Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Sources of Assistance for Small Business Exporters: Advice from Successful Firms

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Sources of Assistance for Small Business Exporters: Advice from Successful Firms

Article excerpt



Cet article rapporte les resultats de l'ebtude de 101 petites entreprises d'exportation obtablies. Deseadres a responsabilites ontrendu compte aux enquiteurs de leur pereeption(l) des tgLches les plus importantes pour garantir le succes d'une exportation, et (2) des organisations

apportant le meilleur soutien aux petites entreprises. Suit une discussion de l'impact de ces decouvertes sur la coordination des activites et la realisation au sein des nouvelles firmes.

The U.S. may find some relief from the huge trade deficit it is now experiencing (approximately $170 billion in 1987) if it can direct the energies of the small business community toward the international scene. The strength of our small businesses, while long recognized, gained renewed attention during the most recent recession, when small businesses generated new jobs and new technologies while many large corporations were faltering.

It is now time to tap small business potential to help ease the pressure of the trade deficit. The passage of the Small Business Export Expansion Act of 1980 is evidence that our nation's leaders are aware of the benefits to be derived from expanded small business exporting activity. The Act reads (in part) "every billion dollars in exports is estimated to provide 40,000 jobs; small businesses account for no more than 10 percent of all United States export sales; and it is in the national interest to encourage small business participation in the international markets."

With the rapid drop in the exchange value of the U.S. dollar, most trade experts feel that opportunities abound for U.S. firms in foreign markets. A critical question for the U.S. small business community is, "What services are most needed by small businesses to enable them to initiate or expand export programs?"

The purpose of the study reported in this article was to determine (a) what successful small business exporters perceive to be the most important tasks in initiating or expanding an exporting program, and (b) what agencies they feel are most helpful in accomplishing those tasks.


Since the passage of the Export Expansion Act in 1980, the Congressional Committee on Small Business has held numerous hearings and conducted a study to determine the needs of small businesses. Their findings suggest that the greatest obstacles in exporting are lack of information, regulations, expenses, and financing. The most frequently cited information needs had to do with identifying potential foreign customers and agents, foreign markets, and foreign demand for products. One businessman from Ohio is quoted as saying,

If I could identify foreign customers for my products, and if I knew where to go to locate an honest and effective agent to promote my products, I would export. The time and expense to do this doesn't seem warranted.

A study of small exporting firms showed the two most frequently cited export-related problems were communications and sales effort.' A study of small manufacturing firms in Wisconsin found the most frequently cited problems to be insufficient finances, foreign government restrictions, insufficient knowledge about foreign selling opportunities, inadequate product distribution abroad, and lack of foreign market connections. Another study of firms exporting agricultural products found that foreign market information was the most important government service offered to these firms, with circulation of inquiries received from abroad often ranking second. Small firms not currently exporting gave low ratings to government services, international trade shows, seminars and workshops, and government offices overseas. The chief drawbacks cited were the lack of resources and the lack of information.

These studies did not focus exclusively on successful small business exporters, but successful firms can serve as role models. …

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