Exporting Tool Review: SBA’s Export Business Planner

by BizFilings Business Owner’s Toolkit

Here’s a riddle for the export-eager entrepreneur: What clocks in at 192 pages and is free? Unless you have a habit of absconding with condensed Gideon Bibles, the only answer we have is the SBA’s Export Business Planner.

This massive tool is designed for “business owners who are exploring exporting.” While we recommend other resources if you’re merely exploring the possibilities of exporting, such as export.gov’s “Export Questionnaire“ or “Basic Guide to Exporting,” the Planner remains the go-to tool when you’re past considering exporting and ready to commit resources to this aspect of your business.

Once you download the tool (a PDF), simply skim the first few chapters as they contain largely fluff or information you should already know if you’ve come this far in the exporting planning process. We’ll cover the chapters that matter most.

Creating an Export Business Plan

From this point forward, none of the Planner will be particularly easy, and the Export Business Plan section is no exception. You’ll have to work through exercises such as:

  • a business analysis that forces you to examine the current state of your company and your position against competitor an industry analysis that provides resources to find where your
  • an industry stands among exporting statistics with the Census Bureau and various trade associations.
  • a products/trend analysis that helps you find which countries or areas are best suited for your product, and then limiting that list to markets with the greatest chance of success. These and other worksheets reference a number of outside sources (with links provided) as well as your internal data.

Developing Your Marketing Plan

Many entrepreneurs think they can hire a native speaker to translate their ads, adapt their marketing plan to a new region and wait for the exporting earnings to come rolling in. Coincidentally, many entrepreneurs’ forays into exporting fail.

To help ensure your exporting marketing efforts are successful, the Planner provides a 45-page chapter on your marketing plan. Once you’ve identified top markets to explore, this chapter helps refine your marketing strategy and tactics through exercises such as a market factor assessment, distributorship/agent guide, customer identification and more. Like the Export Business Plan, these can be time-consuming and involve fairly extensive research.

Financing Your Exporting Venture

For you finance aficionados, you’re about to enter number-crunching heaven. For the rest of you, take a deep breath and relax. You can do this.

The chapter starts with one of the most essential series of worksheets you’ll need to complete: forecasting the first five years of sales. This portion alone will show you if, financially speaking, you can support an exporting program, or where adjustments must be made. Everything else—export costing, marketing expense costs, projected income, etc.—will require the same detail and tenacity you put forth in other exercises.

The Export Business Planner is so thick for a reason. Exporting shouldn’t be an impulse decision. It must be a calculated, deliberate endeavor. And there isn’t a much better preparation tool out there than this SBA offering.

About Business Owner’s Toolkit
With an emphasis on problem-solving dating back to 1995, Business Owner’s Toolkit™ (www.toolkit.com) offers more than 5,000 pages of free cost-cutting tips, step-by-step checklists, real-life case studies, startup advice, and business templates to small business owners and entrepreneurs. The site also offers a monthly newsletter, up-to-date news topics, and Ask Alice!, a column that closely follows industry trends and provides trusted advice to inquiring site visitors.