Welcome to our new weekly podcast segment with Gene Marks. A lot of the business owners are looking everywhere to find supply, and they’re also looking everywhere to find customers. The opportunity to sell and buy products overseas comes back into the forefront. Here are some tips.

Hey everybody and welcome to The Hartford, Small Biz Ahead podcast. This is Gene Marks, and I’m here to talk about the topic of the week. And today’s topic I wanted to talk to you about, is buying and selling overseas. You know, as the pandemic recedes behind us, a lot of American businesses are getting back to business. Not only that, but we’re also facing significant and serious supply chain issues. So a lot of my clients, a lot of the business owners that I talk to are looking everywhere to find supply, and they’re also looking everywhere to find customers, to sell their products to as well. So once again, the potential, the opportunity to sell and buy products overseas comes back into the forefront. You know right before COVID the US Chamber of Commerce did a big study about small businesses and found that small businesses actually exported around $541 billion of products and services overseas that supported about 6 million jobs.

But according to the chambers report, most small businesses, that could be selling internationally aren’t because they face significant barriers. It’s tough to navigate the maze of foreign regulations and tariffs and customs procedures and the complexity of payment collection, all that kind of stuff pretty much stands in the way. So, you know the US chamber said in their study, I’m looking at it now that, if small businesses had better access to global markets they could increase the gross domestic product of this country by about $81 billion and add almost a million new jobs. Maybe that’s your business as well. Maybe you’re thinking, is there some place else that I could find supply cheaper or easier outside of the U S and by the way, by outside of the US, Canada is our world is our largest trading partner.

Mexico, I’m not saying you have to go halfway around the world to do this, but then again, there are plenty of opportunities in Europe, of course, in Asia and India and Africa as well. So where do you go? You know, how do you get started? If you want to go down the road of buying and selling your products overseas. So let me give you some advice, because I talked to some people about this, and I’ve been writing about it. The first thing that I want you to do is I want you to Google or visit the US commercial service agency. That US commercial service is part of the US Department of Commerce’s international trade administration. Okay. If you go there, you will be blown away by the amount of resources that are provided to you, both of your current exporter or importer of products.

Or if you’re looking to get into the business of exporting and importing the US commercial service, will do a partner search for you, by the way, all for free, they will do a partner search for you. They will provide a list of up to five partners or distributors that have expressed an interest in your company’s goods or services. It’s just like putting yourself out there. The U S commercial service agency will do the leg work for you. They have a team, a large team of trade specialists that can also help with the outreach to those potentially matching firms. They can do background research on those firms. They can provide reports that will include like profiling contact information of interested buyers and sellers as well. It’s really a fantastic agency that’s available for, again, no price, no cost whatsoever to you. It’s, it’s part of the U S government services for small businesses.

They’ll do market research, they’ll do counseling, they’ll make recommendations. Anyway, my whole mind was blown when I got into all the capabilities at the U S commercial service would do. And again, they’re just sitting there waiting, waiting to help. Now I live in Philadelphia, so Philadelphia, like a lot of, major cities has something called a world trade center. There was a world trade center, Philadelphia. There’s another one that’s like in New Jersey as well, near Newark, New Jersey, there’s about 300 world trade centers in more than 90 countries around the world. So most of them are actually here in the U. So if you’re also looking to do trade overseas Google world trade center for your hometown, for whatever city that you might be near about, because those world trade centers, they provide counseling, training, financial support. Also networking and matchmaking as well, that can help you connect to potential buyers and sellers of your product.

Now, the other thing here in Philadelphia, just so you know, we’re in Pennsylvania. So I know for a fact that Pennsylvania has its own program called the global access program, which is for Pennsylvania companies. But I found in my research that many states around the country have their own state programs that are helping small businesses in their states with connecting to potential buyers and sellers. Even offering grants and reimbursement of expenses that you might have for certain promotional export activities. Like if you’re going to a trade show or conference or something like that. So just bear in mind that your own state might have some resources. So, as a recap, so far talked about US commercial service. You want to Google that again, they’re part of the US Department of Commerce. You want to look for a world trade center near you or your city that you’re nearby and check out your state to see if they have any programs to help with exporting or importing companies that want to do work overseas.

Another big resource, the small business administration, they have a lot of funding to help small businesses buy and sell overseas. Now, the best place that I recommend that you go, if you want to access their resources is their small business development centers. Those centers are located all around the country. There are hundreds of them. Most of them are affiliated with colleges and universities. So again, I’m using my example in Philadelphia, Temple University in Philadelphia, their Fox School of Business has a small business development center. I spoke to one of the women there who runs their international trade team. She got 16 people on her team alone in Philly, by the way, they provide procurement opportunities. They connect, you know, businesses, local businesses with grant programs. They do one-on-one consulting. They offer training all of these different services that are there for their local businesses.

So again, reach out and see if there’s a small business development center near you and reach out to them. And I bet that they will have some type of people that specialize in international trade that can guide you along the process. Now, the other place, and I started this whole conversation I was referencing and report by the US Chamber of Commerce. I mean, if you go to the U S Chamber’s website, and again, you can Google them, you will be blown away as well, but they have a whole section on all the resources and support that they provide their members. Now, you do have to join the U S chamber. They’re a great organization, but they will provide a bunch of supports again by networking connections, they have hundreds of organizations and businesses and internationally minded individuals that are looking to sell overseas.

So all of these places that are where. Just as a recap, these people will help you get your website up to snuff so that an international buyer or seller is familiar with what you do. They’ll help you with background checking. They can provide translation resources, they will help you navigate through duties, taxes, tariffs, all of those kinds of things. They can make recommendations for insurance, help you with obtaining letters of credit and even give you areas of matchmaking, events, trade show, conferences that you might want to attend as a business owner who’s looking to do business overseas. All of that, all of that stuff, that’s out there is there to help you to succeed in those areas. So, you know, my final word on that is that, you know, this won’t happen overnight.

It’s not as if, while we’re the supply chain crisis. So I’m just going to start buying from India. Things don’t happen that way in the real world as you know, already. You know, if you’re going to look to buy or sell your products overseas, this is going to be something that you’re going to have to endeavor to do over a few years, that you’re going to have to really plan this out and make an effort to do it. So you might want to, you’ll hire your own international trade consultants, and you can Google as people are going to LinkedIn to find those people and you’re paying for those people to kind of help you along. And the advantage to international trade consultants is because, you’re paying them, they might be a better representation of what you’re trying to do, provide a more higher level service than what you would get from the government.

But, but before you even go down that road, I’m telling you what I learned, the US commercial service world trade centers, state programs, small business administration, particularly the small business development centers and the US Chamber of Commerce. Those are like just a handful of great and free resources that you can go to, to get the help that you need to try and do business overseas. So hope this advice is helpful to you. I know I learned a lot when I was researching this as well. I’ve been writing about it. I have a lot of clients that I’m talking to now about doing business overseas and some of the first steps they can take. Obviously, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, my email, by the way, I don’t know if I’ve given this out another podcast, I’m going to try and make it a point to do that.

Going forward it’s Gene at marksgroup.net. So you’ve got questions about this. I can connect you to people that can definitely assist you. So I hope this information was helpful to you. You’ve been listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. If you want, like other advice, tips, help in running your business, The Hartford has got a huge resource of great content that will help you along, including my own. We do our small biz ahead podcast, plus of course I do a lot of writing on different topics that help small businesses. You can visit us at smallbizahead.com. So thanks very much for joining me. Hope you enjoyed this conversation, and I’ll be back to you next week with some other nugget of advice to help you run your business. Take care.

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