Expert Encourages Companies to Consider Exporting

March 23rd, 2012 by DWM Magazine

“Sometimes opportunities are right in front of you and you don’t see them,” said Bernie Weiss, of the Northern California and Sacramento Regional Center for International Trade Development, when addressing members of the Moulding and Millwork Producers Association (MMPA), who are meeting this week in Santa Monica, Calif. He advised members of how to take advantage of exporting opportunities and started with an example of a door and window manufacturer that had an opportunity right in front of it, but didn’t see it. He told of this San Diego window company that had a company from nearby Mexico come every few days to make window purchases.

“This company found out that an architect in Mexico really liked their windows and was specing them in lots of jobs,” said Weiss. “So the company put in an 800 number for customers in this area, hired someone who spoke Spanish and sales exploded.”

He then pointed out that a whopping two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is outside the United States proving this is an area many companies should look into. He admits there is a lot involved, but that’s not a reason to not do it.

“It can be intimidating but that factor should not stop you,” he said. “There is nothing involved that you cannot overcome.”

On the flip side, companies should not start exporting for the wrong reasons.

“It’s not a place to get rid of your excess inventory,” said Weiss.

Myths regarding exporting include thinking: I’m too small; I can’t afford it; I can’t compete; It’s too risky; It’s too complicated.

“Every part of business has a risk,” said Weiss. “Once you learn the steps and have the right resources, it’s not complicated.”

But Weiss said commitment from management is key and “if it doesn’t pay off you shouldn’t be doing it.”

But making money doesn’t come without costs.

“It takes more money to develop a foreign relationship,” said Weiss. Other costs include hiring and training staff, development of export marketing materials, market research and planning, advertising and sales promotion and export transaction costs, to name a few.

Companies that want to get started will want to take advantage of available resources, namely the U.S. Commerce Department.

“Ask to talk to their Foreign Commerce Service,” said Weiss. “Their entire mission is to help you make the sale. Their job is to help you find a buyer. They will even set up appointments for you and go with you on international visits with an interpreter. It doesn’t get easier than that.”

He also suggests talking to the Small Business Administration as there are loans for exports that are easier to get than those for domestic business. The U.S. Department of Agriculture can also provide assistance as MMPA companies offer wood products. Others include the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS).

“They (FAS) are waiting for you to call and say, ‘Can you help me out?’” said Weiss.

What’s the easiest way to explore exporting to international markets? Weiss said the answer is international trade shows and the Department of Commerce can help with that as well.

“They can take the 10,000 international trade shows per year and help you determine the best one for your needs,” said Weiss. “Their job is dependent on exports and they can pair you up with potential buyers at trade shows.”

Countries to consider for trade shows include Germany, China and Japan, and he pointed out that Germany is known for its large international trade shows, which put those in Las Vegas to shame.

He also encouraged attendees to check out the Department of Commerce website at www.export.gov.

“It is so deep and so detailed,” he said. “They have a step-by-step for everything so utilize it.”

Once companies have done their research they have to determine the best market to export and Weiss said companies should consider Europe as this is still a great market and the way they do business is similar to that of the United States.

Ones to avoid? “A lot of the developing countries have protective tariffs including Brazil,” said Weiss.

Weiss added that companies shouldn’t do all this work then forget to project to potential customers that they welcome foreign buyers.

“Your website has to welcome foreign buyers,” he said. “Find a student at a local college and let them have at it.” He added that this person should also make sure that the website is listed with google search engines for the countries in which they hope to attract business.

So there are many factors to take into consideration, but Weiss reminded attendees, “It does take time, money and patience” but there is nothing that can’t be overcome when it comes to exporting.

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