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How to dip your toe into international waters

If the weak U.S. economy has thwarted your efforts to grow your business, consider this: 96% of consumers live outside the United States, and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries.* Only 13% of small employing businesses and 39% of small manufacturers export, yet companies of all sizes can benefit from export sales.**

Differences in currency, culture and language can make the idea of reaching foreign customers intimidating. Take the following steps to determine if your company is ready to go global.

Develop a compliance plan
Federal rules and restrictions can be complex, in part to help keep exports that may have military applications out of the hands of countries or people who might pose a threat to our nation. Failure to follow U.S. export laws will not only hurt your bottom line, it could result in serious civil and criminal penalties.

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 When endeavoring to export, it is wise to find a good attorney who specializes in export services. He or she can help you develop an export compliance plan. This plan should demonstrate that you understand your responsibilities, have classified your product correctly, know who your customers are and are complying with export restrictions.

Know your customer
Determining which markets to enter may seem daunting when considering a world of opportunity. Yet federal restrictions help narrow the field. Government agencies including the U.S. Commerce, State and Treasury Departments, along with the Small Business Administration, are good sources of information about export rules and restrictions. These agencies also offer free information about possible overseas markets and business partners.

When looking for international buyers, another factor to consider is the cost to your potential customers of doing business with you. You can help minimize import duties, taxes and fees (and make your products more attractive to prospective buyers) by focusing on countries with which the United States has free-trade agreements.

Adding an international component to your business may require additional financing to help achieve your goals. We’re here to partner with you.  

* Source: Small Business Administration,
** Source: National Federation of Independent Business,