 4 school leavers with learning disabilities go onto further education and only 17% of people of working age are in paid employment.   This must change.  Our client’s mission is to do just that and empower independence through technology.   Clients like this don’t come along often enough and my team are personally invested in its success and delighted to be spreading the word to companies, schools and colleges around the UK and soon into the US.   After just a couple of weeks of outreach, we secured our first sale.  Call it good timing or good fortune, but it gave my team great satisfaction and showed just how powerful this solution can be in scaling support for people with learning disabilities.  Entrepreneurs on a mission, like CEO Lisa Marie, are inspiring.  Started out of an emotional personal experience and driven by a very real global need, its life affirming that ordinary people have the courage and conviction to do extraordinary things.  And we are lucky to be part of the journey.

So, outside of Brexit, here are plenty of great things going on around the world and great people doing extraordinary things.  Get out there and make an impact on the world, you will be rewarded.