By Michael L. Ducker, FedEx Express COO and president of FedEx Express International.
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced his administration’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years. The president’s National Export Initiative represents an incredible opportunity for small businesses to access the world’s consumers — 95 percent of whom live outside the United States.
If the economic downturn taught us anything, it’s that all businesses already are connected to the global economy. The question has become: How do we best access the global economy to our advantage? The answer starts with changing our perspective.
Consider these four reasons to think differently about growing your business through international trade.
1. Going global isn’t the risky choice; it’s the safe one. During an economic crisis, the best way to manage risk is to diversify your customer portfolio. It’s Business 101. One way to do this is to access new customers around the world. At FedEx, we see our customers taking advantage of new global opportunities every day. Many small businesses already sell abroad, and in some cases this diversification has enabled them to weather trying economic conditions at home.
Taking your business across borders is likely easier than you think. In fact, if you’ve read this far, you already possess the two most important tools required for international business: an internet connection and access to the world’s best global shipping provider.
2. Your existing skills will translate internationally better than you think. Is the thought of doing business in another country unsettling? The barriers you sense might be perception more than reality.
Many businesses thrive when they embrace the challenge. It’s likely you have done this already — seeking training or mentoring in unfamiliar areas such as marketing or finance. Your ability to assess risk, evolve and innovate will benefit you as you develop or strengthen an international business.
Resources such as Export.gov can help you along the way with practical, hands-on advice.
3. Developing countries represent opportunity. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy — this is true in the U.S. just as it’s true in developing countries. Craftspeople in remote villages turn their wares into businesses that now sell to shops around the world, transforming local economies and bringing hope and prosperity where there was poverty.
Many developing countries are eager to partner with small businesses in the U.S. and benefit from their spirit of innovation. You can tap into this demand by finding local agents to help you scope out opportunities. There are many private and public sector tools to help you develop an international business plan that can work for you, no matter the size of your company.
4. Gain a competitive edge by staying informed on trade policy. The key markets you want to reach might maintain tariff and non-tariff barriers, preventing you from accessing new customers. An aggressive, market-opening trade policy is necessary to create opportunities for your business.
The Obama administration has committed to free trade so your business can compete abroad. Passage of U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea helps to level the playing field for U.S. businesses by removing virtually all trade barriers in these key markets. Other critical negotiations involve the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Agenda and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with seven key trade partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
Learn more about these opportunities on U.S Trade Representative website.
Unprecedented international opportunities abound for small businesses throughout the world. People are more eager than ever to explore new business ideas, and the internet and global delivery services continue to create more efficient ways to access international markets. As U.S. businesses have done so often in the past, we must seize this opportunity to grow at home by going global.
FedEx has launched their new online resource for small businesses, FedEx Get Ahead. Want fresh advice on increasing sales? How about expanding globally? You can find practical, real-world information on these topics and more, with articles like this on FedEx Get Ahead. You’ll also find information about products, tools and services that demonstrate how FedEx can help small businesses grow. Check out FedEx Get Ahead today — it’s free.