International Small Business Growth Strategies
It has been said that in the past decade, with the advent of the Internet and social media, the world has become much smaller. What might have been impossible to do in the 1970s or 80s without significant costs – such as contact with customers overseas – can now be done with a simple email or internet transaction. That is one of the many reasons the Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages U.S.-based small businesses to consider “going global” and exploring exporting to international markets.
The SBA says that 96% of consumers live outside the U.S. and that two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. If you sell products nationally – going international may not be that much more of a stretch.
“We are a local natural soap company with international ambitions,” says Sujoy Bhattacharya, Founder and CEO of Falls River Soap Company, “although there are a lot of important considerations before expanding internationally, there are a lot of resources and support available for small businesses.”
Here are some facts from the SBA that you might consider:
Make sure you are ready: Export.gov can help to determine if your small business is ready to take the giant leap into another time zone where you need a passport and a suitcase. This article site can help you decide whether your company is ready to sell or to do business in foreign markets. “Sometimes businesses rush too far too fast,” explains Todd William, founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino, an online reputation management company in New York City with clients across the United States, as well as the Dominican Republic,India, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Get help: The good news – you don’t have to make this international leap alone. There are experts in your area ready to help you go from regional or national to international. U.S. Export Centers and Trade Specialists can offer advice within your industry. According to the SBA, “The U.S. Commercial Service provides a network of export and industry specialists located in over 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries. These professionals provide free counseling and a variety of services to assist small and midsized U.S. business export efforts.”
U.S. Trade and Development Agency: This is an important fact – you must be in the database with this organization. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency or USTDA and provides a database of companies and individuals providing fee-based consulting services to small businesses interested in importing and exporting. The “…USTDA reserves 100% of the agency’s desk study and definitional mission contracts for small businesses. These contracts provide technical advice to USTDA staff so that they may evaluate potential investments in feasibility studies and other project planning services,” writes the USTDA on their website.
Create a business plan and study up: There are a number of resources for small businesses planning to do business overseas. “We source many of our most popular gold coins and bullion from foreign countries, such as Canada, China, South Africa and more,” explains Anthony Allen Anderson, VP of Sales and Marketing at GSI Exchange, a top rated precious metals dealer based in Calabasas, California. “You need to consider taxes, compliance and regulatory issues and a number of other considerations so a solid game plan is very important.” In additional to training and consulting services, the business plan is a road map that should not be ignored: “Creating an export business plan is important for defining your company’s present status, internal goals and commitment. You learn how to develop an export plan by assembling facts, identifying constraints and setting specific goals and objectives as milestones to success.”
Do the research and find the buyers: Government websites can offer a lot of helpful information for locating customers interested in partnering with your business. In addition, you may want to consider attending industry trade shows to find international customers and trading partners.
Find the money: Federal government financing, insurance and grant programs can help your company finance its transactions and assist in carrying your export operations. These resources help small businesses ensure foreign payment and manage or reduce currency and credit risk.
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