Small businesses can seize international opportunities, UPS survey shows

user-gravatar Headshot

Although concerned about the economy, small and midsized business exporters are confident about their companies’ futures, especially when it comes to international sales, according to this year’s Business Monitor United States survey commissioned by UPS.

Of the small and midsized business exporters interviewed, 85 percent said the economy was their top concern, far exceeding their worries about any other issue. However, most respondents indicated they remained positive about their businesses and their international sales opportunities. More than three-quarters (78 percent) said they were confident international sales leads would materialize.

“Entrepreneurs who export are self-assured, adaptable and resilient, so it doesn’t surprise me that the survey shows exporters are confident about meeting their business goals,” says Laurel Delaney, owner of small-business consulting firm Global Trade Source.

The survey found that most small and midsized businesses (61 percent) that had expanded into foreign markets did so with a sound plan. And exporters are quick to learn about the ins and outs of exporting; more than half (53 percent) said they do not find the process of exporting frustrating. However, those who were newer to exporting said documentation and customs requirements were the biggest barriers to expansion.

“Talking to current exporters reveals that for many small businesses, the most difficult thing about exporting is just getting started,” says Dan Brutto, president, UPS International. “But with the administration’s new export initiative, there’s never been a better time for small businesses to give exporting a try. The right partner can serve as a bridge to help businesses ease into global trade and, in turn, find new revenue streams.”

More than one-third (35 percent) of small businesses said exporting had a significant impact on their overall sales. And when it comes to international sales leads, four in five businesses follow up on all leads. Those that don’t follow up indicated that a lack of trust with the prospective customer was their biggest concern.

The survey also found that small and midsized businesses already exporting are looking to further expand globally. Respondents indicated they would most prefer to expand their business in the future to Europe (36 percent), followed by Asia (22 percent) and North America (22 percent).

For small and midsized businesses not yet engaged in global commerce, advice is focused on:
• Taking advantage of the recently created National Export Initiative, which helps small businesses grow overseas business by overcoming common barriers to exporting;
• Working with trusted partners, such as consulates, the U.S. Commercial Service and the Small Business Administration; and
• Boosting their online presence to increase visibility with overseas customers.

In addition, companies looking to expand globally should make a long-term commitment as exporting has long-term benefits. The survey found that long-term exporters (those exporting more than five years) say it has had more of an impact on sales growth than those companies newer to exporting, indicating that companies who have committed to making exporting part of their long-term expansion see the most benefit.