Is my company ready to export?

As your company grows, you may one day find yourself receiving an order from a customer in another country – whether that’s from just across the border in Mexico, or across the ocean in Japan.

This will probably spark a series of questions: Is my company ready to export? How much will it cost? What are the regulations around shipping my product globally? Is exporting even worth it?

Exporting can be tremendously beneficial. It diversifies your customer base and exposes your goods and services to new markets, which may derive more value from your product than here in the U.S. Exporters also tend to be stronger and more resilient companies back home.

And while exporting comes with its own set of challenges and complexities, programs like World Trade Center San Diego’s MetroConnect are here to help small and medium-sized businesses access funding and resources to begin selling overseas. Apply MetroConnect by November 15.

Is your company ready to export? Here are three factors to consider:

1. Do I have the financial resources to break into a new market?

Breaking into a new market isn’t cheap. In the same way introducing your product or service to a domestic market requires thoughtful strategy and investment, expanding internationally means you need to invest in promoting your product, through the right channels and utilizing the right tools.

But unlike domestic channels, you may need to make additional modifications for your product or service to get approval – whether via translation, new market research, or regulatory costs. There will also be additional costs with getting your products to customers that are geographically farther away, as well as tariffs and non-tariff barriers to consider.

Finally, the global marketplace is highly competitive – and competing by offering the lowest price is often not possible for San Diego-based companies. Instead, a deep understanding of your value proposition and a readiness to devote the necessary resources to amplifying your message in the right places can set you up for success.

Bottom line: If you’re ready to devote financial resources toward international expansion, your company may want to explore an export strategy.

2. Do I have people on my team who can devote the time, effort, and expertise exporting requires?

Developing the right relationships with suppliers, distributors, customers, and investors in each market takes time and consistency. This, as well as familiarizing yourself with the unique cultural preferences and market dynamics of the country or region you’re trying to break into, will require time, staffing resources, and often international travel.

Hiring people with the right technical knowledge of your industry segment in your target market or having the bandwidth to dedicate your team’s existing expertise will often be critical to your success. But if your team is already taxed to its limit, you are unable to hire for your team’s unmet expertise needs, or you plan to treat exporting as a side project, you may find sustained volume and exporting success hard to come by.

Bottom line: If you can devote staff time, resources, and expertise toward expansion, you may be ready to export.

3. Has my company had domestic success?

In most cases, the U.S. market will be your first consideration for expansion. You’ll know the language and culture, skip the trade barriers, take advantage of well-established institutions, and generally face less financial and political risk. As a U.S. company, too, you’re probably more familiar with your industry’s specific ecosystem. 

So take advantage of the domestic market first, if possible. Domestic success can be a method to estimate your international potential…and whether you should be expanding internationally to begin with. And swimming in the domestic market will help you fully understand what truly differentiates your product or service, with no currency or other major financial risk.

But if you’ve enjoyed domestic success or a specific international market can help take your business to the next level, expanding your customer base overseas can give you a competitive edge in some key ways:

  • You’ll leverage economies of scale, where more order flow can lower your production cost
  • You’ll diversify your revenue streams. COVID-19 taught us that different markets can be impacted by significant global shocks in different ways, at different times.
  • You can learn from international competitors and partners, and apply these new tactics internationally and here at home.
  • You’ll have the chance to fight back against global competitors in their home market, rather than here in yours.

Bottom line: If your company has enjoyed domestic success and you want to take your business to the next level, you’re ready to export.

Keep in mind:

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it’ll help you ask the right questions when exploring whether your company is ready to get out there and meet the other 95% of this planet’s consumers.

And remember: Success doesn’t happen overnight. While you may receive sizable, one-off international orders through online channels or following a trade show, generating sustained demand from a new market will generally require you to be intentional about your strategy and devote adequate resources to your export strategy.

Ready to export? Apply now to join our next MetroConnect cohort.

Is your small and medium-sized company ready to export and grow internationally, but needs the funding, guidance, and support to expand?

Apply by November 15

Not ready yet? ➝ Stay connected with WTCSD opportunities via email.


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For COVID-19 recovery resources and information: Visit this page, or see how we can help your company free of charge.

