Tip for the Novice Importer/Exporter


1. Stay with what you know. Just because a product is new and exciting, doesn’t mean that you are the right company to handle it. If you don’t have experience in the market and don’t understand the product, avoid it. This is especially true for importers.

2. Stick with the basics. Don’t expect to be an expert in foreign trade right out of the box. Oh sure, you should learn the basics of global marketing, exchange rates and possible tariffs, which you can easily pick up through federal and state departments of commerce or from your local community college.

3. Ask for help. With the rapid expansion of the global economy, experts abound. For specific help, look in major metropolitan areas, such as Portland, for export management companies that handle every aspect of foreign trade. Another great source of information and assistance is the Small Business International Trade Program.

4. Keep in touch. When dealing with businesses and businesspeople overseas, it is especially important to keep communication lines open. The Internet plays a major role in this process, especially due to the different time zones that you may encounter. Other cultures may be intimidated by American commerce, and frequent communication helps eliminate fears. Learn as much as you can about the cultures that you are dealing with, and honor your overseas contacts by showing respect for their ways of life.

5. Remember business one. While cultures vary considerably from ours worldwide, the basics of doing business are the same. Even though contract law overseas may differ from country to country, it remains important to get the order, get paid for the order and ship the order.

6. Watch your costs. In exporting, be careful to figure all costs, including transportation and insurance. Make sure that you have confirmed methods of payment from your customers prior to shipping. When importing, watch for customs duties and additional freight costs. It is also good planning to have your imports presold as much as possible before placing large orders.

7. Look both ways. If you are exporting, check with your customers to see what other products they might need. Once relationships are established with overseas clients, these customers often prefer dealing with one source, so satisfying additional needs can mean added revenue. When buying from suppliers abroad, ask about other products which might be resold to others.

8. Honesty is the best policy. No matter what culture you may be dealing with, there is no substitution for integrity. Avoid the temptation of thinking that businesspeople from other cultures are less sophisticated or savvy than you. Bad news travels fast, so don’t get caught trying to cut corners.

9. Be time conscious. The global economy covers a lot of ground. It takes longer to receive orders and to ship them. Additionally, many cultures just do not believe in moving quickly. Realize that time can be on your side, so be patient.

10. Enjoy the ride. You will be meeting, if only by email, many new people from many different cultures. While the details of exporting and importing can seem overwhelming, the results can be profitable and rewarding. Take time to smell the roses and enjoy.

If you’d like more information, call COCC at 383-7734.


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