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This is the first in a four-part series focused on growing your business internationally.
In his recent 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 95 percent of today’s consumers who live outside the United States.
Over the coming weeks in The World section of OPEN Forum, U.S. Cabinet Officers and successful entrepreneurs will share their perspectives in a series designed to help you start or strengthen your business internationally. At FedEx, we’re proud to work with the Administration and our customers to grow export opportunities for small businesses like yours.
If the economic downturn taught us anything, it’s that all businesses are already connected to the global economy. The question has become: How do we best access the global economy to our advantage?
The answer, I think, starts with changing our perspective. To kick off this article series, here are four reasons to think differently about growing your business through international trade.
Going global isn’t the risky choice; it’s the safe one. Some business owners, community leaders and governments instinctively circle the wagons during an economic crisis, believing they can somehow insulate themselves from global financial turmoil. But is the changing global economy a threat, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
As every businessperson knows, the best way to manage risk is to diversify your customer portfolio. One way to do this is to access new customers around the world. At FedEx, we see our customers reaching new global opportunities every day. Many small businesses are already selling 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 have the two most important tools required for international business: an Internet connection and access to the world’s best global shipping provider.
Your existing skills will translate internationally better than you think. Does the thought of doing business in a foreign country feel unsettling? The barriers you sense may be perception more than reality.
I say embrace the challenge. It’s likely you have done this already — seeking out training or mentoring in areas you were unfamiliar with, such as marketing or finance. Your ability to evolve, to innovate, and to assess risk will benefit you as you develop or strengthen an international business.
Resources such as Export.gov can help you along the way. In an upcoming article in this series, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will explain how the Administration’s National Export Initiative and trade promotion efforts will help your business in a practical way.
Developing countries represent opportunity. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy — this is as true in the United States as it is in developing countries. I’ve seen 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 before 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.
Staying informed on trade policy can give you a competitive edge. The key markets you want to reach may still 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 Administration has committed to free trade so your business can compete abroad. Passing the pending U.S. trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea can level the playing field for U.S. businesses by removing virtually all trade barriers in these key markets. Another critical opportunity to remove trade barriers around the world is through an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Agenda negotiations. Finally, we welcome the Administration’s announcement that it’s joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations with seven key trade partners in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.
You can learn more about these opportunities on USTR’s Web site . But the Administration will need all our support to help you do more business abroad.
I’ve worked, lived and traveled internationally for most of my career. Despite the recent global downturn, I continue to see unprecedented international opportunities for small businesses throughout the world in the years ahead. People are more eager than ever to explore new business ideas, and the Web and global delivery services continue to create more efficient ways to access global markets. New logistics and transportation networks also continue to develop to serve a truly global marketplace.
As U.S. businesses have done so often in the past, we must seize this opportunity to grow at home by going global. Tune in to this space over the coming weeks to discover more about how you can go global to grow at home.