President Barack Obama gave the American people exactly what they need right now in his State of the Union address. And he gave the small business community some much-needed recognition and plan for “winning the future.”
For those that didn’t tune into the speech, Obama spent a bulk of his speech addressing the the Big 3 for staying competitive in a global economy: innovation, education and infrastructure. And on all three accounts, the role of small business was a mainstay.
The mood of the president’s speech can best be felt in this section:
“…yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember — for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.”
Increasing American exports is one of the president’s goals for fortressing our economy. In fact, he wants to double American exports by 2014. Steven McGee points out that small businesses comprise more than 97 percent of exporters, accounting for almost 29 percent of export value. Not too shabby.
So for the small businesses out there looking to contribute to the new goal and expanding your company’s reach in the global economy: What’s the first step?
Well, first, you have to take a hard look in the mirror. Are you ready to do some homework? Exporting opens up new channels to new markets, new customers, new currencies for that matter. It’s a great way to take your business to the next level and can be incredibly rewarding. But like almost every other aspect of starting and running a business, it takes work.
If you’re looking in the mirror and you think you see a business owner with international markets, great! And there’s better news still: The U.S. Small Business Administration has a plethora of resources designed to help make this reflection a reality. So step away from the mirror, head over to your computer, and go to www.export.gov/begin.
The first thing you’ll do here is answer a quick, yes-or-no questionnaire about your business. This will — hopefully — reaffirm what you saw in the mirror. When you get your results back (the SBA has a rating scale to gauge your “readiness” to export from a logistical perspective), you’ll find links to more information regarding financing, production capacity, shipping, dealing with international inquiries, international market research… the list goes on.
If your head is spinning, that’s OK! In fact, I’d recommend reconsidering your decision to export if it wasn’t. Exporting is a business in and of itself, so it makes sense to find an industry expert. If you’re willing to relinquish some control of the process in exchange for learning from a specialist, investigate export management companies (EMCs in the biz). The Federation of International Trade Associations is a great resource for finding a good EMC match, as are trade associations and publications.
The world is getting smaller, which means gaining access to it is easier than ever. And the Obama administration is, as was made clear in the State of the Union, a business-friendly one. So if you want to move into exporting, remember to focus on the Big 3: innovation (not a problem for business owners!), education (the information is out there — now go get it!) and infrastructure (building the means necessary to making your export plans a reality). Once you’ve done your homework, write a separate export business plan. Having a written plan with incremental milestones will make the process less daunting.
Looking forward to your success story,
Have an issue that you want addressed? Leave me a comment with your suggestion, and we’ll tackle it on my next blog entry!