Doing Business Internationally

As the business world goes global, CPAs are advising clients more frequently on how to take advantage of opportunities to market their products and services abroad. Here are some steps a company should take before entering the international market.

Obtain information about foreign markets from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Trade Data Bank.

Get a list of potential foreign buyers from sources such as Export Yellow Pages, Commercial News USA, National Export Offer Service, Trade Compass and the Internet.

Prepare a market factor assessment of the economic, physical, demographic, social and cultural conditions in various areas, and look at market access and product or service potential.

Contact the U.S. Census Bureau for information and services it provides.

Explore options for promoting the product or service on the Internet.

Do some research on the World Trade Organization and on trading agreements.

Learn about the provisions of the North American Foreign Trade Agreement (NAFTA).


Prepare a broad-based international business plan.

Choose a market to target.

Obtain phone books for the targeted market.

Study the business etiquette of the targeted region (manners, socializing, gifts and the acceptance of women in business).

Plan travel to the targeted area through a travel agency with knowledge of the region.

Brush up on necessary foreign language skills.

Obtain the required visas and travel documents.

Select a trade show to introduce the product or services using the U.S. Department of Commerce, Gale Research’s Trade Show Worldwide or the Expo Guide Index.

Get ready for the trade show by preparing a budget, designing the demonstration booth and program, preparing price quotes, scheduling personnel, making travel arrangements and getting custom clearances.


Assess whether the most cost-effective and efficient entry to the chosen market would be through a commissioned sales agent, an export management company or export trading company, a sales representative, distributors, direct sales to consumers, licensing or joint ventures.

Decide whether offshore production makes sense.

Consider what standard clauses, penalties and protections are necessary in contracts or agreements.

Consider transportation, documentation and packaging factors

Choose a freight forwarder.

Ensure that shipments comply with international commercial terms.

Investigate international insurance.

Make sure shipments will comply with export/import regulations.

Obtain export/import processing forms.

Determine whether special certificates (certificate of origin, for example) are required for products or services.

Obtain a merchandise passport (Carnet).

Find out what labeling is required to ship overseas and in what language.

Learn about the metric system and obtain conversion tables.

Establish pricing, financing and payment policies.

Source: Adapted from Doing Business Internationally, Sotomayor & Associates LLP, Pasadena, California.

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