The Option of Exporting

By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University

During a chamber networking event, two local business owners were talking about the health of their businesses. The first one to speak mentioned that sales were about even with last year’s, employees were doing well, and that profits were fair. The other business owner was excited that their sales recently increased and that employee engagement was high. Profits were good and expected to grow. When asked how the business reached this level of success, the owner replied that they used the resources available to small businesses to begin exporting.  

Are these results from exporting guaranteed? No, but if you are looking for opportunities for sales and profit growth, then exporting is one opportunity to consider. And if you already export, then expanding into other foreign markets may be another option for growth. 

According to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), “Nearly 96% of consumers live outside the United States, and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries.” Businesses in the United States sell to foreign customers, increasing their sales and global footprint. Do you?

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration: 

  1. Missouri businesses exported about $16.1 billion worth of goods in 2022. 
  2. The top countries for Missouri exports were Canada, Mexico, Germany, China, and Brazil. 
  3. The top Missouri export sectors included chemicals, transportation equipment, processed foods, machinery (except electrical), and agricultural products.
  4. More than 4,800 Missouri companies exported goods in 2020. Of those companies, 85% were small- and medium-sized enterprises.  

Great job, Missouri businesses! They have recognized the opportunities with exporting. These businesses have had to overcome some hurdles in order to achieve success. What hurdles? According “Challenges and Advantages of Exporting” by Jayra J. Shetty, an article that was published on in January 2021, some barriers to exporting include:

  1. Finding new potential buyers
  2. Finding the right market for a specific product
  3. Import/Export duties and tariffs
  4. Quality standards
  5. Currency exchange rate
  6. Pricing strategies
  7. Compliance and documentation

Along with these obstacles, a business must also examine its internal capacities when making the decision to explore exporting. A few items to consider include: 

  1. Do you have the capacity to increase production to meet potential foreign demand?
  2. Do you have the financial resources to fund this increase in production?
  3. Is top management committed to this exporting initiative? 
  4. Are there resources available to help our business? 

Do you need to have all the answers before you begin your inquiry? No, but you need to think about them before reaching out to the various export resource partners. Think of this as a simultaneous process: examining internal capacities while exploring global opportunities with export resource partners.    

There are several organizations that assist businesses with exporting. From the new-to-export business to the businesses that already export but are looking for additional markets to explore. The Missouri Department of Economic Development’s International Trade & Investment Office offers classes, resources, and personal assistance in exploring markets and export readiness. 

The United States International Trade Administration U.S. Department of Commerce is another valuable resource partner for businesses to consider as they look for exporting opportunities. They offer articles, videos, research links, and a calendar of upcoming training events on their website. 

Finally, the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has a field specialist in international trade located in Columbia, Missouri who assists Missouri SBDC clients in exploring export opportunities and provides tools to create an export plan.

Furthermore, a Southwest Region International Trade Seminar is being held on Thursday, April 20 from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, located at 320 East 4th Street in Joplin, Missouri. Lunch is provided. Business owners and managers who are seeking new markets for exports, as well as those business owners and managers who are new to exporting, are welcome to attend this in-person event. 

Contact the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce at 417.624.4150 for additional information and to register to attend this in-person event.

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