PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION
BLACK COUNTRY INTERNATIONAL
MEET IAN STEVENS – BLACK COUNTRY BASED INTERNATIONAL CLUSTER ADVISOR FOR CLEAN GROWTH
Ian is a business development leader with expertise in B2B strategies, relationship building and client focused management.
With the Governments drive towards a green economy, and with the newly launched new 10-point energy plan, Ian looks at potential contracts and opportunities in overseas territories to find supply chain options for companies within the region.
His remit is to advise, support and deliver knowledge to businesses in the ‘Clean Growth’ area for companies in the region so they have enough collateral, to develop strategies and action plans that result in achieving export sales.
Here Ian answers questions about his role, the clients he works with and the kind of support offered.
What region do you cover?
I am based in the Black Country Chamber of Commerce in Wolverhampton, I was covering the four regions within the area, however, since the start of April, I have a Midlands wide remit, which covers from the Lincolnshire coast to Herefordshire.
Do you have a sector focus?
My focus is on Clean Growth which is a cross-cutting theme that covers most sectors within the economy, so on a positive note, I get the opportunity to speak to companies from all different disciplines, which is both interesting and challenging.
Achieving clean growth, while ensuring an affordable energy supply for businesses and consumers, is at the heart of the UK’s Industrial Strategy.
It is something that all business needs to embrace. It will increase productivity, create good jobs, boost earning power for people right across the country, and help protect the climate and environment upon which we and future generations depend.
The subject offers so many opportunities for the region as the Green Economy will become the next Industrial Revolution, we need our local traditional companies to embrace new ideas and to seek carbon neutrality and achieving energy efficiencies.
What did you do before you became an International Trade Adviser?
I am an engineer by trade, so my formative years were working for an automotive supplier, I have also been fortunate enough to move into sales positions which have been both the UK and overseas, so this has given me a good perspective of how companies work in different regions, and also learn both the expectancy and processes which come from different cultures.
I have worked with some exciting blue-chip clients which have allowed me to travel to some really interesting parts of the world.
Which countries have you visited?
I have been extremely lucky in that I have been able to visit all continents of the globe except for Australasia.
My favourite places to visit are probably in Asia with Hong Kong and Tokyo at the top of my list. I enjoy the challenge of trying to blend in when visiting new countries and to try and absorb the variety and the diversity of visiting new places.
The important thing is to be able to immerse yourself in the new cultures and gain new experiences.
Do you speak any other languages?
I am embarrassed to say no. I can survive with some schoolboy phrases learnt, but it would be good to be able to be fluent in other languages.
What kind of advice and support do you offer your clients?
I primarily work on a 121 basis with clients and once they get over suspicion of why does a Government department want to talk to me, especially with SME’s, it is good that they can use the DIT team as a sounding board.
We give impartial suggestions to support their businesses, and our experience and sector knowledge can help with introductions into overseas markets. The role is very much a knowledge transfer, to enable the clients to make informed decisions and to maximise their business opportunities.
I always feel that my role is to champion the local supply chain to match and enable the clients to get the right type of opportunities.
What skills do you need as an ITA?
A good rapport with the customer and the ability to quickly use your commercial awareness to give informed suggestions.
You need to be focused and organised and this means you need to be a good listener; you also need to be creative to help the client find the right path for themselves. In many ways, you become the best customer service person you can be to make sure the client gets all the information, and you hope that they can benefit from your experiences.
What do you like about your role?
I think it is the constant stream of interactions, even if it is by some video chat media, we all like to talk and being able to just come up with ideas and build relationships with the clients is probably the most rewarding part of the role.
Every minor success you get with a client means so much, especially when you think it could mean the client can add extra staff or move into new markets.
Tell us about your clients
They are both diverse and an interesting cluster, by covering the entire economy it means a wider variety of subjects. Getting them to be creative and to find solutions to real-world problems is always something to be proud of.
And finally, what advice would you give a company looking to export into new markets?
Exporting in many ways is a ‘journey’. New markets are both exciting and sometimes confusing, but with advice and help and the client having a clear plan, enjoying the ride and the journey is a way of offering more options to the businesses.
To talk to an International Trade Adviser about how they can help your business to expand internationally call 0330 024 0820