international business

Business is good. You’ve conquered the U.S. market. And now, you’re looking to expand internationally.

Your widgets could be big in Japan. But don’t miss these important steps before you launch your business into the next frontier.

“Whether you make exciting doodads or run a top-notch service company, chances are you are always in the market for more sales,” Rhett Power, co-founder of Wild Creations, wrote in this Inc. article. “Global exporting is the next frontier for many companies and a solid international expansion plan could potentially have tremendous impact on your bottom line. The fact is most people do not take advantage of this opportunity because of the mythological fears surrounding international export.”

Hire an EMC

The first step that Power advises is to do your research. You could hire an EMC (Export Management Company) to take care of all the details of exporting. If you go that route, Power suggests interviewing several candidates. The fee is typically paid through a commission.

But don’t be afraid to do the work yourself. You’ll need to determine which country is the best fit for your product, find a shipping service, work with an international bank, and locate buyers.

Use free resources

As Power emphasizes, there are many free resources to help, including online training from the International Trade Agency (ITA), U.S. Census Bureau Go Global Webinars, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The Small Business Association’s Export Business Planner can help you decide if you’re ready to expand your potential customer base from 300 million to 7 billion! Don’t buy into the myth that small firms cannot expand globally – 97 percent of exporters are small firms, according to the SBA.

Research the business culture

Once you’ve decided on a market, don’t forget to research its business culture, Christian Gaiser, CEO of the Bonai International Group, wrote in this Entrepreneur article. Gaiser, whose firm is based in Europe, said he quickly learned that positive feedback did not necessarily mean he was close to a deal in the United States.

“This is a cultural communication issue,” Gaiser wrote. “In Europe, it can take a fair amount of time before you get a ‘This is great.’ When it’s said, it generally means that your talks have really evolved. Remember to keep in mind cultural and language differences when having conversations with third parties. Don’t get tripped up by preconceived meanings and don’t make assumptions on the status of a conversation.”

Assemble your team

Once you have worked out the initial details, it’s time to assemble your team. Your EMC will do this for you. Or, you can get help from the federal government. From there, you’ll need a strong business plan.

“Knowing your sales goals beforehand will keep you on track and help eliminate mistakes,” said Power. “You may just be looking to supplement domestic sales with a new international market or you might be trying to become the newest worldwide sensation. Either way a plan is required. Once you’ve drafted your plan, execute. Don’t over think it. There are a lot of moving parts that can paralyze you and cause you to over think things. Don’t. Go with your gut and remember mistakes are a part of life. In the end you will be better off by doing something rather than nothing. Your best bet is to start small, learn the nuances and grow from there. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet and learn the game there will be nothing stopping you from substantial profits.”