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Reading the Greens: Four Questions From First-Time Exporters

When a golfer wants to "read the greens" – understand the twists and turns of an unfamiliar course – he often seeks advice from a knowledgeable caddy. When Rock Bottom Golf wanted to "read the greens" of the global business landscape, the discount retailer turned to another expert advisor – the Department of Commerce's United States Commercial Service (USCS).

With the USCS' guidance, Rock Bottom Golf set up a successful distributor center in Australia. Today, the New York-based company sells golf products in more than 30 countries.

FedEx has teamed with the USCS to provide free assistance and information to help companies tap into international markets. We've identified the first four questions that first-time exporters often ask – as well as answers and resources to make international trade less daunting.

1. Exporting sounds enticing – but complex. How do I even get started?

Getting started is much less complex than you might imagine. The first step is to develop an international business plan, identifying your objectives, internal goals and commitments, and milestones to gauge success and keep you on track. The USCS has plenty of material and experts to show you how to create a clear and concise plan.

Best of all, the USCS can guide you step-by-step, turning this process into a valuable exercise that will sharpen and strengthen your global initiative. For example, the USCS can show you how to conduct an "audit" of your company to determine how exporting will affect you. It can give you a clear idea of what information you need to collect – and where to find it. It can help you avoid problems, save time, and get your global business going faster and more profitably. By breaking down the process into concrete, actionable steps, going international becomes a lot less daunting.

2. How do I determine the best markets for my products and find qualified buyers?

Information levels the playing field, and the USCS can provide much of the information you need to tackle any foreign market. For example, Rock Bottom Golf relied on the USCS for the locations of golf courses and clubs in Australia, as well as market research reports about the sporting goods sector down under. Armed with this data, Rock Bottom Golf had no trouble finding duffers who were eager for its products.

If you're just getting started with exporting, you might want to focus on three nearby markets, which will allow you to grow at a comfortable pace while containing your supply-chain costs. Another idea is to leverage existing free trade agreements, which give you with favorable trade conditions, duties, and tax rates. The USCS can help you determine the ideal markets with expert advice, webinars, and reports, as well as general or customized market research (

3. What paperwork, documentation and licenses do I need to export my products?

Many companies find this important step overwhelming – and too often they ignore it. The good news is you can easily find all the necessary paperwork – as well as resources about estimating the cost of tax and duties – with a few clicks of your mouse. The FedEx Global Trade Manager is an easy-to-use online source for documents and other export information. The USCS also provides a list of common export documents for individual countries, letting you focus on growing your business instead of wading through paperwork.

4. How can I get the proper financing to ensure my global business will be profitable?

The USCS can help you determine your financing needs, identify financing or grants or assistance you may be qualified for, and help you apply. The organization works closely with financial institutions such as the Export-Import Bank. Visit USCS: Secure Export Financing for a detailed overview and tools that can get you started.

The world may seem like a big place – but it's shrinking fast. And with a plethora of expert guidance and resources available to small businesses, you don't need to make your global trek alone.

For more, visit the FedEx Citizenship Blog at