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Column: Doing business in a global market not easy, but rewarding

Question: In talking with another local entrepreneur, I realize that, even in rural Arizona, it’s possible to expand my business globally. However, I’m sure there are a number of risks. Would SCORE provide some guidelines for expanding into the global market?

Answer: With the Internet and social media increasing the ability to collaborate almost anywhere across the globe, it’s not a stretch to predict that more U.S. small businesses will embrace opportunities to reach customers beyond our borders.

Indeed, thousands of small businesses, which account for 99.7 percent of all employers (according to 2011 U.S. Census data) in the United States, export products and services to other countries. According to the U.S. Trade Commission in 2012, small and mid-size businesses comprised nearly 98 percent of U.S. companies in the international trade arena. In fact, they accounted for 33 percent of goods exported.

Your small business does have the opportunity to grow and thrive in a large, diverse global market. According to the Export.gov website, 96 percent of consumers and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power come from outside the United States. Doing business internationally offers advantages operationally and competitively through the potential to increase revenue and gain some protection from fluctuations in domestic markets.

But, that doesn’t mean doing business globally is easy. Entering markets in other countries requires attention to details you may not have had to address before.

Some risks and obstacles you might face in international ventures are:

• Issues in getting paid

• Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

• Corporate income tax in certain countries (Some charge extra taxes upon receiving goods.)

• Lofty shipping costs and unreliable postal services in other countries

• Trust issues with the partners or agents you’re working with

• Cultural expectations when conducting business

• Rules, restrictions, and license requirements of destination countries when shipping products

• Language barriers (e.g., in marketing materials, avoiding words and terms that may be unfamiliar or inappropriate for other cultures)

According to SCORE mentor Jin Han, who has more than 20 years of global consulting experience, “If you’re interested in going global, be sure to understand the local culture, and be sure to account for extra costs, be it in the form of tax, tariff, delivery costs and other costs.”

To gain additional insight about doing business globally, tap these resources that specialize in providing information and programs in support of international trade:

• SBA’s Office of International Trade—This office works with other federal agencies and public and private groups to encourage export opportunities for small businesses.

• U.S. State Department’s Direct Line to American Business program—This program gives small businesses direct access to U.S. Ambassadors, mission teams, and foreign government officials to explore market opportunities in their respective countries. The State Department also provides the Business Information Database System (BIDS), a portal to help U.S. businesses learn about international projects that may offer commercial opportunities.

• U.S. Commercial Service’s Gold Key Matching Service—This service can help small businesses find potential overseas business partners, agents, distributors, and sales representatives.

• Export.gov’s links to information about doing business in specific countries—These links offer insight and data about various countries’ cultures, business climates, market research, service providers, trade events, and other information. The breadth of information available varies from country to country.

“Doing business globally can be immensely rewarding, both financially and culturally,” shares Han. “However, there is also an added learning curve in order to reap the benefits, so be sure to perform due diligence, and seek advice where possible.”

Sign up today for the next Business Planning Workshop; 5 Wednesdays, April 19 to May 17. Only $90 for two people from the same business at Yavapai College. Go to http://northernarizona.score.org/localworkshops. Questions? Call 928-778-7438 email scoreoffice@scorenaz.org

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