With that impressive if not awakening statistic from the April 2-3 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, I begin my first blog – on exporting.
My intent in writing this blog is to share my experiences in helping firms develop their foreign markets, diffuse some misconceptions about America’s ability to compete head-on globally and lobby why now is the most appropriate time in US history to consider exporting. I’ll begin by way of personal and professional introductions, describe a bit of how I came into the world of trade, and what led me to start my own company.
Exporting….from Indiana? That was the question I asked back in 1986 when I first became aware that our state, Indiana, had a sizeable export business that ranked the Hoosier state among the top 10-15 states for exports in the US, a statistic we’ve enjoyed since.
At the time, I worked for the Indiana Department of Commerce in Community Economic Development and one of the programs we promoted was our export development initiatives.
Following my tenure at IDOC, I worked for a small manufacturer in Northern Indiana for several years at the end of which we received ‘Exporter of the Year Award’ from the Chamber of Commerce. A requirement by the Chamber for award, I was asked to give numerous presentations to Rotary and Kiwanis clubs in the area, and talk with other chambers and business groups on the award, the importance of exporting the local economy and how we went about exporting.
After the first few speeches, I started getting calls by those in the audience asking for more details on the export process, like how do you get paid in other currencies, how to identify a reputable sales representative or distributor, what are Incoterms and how do we ship outside of the country. Many had trouble faxing outside of the US, as some had never called another country (yes, the Internet did NOT yet exist if you newbies can relate).
After the fifth or sixth call, I looked in the yellow pages for a for-profit company that handled exporting, export development, international trade for referral and found none , not one! Not one company tending to that part of the US economy comprising 1/3rd of the increase in America’s GDP!
At that instant, I knew there was the proverbial ‘niche market’ that needed filling. Within a few months I left my job at Trinetics and formed Foreign Targets and incorporated a year later, in 1996. Foreign Targets, Inc. (FTI) became a for-profit export management company that offered small to mid-sized companies a go-to resource to help them identify, develop and maintain their foreign markets. Although somewhat of a clandestine name, the impetus behind so branding was to target specific foreign markets (rifle approach) rather than go after a large number of markets simultaneously (shot-gun approach).
Although I knew I had a marketable concept, I also knew there were no other export management companies near-by or many online (before websites came of age), so I had to pretty much invent how to craft my company, how much to charge, how many clients would suffice and how much time I could and should devote to each.
Over the next few years I tailored my strategy to offer manufacturers a 6-month, 8 step approach to export development and management. The first 6 months was obviously research – intensive, involving a good deal of interaction with the client as the 8 step process unfolded.
Although not necessarily unique in approach, a few of the core steps are exceptional in effectivess.
Through the ISBDC blog, you’re invited to read along as I share what’s worked well, and some mistakes made, over the past twenty plus years. So please join this dialogue of trade either in debate, comment or suggestion.
Andy Reinke is the President of Foreign Targets, Inc. (FTI) an export management company creating and managing proactive export programs for small and medium sized manufacturing firms. This is achieved by utilizing a proven methodology: FTI’s Core-8 Steps to Export Management. Read more about export in the ISBDC’s Exporting Your Products and Services FAQ Page.