Foreign investment and San Diego companies: 3 things you need to know

In September 2021, World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) hosted its quarterly Global Competitiveness Council (GCC) meeting in collaboration with the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE) and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). We were joined by David Rader, Deputy Director in the Office of Foreign Investment Review at the Department of Defense, who presented on the national security implications of foreign investment in the United States.

Here are three things we learned from the session about foreign investment into San Diego:

1. FDI is a positive for the United States, but requires caution

Foreign direct investment (FDI) provides American companies with valuable capital to grow and prosper. However, it is critical to exercise caution and conduct  proper due diligence when considering investment from foreign countries. There is always a chance rogue actors could undermine American companies like yours by way of theft of intellectual property.

2. U.S. companies are losing out on American-made innovative technologies to adversaries 

Foreign countries are increasingly leveraging FDI as a means to gain access to new technologies via control of intellectual property. One way adversaries do this: By raising venture capital and early stage funds to target innovation hubs like San Diego.

Unsurprisingly, the United States and its partners comprise the vast majority of innovation hubs around the world, making them and their homegrown innovation companies high-value targets. The majority of threats have been toward companies in the emerging technology space, including 5G, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and unmanned systems. But recently, improved due diligence and private capital has allowed CFIUS and its partner organizations to minimize these threats toward American companies and technologies.

3. It pays to proactively reach out to CFIUS 

CFIUS is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States and certain real estate transactions by foreign persons, in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States. Companies that are considering leveraging foreign investment are encouraged to reach out to the team at CFIUS for no-charge advising to ensure your intellectual property will remain safe. CFIUS will need your company name, technology, and foreign investor information to determine if the transaction necessitates review through its due diligence process.

To get started with no-cost advising from the CFIUS staff, please reach out to David Rader, Deputy Director, Office of Foreign Investment Review at Department of Defense – david.m.rader.civ@mail.mil

Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego operates as an affiliate of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. WTC San Diego works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment, and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad.

Do you want to know more about the work of World Trade Center San Diego? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Interested in more? You may also like:

Export Finance: 3 things your business should know

In June 2021, World Trade Center San Diego (WTC) hosted a series of export finance workshops in partnership with California International Trade Center (CITC).

We joined experts from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) and Banner Bank to discuss exporting resources, such as the Export Express Loan Program and Export Working Capital Program. We also joined experts from Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank), GBC International Bank, and Provident Traders Inc., to discuss open account payment structures, adding value to capital equipment, and EXIM export loan guarantees.

Here are three things we learned at our export finance workshops:

1. Export financing is a key tool in international expansion.

Export financing and export credit insurance can be important tools in your arsenal. With it, you can find more attractive payment terms and mitigate risk. For instance, export credit insurance can allow your business to offer competitive credit terms to foreign buyers for up to 180 to 360 days. Plus, it can protect you against non-payments by foreign buyers due to commercial and political risks.

2. Certain programs might be better tailored to your business needs.

You might have heard about SBA’s Export Working Capital or Export Express Program. But what’s the difference? And which is better for your business?

Export Working Capital provides vital resources for exporters to fulfill new orders, such as loan advances up to $5 million. You can use these funds to purchase finished products, raw materials, and supplies, or cover labor and overhead costs.

Export Express Program allows small businesses to borrow up to $500,000 from a local partnering bank. It is the simplest export loan program offered by the SBA, and offers flexibility and ease of use for borrowers and lenders.

3. A range of partners are here to help you. 

SBA is an independent agency of the federal government dedicated to providing aid, counseling, and assistance to small businesses in order to preserve free competitive enterprise and strengthen the overall economy. Companies receiving SBA services must meet the SBA small business definition.

EXIM Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. When private-sector lenders are unable or unwilling to provide financing, EXIM fills the gap by equipping small businesses with financing tools needed to compete in the global economy.

Finally, you can find a wide variety of lenders willing to assist. Lenders can be traditional banks or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), such as Lendistry or CDC Small Business Finance.

Interested in learning more about export financing through a lender’s perspective? To learn more about export financing and the application process, tune in to these on-demand webinars:

On Demand – SBA Export Finance Tools for Global Expansion

On Demand EXIM Bank – Products to Increase and Finance Your Export Sales

ABOUT WORLD TRADE CENTER SAN DIEGO

World Trade Center San Diego operates as an affiliate of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. WTC San Diego works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment, and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad.

Do you want to know more about the work of World Trade Center San Diego? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.