10 Keys to Being a Successful Importer or Exporter

By John J. Capela

In the past, opportunities for many small import/export businesses and entrepreneurs ended within the borders of their own country, and international trade was only for large multinational corporations. The Internet, changes in technology, and increased access to affordable information have made it easier for firms of all sizes to engage in international trade.

As you pursue these opportunities, you need to understand the major mistakes to avoid. Here’s what you need to do well to be a successful importer or exporter in the United States:

  • Decide how to best set up your business and whether to act as an agent or merchant

  • Evaluate import or export opportunities

  • Become aware of all applicable rules and regulations

  • Select the product(s) to deal in

  • Find suppliers for the goods you’ve chosen to import into or export from the U.S.

  • Identify target markets and find customers

  • Understand all the elements that are going to be part of any purchase or sales agreement

  • Develop an understanding that individuals from other countries have different customs and approaches, so negotiations can be difficult and require a great deal of patience

  • Learn about the different terms of sales and methods of payments that are common in international transactions

  • Become aware of all packing, shipping, and documentary requirements

Combined with some hard work, the availability of this information will get you well on your way to starting a successful import/export business.