Doing Business on an International Scale: Be Prepared

Your business is making the leap to international customers, suppliers or both. You are now faced with tackling decisions about unified communications, international payments, international shipping, import and export duties and tariffs, just to name a few. The tools and methods you implement at this crucial stage will determine your rank in the market. Choose wisely.



Unified communications is the integration of real-time communication within your organization for efficiency and improved collaboration.This can include instant messaging, voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP), video conferencing and data sharing. Global business communications company Mitel can help you evaluate your communication needs and guide you toward the most comprehensive implementation plan. They have examined solutions by industry and geographic location. Another great way to keep everyone on the same page is using a cloud backup system. If you organize everything on the cloud, employees can access it from anywhere. Services like Mozy Enterprise back up and sync your files while offering complete data protection. You can even access files and have complete control from mobile devices. This is not an area where you want to be guessing. The key to any successful business is the ability to communicate— don’t skimp here.

Financial Transactions

Obtaining payment on international transactions is a critical process commonly overlooked by small and medium-sized businesses. Your main options when it comes to receiving international payments are as follows:

  • Payment in advance: Not a popular method with customers.
  • Payment on-line: PayPal and American Express FX International Payments are great options if you trust your customer is going to pay.
  • Irrevocable letter of credit: Requires a bank to verify buyer funds are available in order to issue the letter of credit. Shipper will not ship product until the letter of credit is issued. Once product is received, the buyer notifies the bank, which releases funds to the seller. Letters of credit also lock in exchange rates leaving you protected from currency fluctuations. While this can be a complicated and expensive process, it is the most reliable international payment method and affords you the most protection.

Import/Export Duties and Tariffs

A duty or tariff is a tax levied by the government on the value, including freight and insurance, of imported and exported products. Your tariff amount is determined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule assigned to your product. Determining proper HTS for your product and the ports to use are better left to the experts. Dealing directly with Customs can leave you with a giant headache. Freight-forwarding companies are your best option for handling Customs, payment of duties, fees and so on. They will even coordinate payment arrangements on your behalf. This is their core competency. Freight-forwarding companies such as and can help you with an import and/or export solution that is right for your business. Before choosing a provider, however, be sure to review their industry-specific experience and request references.


Take the time to understand the cultural complications and economic climate of the countries in which you will do business. Conducting international business in some countries will require collaboration. That collaboration can leave you vulnerable to various financial and personal risks. The World Trade Organization is a good source of information on international trade agreements and collaborations. Consult the U.S. Department of State website to stay on top of political climates and travel concerns that may affect your ability to do business.



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