"Do you have a cost ladder?" asked one panelist. "Will you be keeping the American flag on your logo?" asked another.
"What is your pricing strategy for each tier and vertical given that you will likely sacrifice your margin to the exchange rate?" asked another. These are just a few of the many questions asked by a panel of experienced exporters at the capstone presentation of the ExporTech cohort that I have had the great pleasure of following on their journey into their first and/or new export markets.
"If you chase two rabbits one is going to get away," was the advice one experienced exporter provided to a company going after two distinct industries in the same targeted nation. This need to focus, focus, focus was stressed throughout the give and take that occurred during the various company presentations.
Many issues were covered and discussed during the company presentations and follow-up dialogue. These included market research, sales and distribution channels, marketing, logistics and documentation, payment and financing, legal and compliance, and manufacturing capacity.
What I found most interesting during my time at ExporTech was how much there is to learn before entering a foreign market, and how far these companies have progressed in their journeys into these new markets. The value of ExporTech for these companies has been networking with other companies with similar objectives, the coaching they receive from experienced exporters, and the counseling they obtain from program staff of the U.S. Commercial Service and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
The most important value the companies receive, however, no doubt comes from the value they themselves contribute to the program. There is a fair amount of "sweat equity" the company puts into the program, attending three full days over the course of three months, and a fair amount of market analysis, strategizing, and good ole fashion homework between meetings.
Yet, they all agree, the value they receive makes the time during and between class well worth it. They are ready to enter their new markets, armed with their own homework and the sound advice of experienced exporters and supported by a national network of business assistance providers.
They are ready for their international journey to begin, or to continue in another direction. And I remain ready to hear about their progress, their success stories, and their economic impact back here at home as their businesses expand and they hire many more workers over time.