Exporting as an SME: 5 Critical Questions

As the world seemingly gets smaller and smaller, and widespread connectivity becomes the norm, it’s little surprise that an increasing number of small businesses are choosing to sell their products across their own continent and the world, not just their own locality. This still isn’t a completely straightforward step however, and you should ask yourself the following questions if you’re going to get the very best out of exporting goods abroad.

Exporting small business goods

1. Is It The Right Thing to Do?

This might seem a little obvious, but too many start-ups and small businesses jump into the idea of delivering globally without ever considering if it’s actually the right choice for them. You need to do the proper research beforehand to work out it this is a viable option. In some cases, trying to expand might simply be more hassle than it’s worth, and may simply divert your attention away from your best market.

2. Do I Need More Advice?

Wherever you are, there are probably numerous entities in place to help you make the right business decisions. This being such an important one, it’s a good idea to seek at least some help before you start out. This can include both advice from local aids, and from people in the places you’re looking to export to. You can find a lot of knowledge out on the internet, but there are also dedicated business advisers available.

3. What Presence Will I Have?

If you’re just selling things via eBay, then all you really need is a good courier company. If things are more complex however, then you may well need distributors in your chosen markets, and perhaps even a physical presence. The answer to this question should come about in the planning stages as you work out if exporting is viable. It may be a case of gradually increasing your presence as you gauge how well things are going.

Produce crates for export
photo credit: Waikato Dan

4. How Will I Manage My Finances?

Again, very small businesses shipping internationally may simply be able to use things like PayPal to process orders and payment. If you’re dealing with invoices though, you might need a helping hand to make sure that the money goes into your account when you need it to – it can sometimes be difficult getting payment from people who are many thousands of miles away.

5. Is There Anything Legal to Be Aware Of?

There are numerous legal issues that you may run into, the main one of which is likely to be regulations regarding the products you are selling. As an example, in many countries there are strict tests that toys must pass before they can be sold to children. Electronics usually have to meet certain safety standards too. Make sure that you thoroughly research the country you’re exporting to before you decide to enter negotiations with distributors or ship something out. You may well be liable even if you didn’t know you were doing anything wrong.


Exporting can be a very complicated process if you don’t know what you are doing. So, it’s better to consult with your local chamber of commerce and/or fellow business owners for the best practices.