Exporting your goods can be a great way to expand your profit margins. We speak to the owners of one internationally renowned Brisbane-based SME about their experience with exporting.
Visual effects studio Alt.vfx was established in 2011 and creates visual effects for video content both here in Australia and abroad, with clients in New Zealand, the US, Canada and Japan.
But what has that experience been like for them, and what has Alt.vfx learnt?
My Business speaks with Alt.vfx's co-founders, executive creative director Colin Renshaw and executive producer Takeshi Takada about what exporting has meant for their business.
The exporting experience
“The US and the Japanese markets tend to be a lot more considered, longer time frames; there's a lot more preparation in projects,” Colin says.
“It doesn't necessarily make for a better result, it's just a different process.”
In comparison, work produced in Australia tends to have tighter budgets and timelines.
“The things here tend to be a little bit more, we're working in a faster pace, and sometimes we've got a few more restrictions with budget, but that creates a certain type of energy around a job, which we really thrive in”, says Colin.
He advises that each region has a unique aspect that has to be considered.
“For example, the Japanese market has a very unique approach to the ideas, creative, the editorial; it's very, very specific for Japan,” he says.
“The US, again, has a certain style, sense of humour, which is quite different from Australia's.”
And what does Australia have that other regions don’t? Our respect for our comedy.
“One of the things that we are lucky [to have] in Australia is we have, there's a certain … irreverence in the humour,” Colin says.
“We tend to get away with things here that you wouldn't necessarily get away with in the US or Japan in terms of ideas and concepts and pushing the boundaries of things.
“The process tends to be a little bit more free-form, and the involvement of the director and the creatives and creative team tends to be a little bit more collaborative.”
Managing currency risk
To minimise currency risk, Takeshi (pictured on the right) says Alt.vfx bills its clients in Australian dollars where possible.
"When [working] with American clients we bill them in American dollars, so there's no risk there at all as well, so we don't get too affected by currency fluctuations," he says.
"As an exporter, it is better for us when the dollar is weaker," says Colin (pictured left).
"We've definitely felt the surge in overseas interests in the last year or two, definitely above and beyond.
"The day-to-day stuff ... we obviously have a lot of expenses, we pay people in US dollars in certain areas, so we just try and keep the currency where the currency originated from, and that tends to mitigate our risk."
Takeshi adds: "We've been strategic about it. At the moment, currency's been in our favour, so we are focusing [in] overseas market[s] and we are putting a little bit of emphasis on the US market at the moment."
Exporting advice to keep in mind
It is these differences, and other nuances, that SMEs need to pick up on if they want to export goods or services overseas.
“Take a punt, really. That's what we've done,” says Takeshi.
“If you're going overseas and going to start from zero, make sure you put your best foot forward, and keep at it.”
Colin stresses that if you want to export, you need to have a sound understanding of the market you plan to go into.
“You just can't go in there with the same approach you've done in your own home market,” he says.
“You really need to understand how the clients think, what differences they may have in the way they approach things.”