As North East England Chamber of Commerce’s global network training and network adviser, Jack Simpson provides key support to businesses seeking to extend their international reach. Here, he tells Steven Hugill about his role and how it allows him to champion the North East to a worldwide audience

You work within the North East England Chamber of Commerce’s international team as a global network training and network adviser. What does your role involve?

It is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s quite simple. I help businesses get insights and support in overseas markets, as well as increasing their understanding of the processes of international trade. I am working with our global members, those trading internationally and supporting members to develop global connections.

It’s strange that working from home has actually improved our connectivity – with web calls, we have much greater access to our Global Chambers. For example, right now we are talking with Ireland, the US and Japan about holding events in September, all to provide insight to their markets and outline their opportunities.

Tell me more about your career path. What made you choose this area of expertise?

I studied history and politics at university and found myself more interested in the international side of it, so I went on to do a Master’s in International Studies the year after graduating.

I then joined the Chamber as a policy adviser for Brexit and international trade. Some people thought I pulled the short straw – and I do have more grey hairs for it – but I loved it.

No two days were the same, I got so many opportunities to represent members views to MPs and be on radio or TV, which isn’t bad for a shy kid from Northumberland.

We started working more internationally with Global Chambers, and realised there was real potential there, and so I applied to move from the Policy team to the Global team. I’ve been here since February 2020.

What do you enjoy about your position?

Well, I was meant to go on a trade mission to Singapore until COVID-19 hit – that would have been cool!

But I love working with the Global Network, talking to Chambers across the world about what’s happening over there, and being able to talk about my home of the North East. It’s my two passions coming together.

You mention COVID-19 and Brexit. With the uncertainty they both continue to provide for business, what are the main challenges – and opportunities – facing North East operators in the export market?

Resources and competitiveness. Businesses have been asked to prepare for Brexit three times now. This takes a toll on cash, time, resources and even psychological resilience.

Now, on the back of COVID-19, businesses are being asked to prepare for a fourth time, which is why it is so important that the Government provides essential support and clear information as we approach the January deadline.

Brexit will mean we strike out as an independent trading nation. This provides new opportunities, like the trade talks with Japan, but it’s all about keeping a competitive edge on our counterparts, making sure our business, and regions, are more attractive overseas.

But this will all depend on the deals we agree…

How important a role do you think the North East England Chamber of Commerce plays in supporting the growth of the region’s business community?

It is extremely important. The Chamber’s International team provides a key service for export documentation and delivers accredited training to businesses. As we inch closer to Brexit, having trained staff in trading processes, and a Chamber that can help navigate whatever the new environment, will be vital.

I’d encourage all North East global businesses (members or not) to hold on to our email:

What would you say is the most important piece of advice for any company looking to export their goods or services?

Prepare well, and anyone can do it. The UK is probably one of the hardest markets to sell in, but, if you do your homework, have a plan, then exporting is easy! You’d be surprised what and where we sell to – trees to Dubai, tea to China, coffee to South America.

It can be done!