Preparedness key to international business success

Here we go again…Tropical Depression #9 became Hurricane Hermine taking the same track as Tropical Storm Colin just a few months ago. For those of us living in coastal areas, we know how to prepare for such storms, i.e. stock up on water, batteries, non-perishable foods, etc. This is nothing new for us as we must get prepared for storm season (June thru November) every year. For new residents, though, this may seem a bit overwhelming, especially with all of the media coverage. There’s no need to worry, however, there are resources you can turn to for guidance, such as

As a consultant with the Florida SBDC at USF, preparedness is a topic of much discussion with clients. Throughout the many stages of business growth, discussions may include business planning, financial and marketing analysis, business certifications and disaster preparedness, just to name a few. Preparing to do business abroad, however, is much more involved and requires a significant amount of research prior to market entry.

To enter a new foreign market successfully, countries having the best potential for the product being exported will need to be determined. The best approach is to find countries with the highest potential for sales, closest proximity for travel and least amount of entry barriers. Researching trade flows will provide a very good indication of which countries are importing the highest volume of the product from all countries as well as specifically from the U.S. Open source databases such as, UN Comtrade and DataWeb can provide this information and they’re both easy to use.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) reduce or eliminate import duties, thereby, resulting in less entry barriers for exporters. The US has FTAs with 20 countries, half of which are in Latin America and close to home for frequent travel.

International travel requires planning ahead to make sure you are fully informed before leaving the U.S. The Department of State website has a wealth of information including a traveler’s checklist and country specific information for all countries of the world.

Before traveling to any destination, learn about visa and passport requirements, travel warnings, and currency among others. Did you know that your passport has to be valid for six months after your return to the U.S.?

Market entry requirements vary greatly around the world, therefore, country specific research is very important. Having commercial specialists in over 80 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service is able to provide US exporters with invaluable market intelligence and insight. Reviewing the country commercial guide for target markets will help you determine the best entry strategy, while providing an overview of challenges, opportunities, regulations, and much more.

In addition to those already mentioned, International Specialists at the Florida SBDC at USF can provide a customized Country Specific Profile report, at no cost, to small and medium sized enterprises participating in an overseas trade mission and/or trade show. These reports provide pertinent information on doing business in a specific country, as well as, details on trade flows, economy, people and culture.

Although preparing to do business internationally, may seem overwhelming to those companies new to import and export, there is an abundance of resources available to assist and provide guidance.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

  • Selma Canas

    NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), Florida SBDC at USF, Tampa

    Specialties: International Trade, Export Marketing Plans, Market Research

    Selma Canas is responsible for guiding small businesses through the complexities of developing export marketing and international expansion plans and teaching seminars on basic international trade. She has developed more than 30 Export Marketing Plans during the past six years for local businesses, and participated in trade missions to Brazil, Chile, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. Canas has more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing and customer service in a variety of industries, including freight forwarding, real estate and advertising. As a co-owner of Restaurant Guide USA, she increased sales and distribution points and tripled the size of the distributed product.

    As a real estate broker-owner, Canas carved a niche in the Latin American community and had a career sales volume of more than $37 million. Canas earned her bachelor degree in economics from the University of South Florida. She is a NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional and holds an Export and Trade Counseling Certification from the U.S. Small Business Association. Selma earned Florida SBDC at USF Employee of the Year honors in 2016. She is a member of Toastmasters international and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

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