Accidental Exporters - forget the business development consultant

Ed Marsh | Jul 27, 2012

95% don't have a clue!

Provocative?  I hope so.  Immediately annoyed half of you reading this?  Maybe, but be forewarned, I'm just getting warmed up.....

The US Department of Commerce figures that roughly 5% of American companies export.  Of those approximately 70% only sell within NAFTA countries.  That means that approximately 2% of US businesses sell internationally beyond Mexico and Canada.  And that 2% includes all the multinationals that come immediately to mind.

So how many SMBs have begun to tap the enormous global demand for "Made in America" products and services?

Looking for their keys under the streetlight

You know the old one about the drunk who is stumbling around under the streetlight looking for his keys.  Turns out, of course, that he dropped them somewhere else but is looking for them under the light because "that's where the light is." 

And frankly, that's the way most of the 5% and even 2% of our companies which export proceed.  The prevalence of international sales efforts which consist of unrelated, ad-hoc activities cobbled together is so common that I've even coined a term - taken to describing them as "accidental exporters."

But before you click off the page in an offended huff - some context.  I have tremendous admiration for the efforts - even the poorly coordinated "accidental" ones of the bold American companies which do strive to grow their business internationally.  There are abundant justifications for not doing so - justifications routinely employed by the other 95%.  Any international business development effort takes courage and commitment.  Bravo to them!  And also to the Department of Commerce folks who support their efforts.

The tragedy (OK, not a real tragedy but certainly an enormous missed opportunity) is that so many of those "accidental exporters" are so close to real breakout success.  As Socrates once said "They are not only idle who do nothing, but they are idle also who might be better employed."  For many SMBs the key to "better employment" in pursuit of their international business objectives may simply be a business development consultant.

Perspective, experience, expertise & wisdom

business development consultantCore strengths is a concept so pervasive in business today as to be almost trite.  Nevertheless it is a convenient shorthand to focus a discussion such as this.  Companies have core strengths in developing and manufacturing products, or providing services, and applying those to the needs/wants of clients and customers.  Nowhere in this list is writing contracts, auditing financials or maintaining trucks (as random examples.)  That's why they engage attorneys, accountants and fleet management services.

No doubt the regulatory issues around running payroll are complicated.  It makes sense to outsource that non-core, complex activity.  But what makes companies somehow decide, in contrast, that international business is simple enough to tackle on their own?  Any company can "cut a payroll check" but completing the compliance and reporting steps rquires expertise.  Guess what - any company can "accidentally export" but developing an international sales program which strategically supports top level business objectives and builds resiliency into the business model requires special expertise.  Yet oddly companies often hesitate to engage an international business development consultant.  Why?

Clearly seeing the picture

lions in the grassWhat do you see in the painting above?  How many lurking lions do you see in this photo? (answer at the bottom)

The answer depends on your perspective, experience, expertise and acquired wisdom.

And your perspective will be dramatically different (and substantially less comprehensive) than that of an international business development consultant.  Someone who has worked in myriad markets, with multiple cultures, within various channel models and in multiple verticals and product segments will spot risks and opportunities early. 

A capable international business development consultant (one who has owned businesses overseas or filled a senior executive role in such a business - not just dabbled in international markets from the base of their US office) will help craft an international business strategy which mitigates risks, maximizes profitability, shortens ramp-up time and supports corporate objectives.

You can effortlessly spot the lions hidden in the grass of your production line - and a skilled international business development consultant can similarly spot them lurking in your international business initiatives.  Don't get mauled! (don't forget to scroll to the bottom to find the lurking lion....)  Contact Consilium Global Business Advisors to explore how our unique model and extensive international business development experience ideally suit many US SMBs who would benefit from an international business development consultant.

Think that maybe a business development consultant would benefit your business but don't know where to begin to select the best fit?  Download our free whitepaper below.

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painting by Elizabeth Chapman, from InternationalAbstractArtists.blogspot.com
pictures from John Mauldin's "Frontline Thoughts" 21 July, 12

hidden lions