Breaking the International Barrier: Small Businesses Look to Go Global

Date: August 31, 2016

A new survey shows small businesses are hopeful about taking their products and services overseas.

Home may be where the heart is, but not necessarily where the profits are.

The decision to expand internationally is something small businesses are increasingly considering and acting on, according to a recently released USForex survey. 

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Ninety-six percent of businesses are confident conducting business abroad, according to USForex, which partnered with Researchscape to survey more than 300 U.S. small and medium-sized businesses over a two-week period. 

Despite the enthusiasm, only 5 percent of U.S. small businesses export, even though more than 95 percent of consumers live outside of the country. Comparatively, over 50 percent of small businesses in the United Kingdom export. 

Here are four additional takeaways from the survey, as well as a few tips on how business owners can expand their current operations. 

1. Small businesses overwhelmingly support international operations. 

Fifty-eight percent of businesses already have international customers, and 50 percent have international vendors or suppliers. Only 19 percent have no international business whatsoever.

2. Why go global? 

The majority cited quality as the main reason for international expansion. Forty-three percent said they’re seeking higher quality suppliers or vendors, while 42 percent are seeking higher quality talent. 

3. Owners face some challenges when planning to expand

Despite the support for international expansion, there are some factors preventing small businesses from going global. According to the survey, global terrorism and the U.S. election are giving owners pause. The survey also listed Asia (37 percent), the European Union (30 percent), and Latin America (24 percent) as the territories most difficult to break into. 

4. Are you ready?

Sure, just the thought of international expansion alone might be exciting. But how do you know if you’re really ready to expand globally? Ask yourself questions like, “Is your business fundamentally sound?” and, “Will you need a local partner?” to determine if you’re ready to expand overseas. 

Also, consider running a pilot program with local customers to experience what it will be like to do business abroad. Don’t skimp out either—include factors like the full process of fulfilling product orders or completing client engagements.

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