There is a fair amount of head-scratching in Portugal about why domestic businesses which produce a decent quality product at an attractive price do not export more. The general answer given is that they are missing the magic export sauce: a mixture of sly branding, international contacts and expensive marketing. Whilst there is some truth in the idea that there are many Portuguese businesses which make a good product, but have little grasp of the dark arts of sales, the failure to export more generally runs deeper than this.
It is perfectly possible have a successful export business in Portugal without using these dark arts and the key is to run a business along a more formal structure that overseas businesses can relate to, rather than the more informal way of doing business that typifies so many Portuguese firms. A lot of Portuguese firms are still run by their founder, who will often run their business as a personal fiefdom, rather than relying on formal structures, delegation of authority, hiring expertise, a well-defined procedures for the various functions of the business and so on.
A business that is run along these more formal lines can much more easily plug into an international trading business, because it will be a more predictable and reliable beast, rather than relying on the whim and force of character of its leadership. The Portuguese Government has recently announced that there will be grants of €7500 made available for companies to contract in some marketing expertise, which suggests a reliance on the magic sauce theory of exporting. What so many Portuguese companies need most to increase their exports is help with their management structure and practices to make to allow them to grow out of the shadow of their founder.
Here at Portugal works, along with our partner Portuguese consultancy company, Infeira, the work we are trying to do to help Portuguese businesses to export more is to start with improving basic good business practice to give the company a sound formal structure and only when this is in place to start with the secret sauce.
If your company is based in northern or central Portugal and is looking for help to prepare for the international market space (and to get hold of some secret export sauce), please contact us at PortugalWorks. If you are looking to register a company in the UK, speak to our friends at Prosec.