I am delighted to welcome Louise Punter The Chief Executive for The Surrey Chamber of Commerce with her guest blog for Keep Thinking Big.

There has never been a more important time for businesses to push on forward regardless of future changes in our position in Europe. As a nation we are pretty good at talking ourselves into a decline, and there is no doubt that there will be some tough times to come; however we need to carry on delivering our goods and services, harnessing as much support as is available and ensuring we chip away at improving our productivity.

As the CEO of Surrey Chambers of Commerce I am unashamedly parochial as far as my county is concerned. Surrey is one of the most successful and productive areas for business in the UK. With an economy worth over £37bn and a net return of taxes to the government of more than £6bn, it’s a county that embraces innovation and is a fantastic location to run a business. Having said that it is particularly well placed to reach customers across the globe and it is these markets that we should be exploiting as soon as we can. British products are in high demand around the world and the global profile is at an all-time high. Only around 20% of British SME’s are already exporting their goods and services so the potential for growth is enormous.

These companies, who venture into new export markets, tend to be rewarded both directly through boosted turnover, and indirectly through improved levels of efficiency, innovation and credibility. Exporting enables companies to diversify their portfolios and to weather changes in the domestic economy. Exporting helps small companies grow and become more competitive in all their markets. Trading in new markets leads to the potential increase of sales and profits as well as gaining market share.

So what stops businesses exporting?  Whether a business is new to importing/exporting or an experienced exporter looking to expand into new overseas markets, there are many regulations and trade barriers to consider. Using our expert contacts we can help businesses to unravel the complexities of selling internationally. The International Trade team at Surrey Chambers of Commerce, ExportSurrey, provides friendly, professional advice and assistance to help businesses trade internationally.

We are passionate about the business benefits that trading overseas can bring. We can  link local businesses with practical support to help them export for the first time or expand on existing activities into new countries. ExportSurrey acts as a signpost service that can help a business to get the advice they need in today’s competitive global market. We work closely with Government organisations such as UK Trade and Investment, HM Revenue and Customs and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in addition to other Chambers of Commerce, Embassies and banks. Our comprehensive country fact files are available free to our customers.

As we go forward into the unchartered waters of Brexit we will be influencing the many agreements which will need to be made through our network of 52 accredited chambers led by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The BCC is the authentic voice for British business and a leading commentator on the UK economy, drawing on the powerful network of accredited Chambers like Surrey.

They represent business interests in Westminster and Brussels and facilitate a global network of Overseas Chambers and Business Groups in key markets, allowing us locally to connect a business directly to a chamber overseas. So whatever happens over the next few months and years we will always have a short-cut to business opportunities overseas and I will continue to fly the flag, or rather the many flags, for doing business abroad!

Surrey Chambers of Commerce

Sitting at the heart of the business community, Surrey Chambers of Commerce, one of 52 accredited Chambers, has acted as a catalyst by connecting local businesses to opportunities, skills, knowledge and valuable contacts for over 25 years. With a membership representing every sector of the economy and every size of company, the Chamber works hard to ensure that the continued growth of Surrey takes into account the needs of business.

We help businesses to grow and develop, by promoting them, keeping them informed and representing them locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally. Surrey Chambers of Commerce is an integral part of the Surrey business support network and alongside its partners offers specialist advice on a huge range of fundamental issues facing local businesses. We have a number of local town chambers affiliated to Surrey Chambers which enables us to provide an even stronger local business voice. The chambers we work with are Chertsey, Cranleigh, Dorking, Godalming, Horley, Leatherhead and Woking and the Woking Asian Business Forum is also affiliated.

Louise Punter

Louise Punter has worked as the Chief Executive of Surrey Chambers of Commerce for 15 years, following 17 years working in manufacturing and business services. She started her career as a sponsored student with Metal Box, a major packaging company, working in most functions and many locations. This was followed by a 5 year career break, during which time two daughters were born and an MBA achieved.

After a short return to CarnaudMetalBox she then spent 3 years as the Marketing Director of an international conformity assessment organisation, Bureau Veritas. Whilst building Surrey Chambers into a strong representative organisation for Surrey businesses, Louise has become involved in all sectors of the community. She is a Board member of Surrey Young Enterprise, a member of the 14-19 strategic Board (for young people), on the Civilian-Military Partnership Board and a director of the EnterpriseM3 Local Enterprise Partnership. She has two daughters, one a musical theatre actress and the other training to be a doctor.