Are you considering growing your business by exporting your products to the US marketplace? There are opportunities to grow beyond your local borders for small businesses. Thorough planning will highlight what you need to know before it becomes a problem.
Strategic planning is absolutely crucial
If you have been one of those small business owners who has meandered along building a thriving business, it may feel odd to use a strategic planning process. However, this planning process will make obvious what you need to know before it costs your business too much.
Instinct might tell you that you’ve got a special product that American desire or that healthcare is a growing industry and your medical device would fill a competitive hole. You may even lead a technology company that is on the brink of increasing market share. Preparation through education and connecting with the right people and organisations is essential.
# 1. Planning begins with “why”
While there is a certain cachet to saying that you serve customers in the US, you can’t go on romance alone. There are two “why’s” to ask before you go any further in your planning.
- Why do you want to expand into the US market?
- Why now?
# 2. Resources
Even if you work with a broker or a non-profit organisation like The Business Coalition, it is important tounderstand what is involved with adding a presence in the US market. There are a number of resources you can use to learn the specific information for what you will be exporting to the United States.
Here are some suggested sites:
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection -This is a good place to see what policies, licenses and other documents that are required.
- Enterprise Ireland– Advice, guidance and information for small to mid-size enterprises in Ireland interested in exporting
- UK Trade and Investment-This governmental agency provides information if you are exporting from the UK
# 3. More research
It can be overwhelming at first when you realise that there are so many things to put into place even before you ship a product. Be deliberate and take your time. This is a big step for your company and you want your business plan to be a guide and not a dust collector. Here are the areas to concentrate on in the beginning:
- Customs – From how you package your product to the Customs Modernization Act to who is your designated representative who receives your goods
- Legal entity – You may want a legal entity for liability, be able to sell to the US government and/or have access to services provided by the Small Business Administration
- Visas – A visa is required to enter the US for business purposes but there is more than one type.
- Marketing – The US market has its own characteristics so it’s important to have a marketing campaign designed for your US customer
- Funding – With all the fees for legal advice, licenses, marketing and scaling up of production, it is important to know if you need to approach investors, bootstrap or governmental programs
- Location – Identify everything from location of your customers, access to reliable transportation, manufacturing facilities and office space
- HR regulations – Hiring practices, employee benefits, employee handbooks and complying with workplace regulations
- Cultural differences – Americans have a different sense of time and conversation among other things. This might not be part of your business plan per se but learning the basic tendencies (not stereotypes) will help you build strong relationships with your new network.
Related: International Marketing Checklist
# 4. Begin writing
Taking the time to research will help you identify the resources and professionals you need to make exporting to the US a positive experience. Allow yourself to write and rewrite your plan as you understand more clearly what is involved. Another advantage to planning well is that it supports your growth from being a simple small business owner to the managing director of a global small business.
All growth stages take strategic planning. Exporting to the US will grow your business into a more sophisticated organisation. Make it work for you from the start.