In many ways, starting an import business can be more complex than starting a non-import
business. Not only do you have all the challenges of an entrepreneur such as finding
funding sources and keeping your books, but you have to deal with an international
country, language, laws and customs. Here are some import tips to help you overcome
All around general business skills. You’ll not only need to be good in finance,
but also in marketing, customer service, accounting, logistics and human resources.
You will be forced to be involved in functional areas that you either don’t like
or not good at.
Understanding the importing process for your country. Importing as a business can
be overwhelming but you must understand all the steps to the importing process. The
process is governed by laws and regulations. So it is something that you’ll want
to spend some time and learn every step.
Product Experts. You need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and fully understand
what they want and need in the product that you are about to import from China. What
are the specifications such as size, weight, color and materials? What are the quality
Be able to Count all your pennies. To run an importing business successfully, you’ll
need to be able to micro-manage your importing costs. There are manufacturing costs,
tariffs, agent fees, and shipping and packing costs. Loosely managing your personal
finances may be fine but bringing that bad habit to you importing business can spell
Understand and monitor the impact of foreign exchanges. One very important element
that you’ll need to contend with is the international fluctuations in currency. How
stable are the exchange rates between your country and the importing country? What
seems to be a cheap product cost one day may be tragically expensive on another day
due to currency fluctuations. Your profits could disappear when your next shipment
from the supplier arrives.
Ability to assess the political situation of the importing country. One common characteristic
of the low cost suppliers is that they are typically in developing countries where
the political environment may be unstable. A civil war or a change in government
and or its policies could end your supplier relationship quickly.
Finding a low cost supplier. The business model for an importing business is buy
your products at a low cost and sell them at the highest price possible in your country.
Competition is stiff. Be prepared that your competitor will try to price you out
of the market. In order to give you pricing flexibility, you must be able to find
a low cost supplier.
Build a relationship with your supplier. In the world of an importing business, the
supplier of your goods is the life blood of your business. So it is imperative that
you build a long term win win relationship. If your supplier does not give you the
quantity of goods that you requested, you will go on backorder with your customers.
If your supplier terminates your relationship, you could go out of business unless
you can find another supplier quickly.
Create a market for yourself in your local market. Obtaining a low cost supply is
only one half of the equation of the importing business. Finding a market and developing
it is the other half. You’ll need to assess your competition and understand your
potential customers. You must be able to answer, “why should someone buy from you
versus your competitor”.
Appropriate amounts of working capital - Working capital is the ability of your importing
business to pay back creditors in the short term. You have to make sure that your
current assets exceed your current liabilities. Much of this involves running your
importing business efficiently. So short term assets such as money is not tied up
due to slow paying customers.