Archive for the 'Exporting Importing' Category

Three new reasons to expand your market horizons

More than ever, 21st century small businesses have reasons and resources to expand opportunities beyond local markets, including international trade, and specifically exporting. Yet even though 97% of all U.S. exporters are small companies, only a fraction of that sector are exporters.

But there’s good news that should cause the number of small exporters to increase. The convergence of new technology, a global “new economy” culture more inclusive of small businesses, and believe it or not, help from the government, are making it easier for small firms to expand their market reach. But easier doesn’t mean effortless, inexpensive or justified, which are three of the key factors of any export strategy.

Let’s take a look at the possibilities of creating a trade strategy by getting help with those three factors, with emphasis on help from the government.

Effort
For a long time, exporting was the domain of those large firms that could afford to have international professionals on payroll or contract. The education and prospecting process alone was daunting enough to dampen the ardor of even the most determined prospective small exporter, let alone the actual execution of doing business abroad.

But today, it’s hard to imagine something with so much potential being as easy as walking into one of the 100+ U.S. Commercial Service offices (a Department of Commerce division) around the U.S. and asking them to help you begin the education and prospecting process. They have the staff, information and resources to get you started, and will help you along your export strategy journey. And any associated costs are minimal.

Expense
It wasn’t so long ago that someone had to physically travel to foreign markets, establish relationships with agents and customers, and then demonstrate the goods in-country. For most small businesses, those steps were financially prohibitive.

Today, that same Commercial Service office will help you find foreign prospects, coordinate introductions and demonstrations, and bring the parties together in the early stages of a relationship without prohibitive expense. It’s all done by video conference meetings in the Commercial Service office, between you and a prospect they likely helped you find. So by the time you make a significant investment, it will be spent a lot closer to fulfilling a sale. And you’ll consider any associated fees a bargain.

Justification
How do you justify developing an international strategy? Why spend time and resources trying to sell your stuff on the other side of the planet when customers are right next door? Consider these reasons:

  • More than 96% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States.
  • This year millions of Earthlings will have a smartphone for the first time who’ve never before been on the Internet or owned a computer. Don’t wait until some of them find you online to begin your international export preparation.
  • There are many examples of small businesses that minimized a downturn in the U.S. economy because their international strategy took up the slack.

New technology, new attitudes, new resources, and yes, help from the government, are bringing the world closer to your business’s door step. But you have to make the effort to meet the world halfway. Take your first step here: www.export.gov.

Write this on a rock … Education, expense, justification – check, check and check.

SBA Poll: Are you outsourcing?

The Question:
How much outsourcing of tasks (payroll, accounting, web development, etc.) do you do?

24% - We outsource anything we can that isn’t our core competency.

39% - We do some outsourcing and expect to do more.

17% - We haven’t done any outsourcing but probably should.

20% - We don’t outsource and don’t plan to.

My Comments:
One of the most powerful and important small business management practices of the past generation is outsourcing: contracting with another person or company to perform certain tasks your business needs but is not good at. You should focus on your core competencies - usually whatever touches customers - and let someone else perform the non-core competency tasks.

As you can see from our responses to this week’s online poll, 63% are doing at least some outsourcing. I’m extremely pleased to see these numbers, but more than one-third are still MIA as outsourcers. This will change in time.

I’ll have more to say about outsourcing in an upcoming Feature Article, including the difference between internal and external outsourcing. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

During a recent segment on The Small Business Advocate® Show I explain how outsourcing could help make you business run more efficiently. Click the link below to listen.

Use outsourcing to get that last drop of operating efficiency

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Connecting with global prospects and getting paid

This is the second of two articles on small businesses going global.

In the first article, I allowed that it can be exciting for business leaders to imagine a global prospect base of more than seven billion people. But for a small business to imagine an export strategy, it’s at once exciting and intimidating because of the three elemental global business questions, the first of which we focused on last time: Who are my global prospects? Now let’s focuses on the other two: How to connect with them and how to get paid.

The good news is that there are two government agencies standing by to answer both of these questions. Each one provides digital information, human assistance and global networks designed to help a small business maximize its opportunity to create and execute a successful export strategy.

The, “How do I connect with global prospect?” question can be answered by the U.S. Commercial Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This should be your first stop for educationon finding and converting global prospects into customers.

When you consider all of their resources, the U.S. Commercial Service is a virtual one-stop shop for developing and executing a small business export strategy: a great website (Export.gov); a toll-free number (800-872-872) answered by a real person; over 100 offices around the U.S., plus dozens more around the globe you can walk right into and ask for help; and their book, A Basic Guide to Exporting, includes an excellent tutorial and several case studies.

All of that help is free, with the exception of the book and any direct expenses incurred on your behalf.

Export-Import Bank of the United States (ExIm.gov) can answer the “how do I get paid” question on many levels.

Part of the U.S. government, Ex-Im Bank will assist with the financial elements of your export sale. They will working with the banks on both sides of the transaction to coordinate funds transfers, provide loan guarantees, and even pre-delivery working capital for you and post-delivery financing for your customer.

For generations, big firms have owned the franchise on global business. But shifts in technology and demographics are making the global marketplace more compelling and feasible for small businesses.

Contact these two organizations and let them help you develop a global business strategy.

The global marketplace – and 7 billion prospects – are waiting for you.

I talked more about identifying your global prospects and growing your business through exporting on my radio show this week. Take a few minutes and click on one of the links below to listen or download.

Identifying prospects for your global business strategy

Connecting with global prospects and get paid

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Identifying your small business global prospects

In case you haven’t heard, the seven billionth Earthling was born recently.

For the global marketplace, seven billion prospects are exciting. But for growing American small businesses, 96% of those folks live outside the U.S.

Once, small business growth meant expanding to the next county. But in the 21st century, shifts in technologies and demographics have made expanding outside America’s four-walls increasingly compelling. But it has also produced three elemental global business questions: Who are my prospects, how do I connect with them and how do I get paid? Let’s focus on the “Who” first, with these global stats from National Geographic” (January 2011), plus my editorializing.

  • Nineteen percent of Earthlings are Chinese, 17% are Indian and 4% are American. By 2030, the first two will invert.
  • By gender, males barely edge out females: 1.01 to 1.0. But my demographic experts report wide swings in median age among countries, which must factor in any export strategy.
  • In a historical shift, just over half of Earthlings are now urbanites. Remember, city folk use different stuff than their country cousins.
  • Here are global workplace profiles: 40% of us work in services, 38% in agriculture and 22% in industry. This means different things to different industries, but it means something to all businesses.
  • English is the international language of business, but is the first language of only 5% of global prospects. When doing business outside the U.S., be culturally sensitive and patient with the translation process.
  • Breaking news: 82% of your global prospects are literate. If you can read and write you can improve your life, which explains the growth of the middle class in emerging markets. A growing global middle class means more affluent consumers.
  • Computers are luxuries for most Earthlings. But cell phone usage is exploding across the globe and billions who never owned a PC, or used the Internet, will soon do both with a smart phone. Two words, Benjamin: global mobile.

Even though India and China are much in the news, American small businesses should consider export opportunities in our own hemisphere first, especially where trade agreements are in place, like Canada, Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Chile.

In the next article we’ll address the other two elemental questions: How to connect with global prospects and how to get paid.

Consider business growth outside of America’s four walls.

I have an extensive library of interviews with many exporting experts on SmallBusinessAdvocate.com. Click here to listen or download any that look interesting.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!




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