ATLANTA--Most of America's small- and mid-sized businesses have failed to explore the significant growth opportunities offered by an increasingly global economy. Indeed, a new survey conducted for UPS (Atlanta) shows 67% of the nation's small-to-mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are still chaining themselves to the U.S. economy.
The inaugural UPS Business Monitor United States, a survey of 600 business decision-makers conducted by the marketing insight firm TNS, found that only 33% reported participating in any cross-border trade. Of those, 15% are importers and 9% exporters. Nine percent do both.
"The survey shows that many American SMEs haven't gone global yet," said David Abney, chief operating officer of UPS. "And if they don't take part in trade, they stand to lose their competitive edge in a business environment that continues to transcend international borders. For example, McKinsey [The McKinsey Quarterly, Jan. 2006 "Ten trends to watch in 2006" by Ian Davis, Elizabeth Stephenson] estimates that nearly 1 billion new consumers are expected to enter the global marketplace over the next decade as a result of economic growth in emerging markets, creating a significant opportunity for American small businesses."
Survey respondents cite many reasons for not engaging in international trade, including a perception that it is too risky, a lack of knowledge about international markets, unfamiliarity with customs regulations and disinterest in expanding business beyond U.S. borders.
Among businesses that either import or export, 45% perceive global trade as a benefit while 18% see it as a disadvantage. Slightly more than half - 52% - say global expansion will help them remain competitive or create an opportunity to increase profits. One out of every four believes that global expansion could lead to competition that will cut into profits.
According to the Commerce Department's U.S. Commercial Service, the export potential of SMEs is "enormous." Small-and medium-sized companies account for almost 97% of U.S. exporters but still represent only about 30% of the total export value of U.S. goods. Because nearly two-thirds of SME exporters only sell to one foreign market, many of these firms could boost exports by selling products in more countries.
American SMEs aren't the only ones that may be missing out. The UPS Business Monitor Canada, released in August 2007, reveals similar findings. Slightly more than one quarter - 28% - of Canadian respondents said they source products outside Canada and 21% sell products internationally.
"Until small businesses make going global an integral part of their business, they will continue to lose out on 95% of the world's customers that reside outside the U.S.A.," said Laurel Delaney, president and founder of Global TradeSource, Ltd.
The results regarding global trade represent the initial findings of a survey that will be released in full later this fall. Other highlights from the initial findings include:
• Of SMEs that import, 88% say they expect the amount of their imports will either increase or stay the same over the next year (32% say it will increase and 56% say it will remain consistent).
• Of SMEs that export, 95% say they expect the amount of their exports will either increase or stay the same over the next year (44% say it will increase and 51% say it will remain consistent).
• Canada and Mexico are seen as offering the best opportunities, especially by SMEs that both import and export.