Export Products, Import Cash

atangen | Feb 25, 2014 |


If you’ve got a small North Idaho business or are even dreaming about starting one, it’s never too soon to plan on exporting your product. The good news is that there’s an army of local experts eager to help you — none better than George Atchley and Co. of the Small Business Development Center in Post Falls.

George-Atchley-thumbnail-for-webAtchley has put together a series of export-centric workshops to help owners of small businesses answer tough questions and anticipate challenges in getting their goods and products sold internationally. The first workshop, Feb. 5, featured international banking experts Gary DeGrange and Lee Gibbs, both based in Boise with Zions Bank. Future workshops will focus on legal issues, regulatory matters, transportation, insurance, and cultural considerations. But after the Feb. 5 workshop, which included a rapid-fire, dizzying array of banking terms and scenarios that exporters could one day find themselves in, Atchley smiled reassuringly.

“What you really need to know is who to talk to,” said the longtime sales executive who now serves as one of the SBDC’s coaches. “In this case, your banker.” Gibbs, one of the presenting bankers, also extolled the virtues of building strong relationships as a foundation not just for successful exporting, but successful business. “You should go one on one with people,” Gibbs said.

Atchley, for those with exporting on their possible horizon, is an essential one-on-one. He’s knowledgeable but communicates clearly and easily. He breaks down complex issues and zeroes in on what’s most relevant.
“We will demystify, simplify, and accelerate your exporting success,” he promises. And, he adds: They will do it for free.

Under the auspices of North Idaho College and operating out of the Workforce Training Center in Post Falls, the SBDC provides quality business counseling and, in many cases, valuable connections at no charge to North Idahoans. “We’re not going to teach you in the sense that we’re going to do it for you,” Atchley said, “but we will help you.”

Atchley’s assumption is that if your business isn’t exporting now, you should have good reasons why not. Lee, the Zions banker who spent his first 15 years in Moscow, told the story of a Burley, Idaho business owner whose U.S. market share was declining. The trend was so disturbing, Lee said, the businessman couldn’t get financing. Lee put the businessman together with three different Small Business Administration programs and pointed him in the direction of exporting — which, by the way, the businessman didn’t initially embrace — and good things started happening. “Now over 50 percent of his business is in the international market,” Lee said. And that makes perfect sense to Atchley.

As Atchley explained during the workshop, many of the world’s marketplaces are eager for American-made goods and products. He played a couple of games with myth and fact. First, Atchley listed a handful of reasons some businesses assume they can’t or shouldn’t export, including:

  • They think exporting is too complicated.
  • They doubt that other countries can afford to buy their products.
  • They think people won’t buy if they don’t speak English.
  • They just don’t know how to go about exporting.

One powerful piece of Atchley’s message is that other countries CAN afford your products. In fact, two-thirds of the world’s buying power resides outside U.S. borders. According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. GDP ranks seventh, trailing (in order): Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore, Norway, Brunei and Hong Kong. What nobody can afford, Atchley said, is poor planning or no planning. “I encourage you to satisfy your local and domestic markets first,” he said, “but it’s not too soon to begin your export planning.”

Atchley and the SBDC is there to help. “We want to resource you,” said Bill Jhung, the center’s director. “We want to equip you. Our goal is to build outstanding global businesses right here in North Idaho.”

Get free, professional business advice from the Small Business Development Center in Post Falls.