For small and medium-sized enterprises, joining the world of exporting is possible, but it is not that simple. There are a lot of things that businesses should know before they start exporting.

John Holman, director of the Hawaii Export Assistance Center, who conducted an exporting workshop for local businesses at American Memorial Park Visitors Center Theater yesterday morning, stressed the important role that small and medium sized businesses play in the field of exporting.

PIHEAC is a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Services whose mission is to assist local companies in selling their products or services in international markets.

Holman said that 97 percent of U.S. exporters are small and medium enterprises, or businesses that have less than 500 employees. 75 percent of exporters have less than 20 employees, and seven out of 10 new U.S. jobs are created by small businesses.

Impacts of Exporting

Holman said that exports help diversify the US economy.

“U.S. manufactured exports support 6 million American jobs, and the trade generates $9,000 more in purchasing power for the average American family,” he said.

He added that jobs related to export are 15 percent more, and companies who go into export are 8.5 percent less likely to go out of business.

Why you should export

Holman said that 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside the United States, an opportunity that local businesses should take advantage of.

Diversification is another reason why local businesses should look into exporting.

“Exporting helps to diversify your client base and take advantage of regional growth,” Holman said.

Competition and business facilitation are the two other reasons to motivate businesses to export their products.

“If you are not exporting, it’s highly likely your competitors are selling abroad, or will soon,” Holman said. He added that free trade agreements, the internet, improved transportation and government assistance that are available should motivate businesses to look at exporting.

So, are you ready to export?

Holman stressed that unless local businesses are successful in the local market, the chances to succeed in the international market is nil.

He said that domestic success is very important.

“Start selling and convincing clients to patronize your products first then move on to the international arena,” he said. Holman said that businesses may have to make adjustments or modifications in their products to suit the international market.

Businesses should also check into their production capacity and financial resources before exploring the export market.

“This is where businesses can tie up with the local SBDC for sources of funding and assistance,” Holman said.

Management commitment, international plan with goals, and basic know-how in exporting operations such as shipping, methods of payments and other concerns are the other measurements that businesses should check before they can say they are export-ready.

Export mistakes

Holman enumerated some common mistakes that businesses who are planning to export should take note of. The mistakes include lack of an export business plan, low commitment to exporting, neglecting export customers for local costumers, reliance on inadequate partnerships, and failure to modify products and methods to accommodate foreign regulations and preferences.

Armed with these tips, Holman said businesses know what pitfalls to avoid in exporting.

CNMI industries for future growth

Holman enumerated the CNMI’s top five international market opportunities during his presentation yesterday.

The opportunities cover call centers, agriculture, aquaculture, ecotourism and educational services.

For call centers, Holman said businesses should look into the competitive advantages of the CNMI and define who the target demographics are.

With the stiff competition for call centers from the Philippines and India, Holman said businesses can start looking at other areas not served by these two call center giants. Top target markets for call centers are Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and USA.

For agriculture, things to be considered are what products have potential, and how you can overcome the high shipping costs to transport your products. Top target markets for agricultural products are China, Hong Kong, India and Taiwan.

For aquaculture, consider who your top consumers are, and the capacity constraints for your products. Top target markets for aquaculture products include South Korea and Taiwan.

For eco-tourism, businesses can tap into what offerings are in place, how do the airlift/visa requirements impact and what type of marketing is most effective. Top eco-tourism target markets are Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and USA.

For educational services, businesses can check what programs are available, what the CNMI’s competitive advantage is and how the new programs can be introduced. Top target markets are Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

For further reference, Holman recommends “Basic Guide to Exporting,” a textbook that gives tips on how to identify the best markets, financing export transactions, best  methods to handle orders and shipments, case studies of successes, and sources of free or low-cost export counseling.

The textbook can be bought online for $19.95 at

The U.S. Commercial Service is a global network in more than 80 countries of the best trade professionals in the world. The network aims to promote economic prosperity, enhance job creation and protect U.S. commercial interests abroad. USCS helps local businesses grow their international sales by conducting market research, trade vents, international partners and consulting and advocacy, and more.

For more information, call the CNMI SBDC office at 664-3018 or email{jcomments off}

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