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Assessing Your Company's Export Readiness
By: admin, Thursday June 8th,2006 02:12

Answering these general questions about how exporting will enhance into your company's short, medium and long-term goals will help determine your company's readiness to export:

  • What does the company want to gain from exporting?
  • Is exporting consistent with other company goals?
  • What demands will exporting place on the company's key resources, management and personnel, production capacity, and finance and how will these demands be met?
  • Are the expected benefits worth the costs, or would company resources be better used for developing new domestic business?

Once you have decided to sell your products abroad, it is time to develop an export plan. A crucial first step in planning is to develop broad consensus among key management on the company's goals, objectives, capabilities, and constraints. In addition, all aspects of an export plan should be agreed upon by the personnel involved in the exporting process, as they will ultimately execute the export plan.

The purposes of the export plan are (a) to assemble facts, constraints, and goals and (b) to create an action statement that takes all of these into account. The statement includes specific objectives, it sets forth time schedules for implementation, and it marks milestones so that the degree of success can be measured and help motivate personnel.

At least the following ten questions should ultimately be addressed:

  1. Which products are selected for export development? What modifications, if any, must be made to adapt them for overseas markets?

  2. Which countries are targeted for sales development?

  3. In each country, what is the basic customer profile? What marketing and distribution channels should be used to reach customers?

  4. What special challenges pertain to each market (competition, cultural differences, import controls, etc.), and what strategy will be used to address them?

  5. How will the product's export sale price be determined?

  6. What specific operational steps must be taken and when?

  7. What will be the time frame for implementing each element of the plan?

  8. What personnel and company resources will be dedicated to exporting?

  9. What will be the cost in time and money for each element?

  10. How will results be evaluated and used to modify the plan?

The first time an export plan is developed, it should be kept simple. It need be only a few pages long, since important market data and planning elements may not yet be available. The initial planning effort itself gradually generates more information and insight. As the planners learn more about exporting and your company's competitive position, the export plan will become more detailed and complete.

From the start, the plan should be viewed and written as a management tool, not as a static document. Objectives in the plan should be compared with actual results to measure the success of different strategies. The company should not hesitate to modify the plan and make it more specific as new information and experience are gained.

A detailed plan is recommended for companies that intend to export directly. Companies choosing indirect export methods may require much simpler plans.

NOTE: Many companies begin export activities hap-hazardly, without carefully screening markets or options for market entry. While these companies may or may not have a measure of success, they may overlook better export opportunities. If early export efforts are unsuccessful because of poor planning, your company may be misled into abandoning exporting altogether. Formulating an export strategy based on good information and proper assessment increases the chances that the best options will be chosen, that resources will be used effectively, and that efforts will consequently be carried through to success.