Pictured above: Loading a shipment for Taiwan
Navigating the treacherous waters of exporting can be intimidating for small businesses to begin with. Now couple that with providing lightning protection and industrial safety equipment worldwide. Companies seeking to export their goods face numerous obstacles such as finding a distribution partner they trust, various restrictions, tariffs, shipping logistics and even the culture of the country. The fact is, business owners must anticipate any barriers they might face during the process in order to be successful. Imagine, when a customs agent opens a container and finds a dismantled DAS array?
A key component to having a great export plan starts with research as well as representatives who have your best interest in mind, because each country has its own restrictions and regulations exporters must follow to properly distribute products and services within those borders. How do you find such resources? At Lightning Eliminators we work very closely with the U.S. Government agencies, who are a wealth of information, but have programs that enable us to find the right people throughout the world. The return has been substantial for us. This iGlobal Stores blog post is a great place to start for information on shipments and clearance restrictions.
Back in 2010, President Obama set a goal to double American exports by 2015. According to a recent National Small Business Association (NSBA) survey, more small businesses are exporting today than just three short years ago. In the same survey, small business owners expressed the need for more federal support to “improve availability of information and consolidate federal agencies as a way to provide a one-stop-shop.”
There are practical steps each business should take when selling overseas in order to be successful. In this Washington Post article (also featured below), Avram Saunders, CEO of Lightning Eliminators & Consultants (LEC), offers valuable recommendations for growing your market in unknown territories and advice on how to leverage key relationships with vendors, distributors and government officials. These tips are derived from obstacles LEC has encountered and overcome when exporting lightning protection products to countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Norway and Sweden just to name a few. The steps we’ve implemented have helped to grow our export business nearly 200% in the past four years.
Small business advice: How to start exporting
By Avram Saunders – Featured in the Washington Post
Ninety-six percent of all consumers live outside the United States, which makes exporting your products a highly effective way to expand your small company’s customer base and boost your bottom line.
However, it isn’t always easy to get started.
There are plenty of potential pitfalls, and effectively navigating around them is critical. Our company now does more than half of our business abroad, but we had to learn some hard lessons along the way.
The following are the most valuable recommendations I can offer to help you dodge the landmines and grow your market.
1. Identify strategic target markets.
Free trade agreements substantially reduce the headaches associated with exporting. Consider beginning with countries that have solid trade relationships with the United States and fit your target market.
Between NAFTA, CAFTA-DR and TPP, there are 18 free trade countries to consider. There’s also a wealth of additional information about trade agreements at www.ustr.gov.
2. Secure reliable, trustworthy in-country representation.
Given geographic challenges, cultural differences and time zone issues, you need eyes and ears on the ground to represent you. But you also need to set clear parameters for exactly what your representatives are and are not responsible for.
The Gold Key Matching Service, offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration (ITA), connects U.S. businesses with potential overseas agents, distributors, sales representatives and business partners.
Our company most recently took advantage of this service to help us build our business in the Australian market. Building an end-to-end network of representatives that serve your interests is essential.