Steve Strauss Headshot.pngFor the small business, I always say that it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. Your chances of standing out are a lot better if the pond is smaller, right?


The problem is finding a smaller pond is not easy these days. Between local competition, online competition, a global marketplace and social media, getting heard and seen (and bought) above the din is challenging. This is why I am so excited to share this remarkable stat with you:




According to the United States Department of Commerce, only 1 percent of the 30 million businesses in the United States export.


1 percent!


Consider what a golden opportunity that is. Indeed, as the Department of Commerce website says, “exporting is good for your bottom line.” They provide five reasons why:


1. Access: Access to worldwide markets is easier than ever due to the Internet, improvements in trade finance, etc.

2. Demand: More than 70 percent of all markets are located outside the U.S.

3. Profitability: “On average, sales grow faster, more jobs are created, and employees [of exporting countries] earn more than in non-exporting firms.”

4. Competitive advantage: U.S. goods are admired and desired worldwide.

5. Less risk: Selling in more markets reduces the risk of business fluctuations.


So, how do you jump on the export train? Here are the steps:


1. Analyze your competitive advantage: What is it you can offer to a global audience that is unique, different or special? Maybe you have international contacts, or experience? Do you sell a product that could prove to be popular overseas? Do you know a foreign language? Are there countries or foreign companies that need what you offer?




Your business idea or product should capitalize on your strengths, and on your unique attributes. 


2. Do your homework. Make no mistake, exporting takes work. This is true all along the path – from inception through sale. And that means, especially up front, you need to do your homework and make sure your idea or product is viable. Taking time at the beginning will save you time, money, effort and headaches later on.



There is a lot of help available where you can do this research. Check out:



The point of this research is to discover whether or not there is an international market for what you want to sell and if so, where. It will also help to show what doing business there would be like, and whether you would like it. 


3. Get your website ready. You may need a version of your site in a different language, or you may need a new site altogether.


4. Create the foundation: Selling internationally requires jumping through some hoops:


  • You will need to handle export compliance – licenses, certificates, etc. This site can help
  • Payments and sales will need to be considered – the currency you will use, how to handle refunds and returns, etc. 
  • Exporting will also require a knowledge of, and appreciation for, language and cultural differences
  • An export management company (EMC) represents many different exporters, finds business, and can handle logistics, financing, and more


You can find export intermediaries at international trade shows, by doing an online search, or by contacting the National Association of Export Companies (


The bottom line is that exporting affords you a great opportunity because, among other things, there is less competition. The bad news however is that it takes time and effort to get started. But, if you do it right, exporting your goods should offer you a nice profit center for years to come.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

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