America’s largest companies have been doing global business for decades. And with growth in global networks and communications, new markets have opened up for small business too. Since 2003, America’s small business exports have grown about 80%. They now account for nearly $500 billion in annual sales.
Exporting represents an enormous opportunity for small business. 96% of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. representing some two thirds of the world’s purchasing power. Exporting gives small businesses the opportunities to reach new markets, increase sales, maintain global competitiveness, and create jobs.
There are also socio-economic benefits for small businesses that embrace exporting, including better opportunities for employee advancement, a faster growth rate, and an 8.5% less likelihood of going out of business than other domestic businesses.
However, small business still represents only about 30% of export revenues, and more than half of small business exporters only ship to one country. And according to a recent Small Business Export Survey, 40% of those businesses surveyed expressed concern about entering new overseas markets because they weren’t sure where to start.
So just how can small business learn “everything there is to know about how to take a business global”?
While there are many resources on the Web related to international import and export trade, the best guide to exporting for small business comes from the U.S. government. Both Business.gov and the Small Business Administration offer a good deal of information to help small businesses break into the trade game. You can also refer to the government’s Export.gov site, which helps businesses plan international sales strategies and avoid regulatory pitfalls.
There are also a number of government programs that offer training, counseling, and financial assistance to small businesses wanting to export their products and services. You can find more about these with this Get Started in Exporting guide.
Exporting Basics to Consider
- Before you Start – Read this primer to help you assess your business’ export readiness, understand what you need to know and consider before pursuing an international sales strategy, and, when you are ready, develop and implement your export strategy.
- Commercializing your Product or Service for the Global Market – Get information on developing, marketing, and exporting your products here.
- Trade Agreements – Find out about how your small business can benefit and comply with international trade agreements by country and industry here.
- Finding Business Opportunities – If you are looking to bid on overseas contracts, grants or business opportunities, there are a few programs available to help you with your bid. These include the U.S Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The federal government also offers free in-person counseling services to help small business obtain export financing and locate business opportunities overseas.
- Export Controls and Licenses – Most export transactions do not require specific approval in the form of licenses from the U.S. government, although regulations regarding all exports must be followed. To determine whether a license is needed to export a particular commercial product or service, an exporter must first classify the item by identifying what is called an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) for the item. Several other federal agencies have specific export licensing requirements.
For general information on export licensing and regulations, visit Export.gov – Regulations and Licenses.