Walking through bazaar

Trade Matters: What you should know about doing business internationally.

Have you been thinking about doing business internationally? Have you been contacted by a foreign buyer, or do you supply to a company that exports? In today’s global economy, trade is all around us, and you may have considered selling your product or service abroad. But, life is busy, and it would take some research and effort to see if exporting is right for your business. To save business owners some time, the international banking group at Commerce recently organized a seminar on international business called Trade Matters. Hosted in Downtown Kansas City, the event brought together the trade community, including representatives from local, state and national organizations, to give business owners more information about exporting, and to help shape the conversation around global trade. Read on for key takeaways on the benefits of trade, how to get started and where to look for help.

Meet the panel speakers.

Nyamusi K. Igambi, director, U.S. Commercial Service – International Trade Administration/U.S. Department of Commerce

Ivry Karamitros, director, World Trade Center Kansas City

Mark Klein, regional director, The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank)

Larry Cresswell, regional manager, Export Assistance Center, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Getting started is easier than it may seem.

Selling to a new customer in another country is admittedly intimidating. Business as usual can be challenging as it is, let alone when the buyer’s expectations, customs and language are different than yours. It can also be difficult to break into foreign markets, and you may feel like you don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, there are allies at trade organizations, government agencies, your local bank and other organizations that are ready to help. The World Trade Center and U.S. Commercial Service are both good places to start when you’re looking for more information about exporting. They can connect you to a rich network of resources, contacts and expertise, as well as recommend what steps to take based on your business’ products or services and market potential.

Very often, organizations that support exporters offer consultation services, like international business advisors, that will meet with you one on one, assess the opportunity for your business and guide you through the process of exporting. Trade shows and trade missions give business owners the opportunity to network and form relationships with foreign buyers and potential dealers or distributors. “[Trade shows] are a great way to test the waters and see what opportunities are in your market,” said Nyamusi Igambi.

Almost anyone can export.

You don’t have to be a large company to start trading globally. You also don’t have to sell a product; service providers like engineering and architecture firms, hospitals and IT companies can export, too. If you provide something of value and are interested in expanding your customer base, you are probably eligible to export. As Ivry Karamitros said, “Outside of a gas station or laundromat, I haven’t encountered a business that isn’t viable internationally.” Whether you’re a small tech design firm, parts manufacturer or a hospital, you have the potential to export. The trick is working with knowledgeable contacts to find the right market for your business and get rolling.

Trade is good for your business, your community and the economy.

There are many reasons why trade is good for the global economy, but there is also plenty of political controversy that comes with it. But when you take a close look, companies who export ultimately benefit their community and the U.S. economy. They bring foreign revenue home, and, as they grow, they are able to hire more people. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), new jobs created by exporters can offer up to 13% higher wages. “The best way to develop communities is to support exporters,” said Larry Cresswell of the SBA. Many governors, mayors and other political figures throughout the country recognize the opportunity for their local economy and have committed to promoting trade in their business communities.

You don’t have to face the financial challenges alone.

Because foreign governments sometimes assist their companies with subsidies, it can be difficult for U.S. companies to compete for big contracts. The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) and the SBA help level the playing field. When a bank is hesitant to finance an international deal, EXIM and the SBA can help offset the risk with options like working capital guarantees, foreign buyer financing and export credit insurance. “If your bank is saying no, I can’t turn it into a yes,” said Mark Klein. “But I can turn a ‘yes, but…’ into a yes.” Being strategic – and creative – can help a business secure financing for a foreign contract that they otherwise may have not been able to get.

Overall, when you’re facing the possibility – and challenge – of doing business internationally, you’re not alone. There are people eager to help, because exporting can grow your business, support your community and contribute to the U.S. economy. American companies are well-positioned to compete overseas with their strong reputations for quality products and services. Yet, only about 1% of American companies currently export. The goal of the Trade Matters event was to show business owners how readily they can seize the opportunity of going global. For more information and a list of resources for getting started, please read “Thinking about exporting? Here’s how to get started.”