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12 Characteristics That Lead to Export Success
by Bridget Weston
April 12, 2022
Large ship docked and loaded with colorful shipping containers

Once you’ve established your business nationally, the next step might be to sell your product internationally.

Despite the daunting task of taking your business global, new borders mean new opportunities, new markets, and new revenue streams, all of which can be a boon to your bottom line.

As you evaluate the feasibility of expanding your business ventures to the global market, you should look beyond your business acumen, products, and experience. Do you have the personal attributes to make it in the world of exports?

Do you have a global mindset?

Successful exporters, international expansion artists, and global executives may vary in their temperament, personality, and experience, but they have a common global mindset: the ability and courage to operate their business in an unknown environment.

A global mindset starts with self-awareness, reflects an authentic openness to and engagement with the world, and employs a heightened awareness of the sensitivity of cross-cultural differences. Toss in the right personality traits and interests, and you have the foundation to be a global thought leader. Capitalizing on these attributes is a powerful factor for developing a global mindset and achieving success in the export world.

The 12 characteristics that predict success in the export marketplace:

Those who have found success as exporters of businesses, products, or services possess the following characteristics in common. If you fall short, there are actions you can take to strengthen your foundation.

  1. Adaptability. Successful exporters are able to venture out into the world and adapt to their changing environment quickly. You can make this easier by studying the culture, attitudes, and business landscape of your targeted international markets.
  2. Curiosity. Are you curious by nature? Do you love learning and exploring new cultures? This trait is part of what drives entrepreneurs to venture into the global marketplace and find success when they get there.
  3. Flexibility. Successful exporters are able to adjust their focus to foster strong business relations, tackle unforeseen obstacles, and pursue new opportunities.  
  4. Confidence. Are you confident in your capabilities and comfortable presenting your ideas to others? Public speaking is essential to your company’s growth, but it doesn’t come naturally to many. If you could use a boost, rehearse prior to your presentations, and consider filming them.
  5. Streamlining. Are you able to take something complex and simplify it? It is an underrated, yet crucial skill for exporters.
  6. Social and emotional intelligence. Social and emotional intelligence is critical to being able to drive success in today’s marketplace. Educate yourself about the cultural norms of the foreign countries and the people you'll be working with as you navigate your new global challenges and hurdles.
  7. Objectivity. Successful exporters are objective and open to the ideas, attitudes, and approaches of others. You can work on your objectivity by studying different management techniques and learning how some leading executives and businesses have utilized different tactics to find success overseas.
  8. Perseverance. Perseverance and persistence are essential to overcoming the frequent challenges in expanding your business. As with any business endeavor, exporting requires determination, grit, and stick-to-it-iveness, especially when facing complications or challenges unique to global exporting.
  9. Wanderlust. Most successful exporters enjoy spending significant amounts of time in foreign countries and learning new languages. If you are intimidated by that prospect, plan to visit your target country for a week to get a better understanding of the local customs and logistics of day-to-day living. You can also take online language courses to improve your ability to communicate with vendors and customers.
  10. Leadership. Successful exporters are skilled at bringing out the best in people, regardless of their position, background, or geographic location. If you’re not certain how strong your leadership skills are, ask former colleagues who are more likely to be honest than those with whom you currently work.
  11. Tact. Communicating potentially uncomfortable information with sensitivity is key for leaders; this skill is even more essential when working internationally with diverse populations. If you aren’t a naturally tactful person, practice. When you have an important and difficult conversation looming, prepare what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can also consider role-playing with a colleague.
  12. Resilience. There will be setbacks on your road to becoming a successful exporter. The ability to bounce back from even the most challenging events is critical and lays the groundwork for dealing with similar issues in the future.

Next steps to becoming a successful exporter

As you evaluate your personal traits and consider the feasibility of expanding your business overseas, reach out to a SCORE mentor for valuable guidance in developing your business plan to expand overseas. 

About the author
Bridget Weston
Bridget Weston
Bridget Weston is the CEO of the SCORE Association, where she provides executive leadership and works directly and collaboratively with the Board of Directors to establish the vision and direction of SCORE.
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