January 2000; Vol. 9 Issue 1  
The Resource for Small and Emerging Businesses
www.kcsmallbiz.com     www.thebizstream.com
In Focus International Business: 

Creating a Checklist of Export Readiness

By Brian Gauler

Successful exporting depends on corralling the details-any that get away can undo your program.

Whether heading for the grocery or Great Britain, devising a checklist will make sure you get everything done-and that's very important for an exporter.

The checklist provided here is a brief overview of key items that need to be considered before entering foreign markets. The items have been divided into two major categories: Internal, for functions that must be organized within the company, and External, for items more specifically related to the actual export.


  • Has a market plan been developed to get into exporting?
  • Is an export license required?
  • Has an international sales program been developed?
  • What kind of international sales and/or payment terms will you offer?
  • What kind of international pricing will you offer?
  • How will you handle international sales inquiries?
  • How will you solicit exports?
  • What actions will be taken within the company when an export order is received?
  • Should you want to use an agent distributor, has an application form been designed to help him or her determine the best company to handle the product? And what about contracts?
  • Has contact been made with key people?
    • A banker for getting your money from foreign companies
    • A forwarder for developing shipping procedures
    • A lawyer for developing an agent/distributor contract
    • An accountant for considering a Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC)
    • An export packer for preparing or packing your product for overseas shipment
    • An insurance agent for insuring shipments and receivables
  • Will your sales be direct?
  • If indirect, have you considered an export management company (EMC)?
  • If direct, do you plan to use foreign representatives/agents and/or distributors?
  • Where will you look for trade leads? Agent/distributors trade leads?
  • How will you prepare for foreign negotiations?


  • Who will handle advertising/promotion? Do you have an international advertising program?
  • Does your company have product, facility and/or technical brochures? Are you prepared to have them translated?
  • Do you plan to participate in international trade shows?

Market Research:

  • How will your product and company be interpreted and viewed in a foreign culture? Consider such aspects such as logos, brand names and product adaptation.
  • Have you looked into packaging details such as language, suitability of color, size and name?


  • Must your product be offered in metric?
  • Have target market been researched?
  • Has the foreign competition been evaluated?

  • What type of packing will be used-export pack, export crate?
  • What standard precautionary markings and international symbols will be used on the outside of your packing?


  • How will the product be transported to its foreign destination-ocean, air, mail, delivery service?
  • If shipping, has inland transportation been considered? Will consolidation or containerization be used?


  • Will a Shippers Export Declaration (SED) that is required for any export in value of $2,500 or more be necessary?
  • Has documentation such as packing list, bills of lading, consular invoices, certificates of origin or insurance forms been properly completed?

Terms of Payment:
  • What kind of financial arrangements for payment have you made-letter of credit, sight draft, date draft?
  • Will your company offer foreign customers credit?

Risk Coverage:

  • Did you know receivables can be insured by EX/IM?

Foreign Exchange:

  • Are there U.S. dollar exchange controls?
  • Is the country's currency stable?
  • Have there been any recent dramatic changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate?

  • Are you aware of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act that prohibits certain foreign payments?
  • Are you acquainted with "red flag" language to alert you to anti-boycott compliance?
  • Has legal counsel prepared a suitable international agreement or sales contract?
  • Have you considered protecting your copyrights, trademarks and/or patents internationally?