Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guides to Nowhere? The ITA’s good guides with no plan.

I just finished reading the International Trade Administration’s Trade Finance Guide (you can find it at http://export.gov/static/TradeFinanceGuide_All_Latest_eg_main_043219.pdf ). There is plenty of useful advice on it on things such as Export Credit Insurance, Factoring and a brief summary on Letters of Credit.  The guide is useful and its language is plain and easy to understand.  I tend to read most of the products that come from the ITA, such as A Basic Guide to Exporting, but after reading this one a concern seems to continue to come up. The ITA seems to be publishing good products but without any clear cohesive strategy, the SME owner basically has a guide that explains the basics of exporting and then another guide that gives information about financing. There is no “cradle to grave” guide that tells you HOW to export! 
The most fundamental and basic step, finding clients for your products overseas, seems to be overseen at best or assumed at worst.  A guide that explains the business process could be more beneficial. Clearly defining steps such as assessing your products/services, finding clients overseas, negotiating with clients overseas (to include method of payment and negotiations), financing, shipment of products/delivery of services and receipt of payments would be good a start. Obviously the business process is far more complicated but a coherent guide that takes the SME owner from the “cradle” of exporting (i.e. product or service self assessment) to the “grave” (i.e. goods shipped/service provided and payment received) is far more beneficial than good guides published at what seems to be random times. I know that services such as Gold Key Matching exist to find overseas buyers but not all SMEs prefer to pay the associated premiums of such services.

As always I look forward to your thoughts.