Monday, December 19, 2011

Exporting- Essential Market Research

Exporting, like everything in business, requires extensive research.  Selling your product/service in the international market can be a daunting task; it’s hard enough to get your product/service to be recognized at home, let alone in a foreign country with a different language and culture. As a business owner it is important to be organized, in order to be successful in exporting you need to be even more organized, and it starts at the market research phase.
Exporting requires capital, sometimes extensive capital, so before you go and spend your capital on a failing venture you need to know several things. Some of the questions you can ask yourself are:
1. Is there a market for my product/service in the region?
2. Do i target an area or a specific country?
3. What is my competition, both at home and the export destination?
4. Any government regulations concerning my potential exports?
The list of questions to be answered can be extensive, but it is important to spend the time and effort to do this. You are the small business owner and exporting could either create opportunities or put you out of business. I suggest a "business rhythm", this derived from my days in the Army doing "Battle Rhythms", for your research. The caveat is this is not a routine! It’s a framework, you a lot time to complete the research tasks that you need to get completed, on a weekly or monthly basis, and try to stick with those. If you can’t its fine, but you shouldn’t be exporting if you can’t put the time to do research. Some of the tasks that i do for my market research business rhythm include:
1. Read local news about the region/country that interests me
2. Go to and read market analysis for the region/country
3. Research the commerce department of the export destination
4. Research conferences or trade shows focused either on my product or on the region i want to export too.
These are just a few, just as the questions, the tasks associated with your business rhythm should be tailored to the amount of time you are willing to spend and you specific business needs.
 Conducting research is not glamorous, even an enjoyable part of being a business owner. In exporting though, it is essential to do so, and do it extensively. Market research will lay the foundation for a successful exporting venture.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Exporting CONOPS: a Business Operations Plan

By Juan A. Salva

                Exporting is usually touted as a possible solution to various economic problems in the United States. Small Businesses, actually business of all sizes, are encouraged by a plethora of government agencies to increase their exports. The US Commercial Services, the Export Import Bank and the SBA are just a few of those agencies. Yet, according to Jason Katzman in his "Basic Guide to Exporting", many businesses are simply not prepared to export, basically having no plan and stumbling unto exporting opportunities having to figure out how the business should operate.  With Ex-Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez stating that close to 70% of the purchasing power in the world resides outside the United States it is surprising that business are not better prepared for this.

                Proposed in this blog entry is a simple solution, small businesses should focus in developing different concepts of operations, or CONOPS, to lay the foundation for exporting. This is simple yet different from a business plan. In a CONOP the business would lay the foundation of how the business will operate if encountering an export opportunity in different regions of the world. A basic layout of a CONOP would include the following:

1. Which business services could potentially be developed in the region?
2. What permit, licensees or fees are involved with exporting to the region?
3. Applicable U.S. laws, regulations or restrictions
4. How will the business be structured if exporting occurs?
5. How will the business be staffed? recruiting strategy? overseas locations?
6. Possible courses of actions regarding the expansion of the exporting venture

                These are just a few of the questions that should be asked, and included in the CONOP, for exporting. The advantage of CONOPS is that businesses can take time to develop them. Exporting opportunities might not occur immediately, but with a basic plan in place, the business can at least not be completely surprised when the opportunity occurs. Secondly, the company can develop different CONOPS for different regions, so CONOPS do not need to be imbedded in the business plan, but could be shorter annexes to it that a business manager could refer to if the opportunity arises.

                CONOPS for exporting are a possible tool that business could exploit. The only caveat is that these, as the business plan should be, are living documents so they should continually revised and updated. What are your thoughts on developing these kind of documents?