July 31, 2023

Empowering American Small Businesses to Succeed in Global Markets

While I am proud of my three decades of doing business in all corners of the world, I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about how to seize the opportunities and mitigate the risks of global business. Therefore, it was with great interest to learn about a document produced by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), an independent government agency that assists in financing and facilitating U.S. exports of goods and services, that helps empower American small businesses to succeed in global markets.

The document begins with presenting the services provided by the U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) as one-stop shops that equip American businesses to compete on a global scale. Specifically, USEACs bring multiple exporting resources together in one convenient location. These centers are situated throughout the country to offer support directly to businesses currently exporting or thinking about exporting. USEAC offices are staffed with three of the federal agencies engaged in assisting export businesses: (1) the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC), (2) the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and (3) EXIM.

The DoC helps business owners learn how to export, connect with foreign buyers, and expand operations in new foreign markets. The SBA supports small businesses that are exporting or interested in learning more about exporting. Moreover, with the help of its partners, the SBA provides counseling and training, helps businesses find buyers with the State Trade Expansion Program, and has loan guarantee programs available specifically for exporters. One way that EXIM assists companies is by providing Export Credit Insurance. An Export Credit Insurance policy covers the accounts receivable generated by international sales, protecting your company against nonpayment by foreign buyers. The insurance policy mitigates risk while empowering companies to meet or beat their competitors. Business owners can use open account credit terms to win new customers and increase sales to existing buyers. Many posts on entrepreneurship in this forum provide additional details about some of the programs offered by these government agencies.

Addressing financing tools from EXIM, the document notes that running a small business comes with risks but getting paid does not need to be one of them. EXIM's Export Credit Insurance empowers business owners to grow sales while mitigating the risk of selling internationally. Using Export Credit Insurance empowers businesses to offer open account credit terms to compete more aggressively, protect their foreign receivables from nonpayment, expand their borrowing base and improve cash flow.

EXIM's Working Capital Loan Guarantee provides exporters with access to the cash needed to fulfill sales and take on new business abroad. Exporters can use a working capital loan to cover the costs of labor, materials, overhead, and supplies required to fulfill a foreign sale. A business can use their Working Capital to pay for materials, equipment, supplies, labor, and other expenses to fulfill export orders, post standby letters of credit serving as bid bonds, performance bonds, or payment guarantees, and purchase products for export.

The document correctly notes that "Locating new buyers overseas can be time consuming, expensive, and frustrating." It points out that the DoC is available to help by matching American exporters with foreign buyers. There are two programs that can businesses can utilize to grow their operations overseas:

DoC's Gold Key Matching Service arranges meetings with interested partners in international markets. The Gold Key team first identifies foreign buyers, assesses them, and provides profiles of the best matches. When it comes time for a meeting with a matching foreign company a member of the Gold Key team can accompany business owners and managers and provide support.

Through the Single Company Promotion, the DoC can organize a variety of promotional events to increase awareness of a company's products and services in a specific international market. These promotional events may include targeted email campaigns, seminars, webinars, direct mail campaigns, and receptions all designed to reach an audience of potential clients. The DoC handles all the logistics, project management, and provides a post-promotion review to discuss next steps.

While not mentioned in the document, it is worth mentioning Export.gov, which is managed by the DoC and International Trade Administration to assist businesses plan their international sales strategies and succeed in today's global marketplace.

Regarding the Small Business Administration, the SBA Learning Center gives businesses access to courses on all of these topics and more:
  • Planning and strategy to develop an international business plan
  • Legal and regulatory to help you navigate regulations and legal issues
  • Documentation and product requirements
  • Pricing development and strategy
  • Marketing and social media 

The SBA also works with lenders to guarantee loans in support of international trade. These include the  Export Express Loan, the International Trade Loan, and the Export Working Capital Loan. The SBA also has a grant program called the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) that provides funding to state and territory governments. These STEP funds are exclusively available to help small businesses with export development.

I possess extensive experience working with these three government agencies and can attest to the value each one provides for businesses looking to succeed in global markets. Feel free to contact me if I can be of service to you.

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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