This is the last of three installments (refer to Part 1 and Part 2) of an interview with export consultant Laurel Delaney in which she gives advice to small business owners and discusses the growth and challenges of the import-export industry.
What sectors and regions will see the healthiest economic growth, and why?
Growth will come from countries where it is easiest to do business. Everyone immediately thinks China and India because they are BEMs (big emerging markets) and vast in sheer size. BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are equally popular and targeted now too, but those countries are not easy to enter if you don't have a lot of financial backing and staying power.
The World Bank Group's Doing Business ranks countries on the ease of doing business. Singapore is listed as No. 1.
By clicking the headers, you can sort data by column. Fascinating information. It's useful for those who just aren't sure where to go first or next overseas.
What general advice do you have for small-business owners who want to expand internationally?
Go for it! Be pro-active about it. Don't wait until you feel expanding internationally is going to save your business because it won't at a late stage. Do some serious homework first. Visit the U.S. Commercial Service (one of my favorites) and find export information by country.
If you select China, for example, a world of information is at your fingertips. It's extraordinary. Click on Services for U.S. Companies and you have total (easy!) access to finding a partner to market research to trade events. There is absolutely no reason or excuse for SMEs not to do business internationally when places like this exist. Need I mention GlobeTrade?
Line up an expert dream team. Preparation is everything!
Find a good global shipper or freight forwarder (I highly recommend UPS - http://www.ups.com/globaladvisor). They've got the knowledge to not only walk you through the process but to do the process of preparing your goods for shipment, preparing documentation, setting up and collecting payment and seeing that your goods are delivered in a safe and efficient manner. A good shipper takes away a major pain point (risk) for small businesses.
Consult with your (hopefully international) banker. The larger the sale in U.S. dollars (or whatever currency), the more financing options you should explore. An experienced banker can help you finance an export sale, guide you in structuring competitive payment terms, or even advise you on risk factors before you transact business in a new overseas market.
A good accountant specializing in international taxation will help maximize your cash flow, limit your eventual worldwide tax exposure, and protect you from double taxation. The big accounting firms have offices in nearly every country in the world and can offer you a broad variety of global services.
An attorney well-versed in international trade will protect you from those who would take advantage of our inexperience in the global marketplace or from unknowingly perpetrating violations against you. Any one of the international law firms will be able to advise you on intellectual property issues, mergers, acquisitions and reorganization.
When you get close to the point of doing your first international deal, ask yourself: "What's the worst thing that can happen?" If you are thinking it, there's a likely chance it can happen, so protect yourself as much as you can in advance by consulting time and time again with your dream team. Don't leave anything to chance.