ASK Priority: Shipping NewsPosted on Friday, March 11th, 2005 by Self Employed Web Team
Q. I’m thinking of exporting my products to other countries. What steps should I take to make sure this happens with a minimum of difficulty?
A. Do your homework before you do anything else, advises Laurel Delaney, a successful entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in global business. Fortunately, these days you can do most or all of it on the Internet. Check a variety of resources, such as the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (www.ita.doc.gov), the Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade (www.sbaonline.sba.gov/OIT) and the U.S. Government Export Portal (www.export.gov). You can use these sites to get the market research you need to determine whether or not it’s feasible to export your product to a specific overseas market. Say you want to export ice cream to Japan. You can find out whether the Japanese like ice cream and what sizes they prefer. But even more importantly, you might find out that there aren’t any refrigerated trucks that can transport frozen goods from the port of entry to a wholesaler.
The next step is finding customers. You can dig more deeply into some of these Web sites to help find much of this information. For example, you can query these free sites that you have a widget you want to export to Japan, starting in Tokyo, and ask for a list of imported wholesalers that might be interested in buying it. It’s amazing what you can find out online. But at some point you might consider paying a few hundred dollars for an organization that can scour the market and set up appointments with prospective importing wholesalers for the type of product you are trying to export to them.
The next step involves transporting the product to your customer. You need to find out what the taxes, tariffs and duties are, and the best way to do this is by contacting a freight forwarder. And finally—and very importantly—you have to set up a mechanism for getting paid. Never release the goods or contract with a manufacturer until you have some method of payment secure. Your banker—preferably someone with international experience—can help with that.
Our expert: Laurel Delaney, a successful entrepreneur, author, speaker and educator with more than 20 years of experience in global business. Her firm, Global TradeSource Ltd. (www. GlobeTrade.com), offers global marketing and consulting services for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Q. Lately I’ve noticed that checks we send out are being processed much faster than in the past. We used to have a three- or four-day float, but now checks often go through the next day. We even bounced two checks last month. What’s going on?
A. Late last year Congress passed the Check 21 Act allowing banks to transfer funds using electronic facsimiles of checks instead of paper checks. The electronic facsimile enables banks to transfer funds instantly between the account on which the check is drawn and the account into which it is deposited without the original paper check changing hands. As a result, you can kiss the old three- or four-day float good-bye. The results, says small business consultant Darrell Zahorsky, can include more bounced-check charges, a negative notation on your credit rating and some nasty calls from suppliers or customers. The good news? Once you deposit a customer’s check, funds will be available in a few hours. Zahorsky notes that, to offset the speedier processing time, make sure you have enough cash in your account before writing a check. And ensure you have adequate account overdraft coverage until you adjust to a new system.
Our expert: Darrell Zahorsky is CEO of Pied Piper Internet Solutions in Cochrane, Alberta. For the past two years, Darrell has served as the editor and content producer of the Small Business Information guide for About.com.