Having looked outwards to establish that your product has a potential foreign market, you now need to look inwards to determine if your business is geared to manage the demands that exporting will place on it. If it’s not, sit tight and start putting the necessary systems and infrastructure in place, because launching your product to a market you can’t deliver to can be extremely harmful and may severely compromise your position in that market in the long-term.
Peter Maree, who exports the local Tsonga range of shoes to the United States, Australia, the UK, Europe and Japan, confirms: “Being able to provide consistent repeat service is absolutely critical. If you can’t service this market, you’re dead in the water. When we got Tsonga into Nordstrom in the United States, we heard how they had dropped one of the previous season’s most successful brands because the suppliers couldn’t provide the repeat service necessary to ensure the retailer had sufficient stock.”
Apart from establishing and gaining experience in a national market, your business should be able to finance exporting operations for between 12 and 24 months, during which time you might not see any profit. Cash flow is one of the biggest challenges in exporting and from the time you receive an order to the time you are paid can easily be six months. You will also have to bear the extra costs that come with exporting.
Your business should also have good, trusted contacts in the countries to which you wish to export. Most exporters learn the ropes as they go along but this can be a painful and extremely costly process – if you’re planning to export, bring in someone who has export skills or go about gaining them yourself. Investigate exporting courses at your local Chamber of Commerce.