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PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION

BLACK COUNTRY INTERNATIONAL

MEET INTERNATIONAL TRADE ADVISOR: HEATHER CROCKER

Heather has a wealth of experience in advising and supporting businesses across a range of industry sectors including Advanced Manufacturing, Food & Drink, Construction, Engineering and Marine.

 

She joined the Department for International Trade (DIT) in June 2014, prior to which she worked for an agri-food business and in the transport industry, where she provided information and support for transport companies and for a Government organisation promoting business interests to policymakers.

 

Prosper spoke to Heather about her role, the clients she works with and the kind of support she offers.

 

What region do you cover?

I am based in the Black Country Chamber of Commerce in Wolverhampton, working across the four borough council areas in the Black Country: Dudley, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Walsall

Do you have a sector focus?

In my everyday role, I work with companies from all sectors, manufacturing, engineering, food and drink, construction, infrastructure, defence and security, creative, retail and healthcare. Alongside this I am the regional lead on Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Engineering Supply Chain, Marine and Space. 

What did you do before you became an International Trade Adviser?

I have been lucky to work for a number of organisations across both the private and public sectors. This has given me a wide and varied experience to help me support those businesses that I now have the privilege to work with.

 

Before I joined the DIT in 2014, I worked for an agri-food business selling into major UK food retailers and wholesale markets. I did a range of management activities including marketing and sales activity with customers, developing and maintaining food safety and audit processes and procedures as well as accounts and financial planning.

 

During my career, I have also worked in the transport industry in operations roles and then with a national transport trade association responsible for their Northern Region Team providing advice, support and training to businesses as well as representing their interests and lobbying Government.

 

Following that, I moved across to the public sector and spent 7 years working for a Government Agency in a Senior Transport Policy role ensuring that businesses interests and economic trading conditions were considered in the development of Government policy and investment programmes. 

Which countries have you visited?

Understanding different cultures and the impact that has on the products people buy, the way they behave, cannot be underestimated in trading with overseas customers and negotiating sales agreements. 

I got the travel bug in my 20s and over the years I have been lucky enough to visit and experience the varying cultures and economies of every continent. My travels have taken me to more than 30 countries across the world from Bhutan and Myanmar to Australia and New Zealand, USA and Canada to the Falkland Islands, China and Vietnam to Italy and Belgium, South Africa to Egypt and India to Ireland. 

Whilst most of my travel has been for pleasure, I have also travelled for work in the different roles I have had in my career. Working with overseas teams and joining businesses while they travel abroad. 

What kind of advice and support do you offer your clients?

The current economic climate has impacted on the ways that businesses are trading, and the type of advice and support businesses need at this time.

My role as an International Trade Advisor is to engage with companies who have an interest in developing sales in overseas markets, whether they are existing exporters, who want to generate more export sales and sell into new markets, or new to export at the very start of their journey and want to find out how to sell overseas.

 

I work with companies on a 121 basis so that I can focus support on their individual needs. 

To do this it is important to understand the business, its capabilities and capacity, the products or services it provides, current customers, how they access their marketplace, their competitors and export growth ambitions. 

Following our initial discussions, I would work with them to develop an export plan setting out clear actions, gathering information and undertaking research, connecting them to DIT colleagues in overseas offices and specialist advisers including digital trade advisors, routes to markets advisor, sector specialists and training webinars. I will also review any funding support which can assist in taking forward their export actions.

Alongside this, I am currently providing updates and information relating to the changes that will occur as we move forward to EU exit at the end of the year. It is important that businesses who are trading with the EU review and prepare for this.

What skills do you need as an ITA?

Being an ITA, you need to be organised in order to keep abreast of all the opportunities and activities, such as meet the buyer opportunities and sector or country briefings happening across our global network.  Being a generalist working across all sectors and all countries there is a lot to keep track of.

 

It is important to have good interpersonal and listening skills to identify and assess how DIT services and support can assist a client and meet their needs as well as having experience and knowledge in international trade. I like to build a good relationship with the companies that I work with so that they can trust the advice and guidance I can offer. 

What do you like about your role?

I love being able to support a company to develop and grow and see their success.  I like the challenge of finding the best way to support them to achieve their goals and secure new export orders.

 

I also like the fact that as an ITA you are always learning, there is so much to know and understand about doing business across the globe.  With every business challenge that you help to overcome you grow your own knowledge and experience.

Tell us about your clients

I work with such a diverse portfolio of companies including food brands, security and construction product manufacturers, engineering companies, automotive supply-chain manufacturers, chemical companies and retail suppliers.

And finally, what advice would you give a company looking to export into new markets?

As an International Trade Advisor, I can help you to understand the export opportunities out there for your business, provide tailored support, funding, market intelligence and help in finding contacts and customers in these challenging times. 

It does not matter whether you are new to export or experienced and looking to expand into new markets we can assist. 

If you would like to find out more please contact Heather at heather.crocker@mobile.trade.gov.uk

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