Here, the Export Finance Australia team shares key insights from the past year, plus 6 top tips for businesses looking to rebuild and drive growth in 2021 and beyond.

04 May 2021

Australian businesses were hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic. The number of businesses contacting Export Finance Australia for help spiked in April 2020, increasing three-fold on normal levels.

Export Finance Australia is the Australian Government’s export credit agency. It helps Australian businesses go global by providing loans, guarantees and bonds to assist in their growth.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, we were very busy,” says Greg Caisley, Chief Customer Officer – SME. “For existing customers, we provided flexibility and relief with extensions and deferrals on their existing facilities. We also reached out to all businesses in our database to see how we could assist with financial solutions.”

How businesses survived and thrived

Being in close contact with so many businesses, Export Finance Australia saw the different ways businesses responded to the challenge. Some were able to adapt to survive and even thrive. Across those businesses that have done well, Export Finance Australia has observed some key themes.

  1. Diversifying and spreading risk: “What we’ve seen from businesses is that they’ve had to build resilience by spreading risk and building diversity across the business,” says Greg.

  2. Being agile: “Success came to those businesses that were flexible and agile,” says Greg. “There was no playbook – so businesses had to monitor the market and react as required.”

  3. Having a clear value proposition: “The successful businesses have been very tight around their communications,” says Andrew Perkins, Director SME Distribution. “They’ve been clear around what they’re bringing to the table and to potential new customers.”

  4. Getting creative to stay connected: “We’ve seen businesses really being creative about how they’re maintaining existing relationships with customers but also how they’re attracting new ones,” says Andrew.

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On the other side: rebuilding and driving growth

As businesses look to rebuild in a changed world, the team at Export Finance Australia shares some insights and advice for success.

  1. Access financial support
    “In the early stages of the pandemic, there was a very strong focus on cash and liquidity,” says Andrew. “I think it’s really important for businesses coming out the other side of the pandemic to keep that thinking front of mind as they plan for future growth.

    In addition, a lot of businesses have operated with reduced capital to keep the doors open. As businesses look to rebuild and grow, Andrew says many will benefit from capital support to reboot operations.

  2. Explore new markets
    “One of the key things we’re talking to a lot of businesses about is looking at new markets to diversify from areas with concentration risk,” says Greg. “Export Finance Australia can support them with finance to enter those new markets.

  3. Strengthen supply chains
    “Global supply chains were significantly impacted by COVID-19,” says Greg. “We’re looking at ways to support businesses to grow their supply chain resilience. For example, by increasing stock levels, investing in productivity and process improvements or diversifying suppliers, which could include onshoring some of that work in Australia.

  4. Be ready to seize opportunities
    Amid so much change, new opportunities are emerging. So businesses need to look for ways they can take advantage.

    We're seeing success stories of businesses being able to pivot into new markets," says Greg. One of our customers switched from clothing manufacturing to producing PPE. Another business had a product that wasn’t COVID-specific but was able to be adjusted to be used as a virus test kit for GPs.

    People are looking at what they’re already doing and adapted their approach to make it pandemic appropriate. We recommend businesses use this next growth stage to seize new opportunities to help their business grow.

  5. Build and leverage your network
    Surrounding yourself with the right support has never been more vital.

    “It’s so important to build your network and rely on it, and I think that’s even more important during the recovery and growth stage,” says Andrew. “SMEs are usually time-poor and don’t have the time to research well. So they need to mitigate that by having skilled experts who are able to direct you.”

  6. Celebrate your wins
    The final piece of advice from the team at Export Finance Australia is to take time to acknowledge your successes.

    “I’m very big on celebrating the wins,” says Andrew. “This has a big role to play coming out of the pandemic or any challenging time. As you look to recover, and can get some wins on the board, I think it’s really important to celebrate that.”

If you need finance to grow your business, or simply need a cashflow boost contact Export Finance Australia 1800 093 724 or visit exportfinance.gov.au/possible.


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