DHL Busts Down International Trade Barriers for SMBs

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted May 24, 2016

Why venture to foreign markets when making your mark as a local small business owner is challenging enough?

Just the thought of dealing with export laws, multiple currencies, and language barriers can make the idea of expanding beyond one's local market a non-starter. The problem with that line of thinking is that your best potential customers may be abroad, according to Eugene Laney, head of trade affairs for DHL Express.

[Related: How to Sell Overseas: 5 Tips for Small Business]

Nobody disputes that the United States is a major market, but it's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of seizing business opportunities. A whopping 95 percent of the world's population resides outside the U.S. Similarly, 75 percent of the world's purchasing power takes place beyond U.S. borders.

Large, multinational corporations have long tapped into foreign markets, but small businesses can too. And DHL wants to help, said Laney.

DHL: a global small business partner

A Global Small Business Partner

Apart from its shipping services and hard-to-miss yellow delivery trucks, DHL is also known for its extensive global trade services network. Businesses, both big and small, rely on DHL to get their goods to practically every corner of the globe and to get paid.

"We act as a facilitator; we bring together all the information that you need," Laney told Small Business Computing.

First, of course, is access to DHL's vast shipping network, which touches 220 markets. Decades of moving goods, simplifying logistics, and cutting through endless red tape for its customers gives DHL a "wealth of expertise" on navigating the global economy, said Laney.

Need assistance? Customers can tap the collective expertise of DHL's 80,000 certified international specialists.

Take payment practices, for instance. "India is more cash-based," Laney noted. "Everything is going to involve cash," he added. Customers generally pay for goods when they arrive at the customer's door, not before, something to consider if you're thinking of selling to that populous nation. DHL can help match small businesses with local partners to make sure the cash keeps flowing regardless of the detours it takes along the way.

DHL also engages with governments to advocate on behalf of small business sellers with global ambitions. As noted in a letter from Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express U.S., on DHL's Go Global Resource Center website, his company "has partnered with the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration to provide access to a wide range of resources, including industry-specific consulting and market research."

Conducting Business Around the Corner or Across the Globe

Located in New York City's trendy Soho neighborhood, an online company called Shoptiques.com uses DHL to help deliver stylish and unique fashions from more than 5,000 boutiques in five countries to shoppers' closets. "That's a lot of distribution points (and a lot of differing import/export regulation to sort through)," Maile Lesica, head of international logistics and account management for Shoptiques, said in an email interview. "DHL has been a great partner helping us think through needs by country for every distribution point."

In addition to providing duty-paid shipping services, DHL helped Shoptiques develop a global strategy, added Lesica. "There are many macro factors you need to be aware of when entering new markets, including the economy, customer-protection legislation, how familiar customers in that market are with shopping online, duties and taxes, etc. All of these factors impact our potential in that market: how difficult it will be to operate there and how profitable the market may be."

It's no small task, but DHL's international trade experts are up to the task, said Lesica. The shipping giant's specialists "have been supportive in that they collect and provide very useful data and trends that they see in markets. In fact, one of our 2016 launches includes a country our DHL account manager had the foresight to recommend to us back in February," she said.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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