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Tracy Tosta

Tracy Tosta

published on December 22, 2017 - 11:59 AM
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While the thought of exporting can seem challenging and intimidating, think about the fact that 95% of the worlds’ population lives outside of the United States. For many businesses, when contemplating this statistic, the vision of untapped market potential may shift ones mindset; exporting may not only seem like a necessity, but essential for the long term health of their company. Fortunately, for those companies thinking about exporting, there are many resources available through a vast network of agencies to build the capital and stability needed for their first international purchase order.

The Center for International Trade Development (CITD) and U.S. Commercial Service are two of the best resources available to educate and prepare businesses for exporting. At the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) we felt that now is a prime moment, having just completed the second portion of the Global Cities Initiative, and further educating our staff on exporting practices by recently attending a training seminar for exporters created by CITD. Director Alicia Rios and Larry Dixon, an international business consultant with 40 years of experience, went into detail about different types of contracts and some best practices for exporters.

While there is no clear-cut definition of who should and should not export, there is a profile of the most common exporters. These businesses generally have fewer than 50 employees and sales from $1-10 million. In fact, CITD provides a free interactive Export Readiness Assessment tool after registering with their website. Fear not if you score low on the readiness test; all businesses can rely on some key agencies, especially the EDC, to assist them in tuning into a network of free, subsidized or low cost services that strengthen the core business structure on the path toward growth and export.

Key exporting benefits:

  • Increased sales
  • Diversified market risk
  • Extended product lifecycles

Successful exporter attributes:

  • Commitment of management
    • If you don’t have the boss’ buy in, long term planning may fall apart

  • Competitive product, and the ability to adapt to the importing country’s needs
    • First rule of international business is to know who you are working with — understanding your buyer’s needs, cultural differences and standard business practices will make for a smoother deal

When diving deeper into the practicalities involved with the export process, we’ve often turned to our partners Glen Roberts and Bernadette Rojas with U.S. Commercial Service, a branch of the Department of Commerce. The counseling provided to American exporters and the department’s work establishing and maintaining trade relationships in other countries makes them a fundamental resource. They do this from over a hundred domestic offices and engagement in over 75 foreign countries. In fact, they are even local. We once again turn to Bernadette to reveal export resources and conclude with answers to common questions:

If an existing business is interested in exporting, what is the first thing they should do?

“Small and medium-sized businesses interested in exporting should determine what countries represent a viable market for their products or services.  Market research helps clients develop an understanding of their company’s potential in overseas territories.”

What is the biggest misconception you find when helping new exporters?

“The biggest misconception new exporters have is that exporting is too complicated and unprofitable. New processes seem overwhelming; however, taking a ‘step-by-step’ approach to exporting easily dispels misconceptions.”

How do you know a potential exporter has an internationally marketable product?

“A key indicator for international marketability is an exporter’s success in the domestic market. Generally, companies that are successful in the U.S. have great potential in foreign markets. Also, prospective exporters should pay attention to website analytics as the data may determine where global leads originate.”

What financial protection does the federal government offer for starting or growing exports?

“The Export Import Bank’s (EXIM) credit insurance may protect an exporter’s accounts receivables. The policy may allow exporters to extend credit terms to foreign customers, insure against nonpayment from international buyers, cover both commercial and political risks and arrange financing through a lender by using insured receivables as additional collateral.”

Best kept secret in exporting?

“The U.S. Commercial Service helps businesses identify, vet, and arrange meetings with interested partners in overseas market. The organization saves businesses valuable time and money by identifying best prospects for a company’s product or service.” 

Tracy Tosta is an economic development specialist with the Fresno County Economic Development Corp.

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