The world is more interconnected than it’s ever been. This provides a perfect opportunity for you to create your own import-export business. Whether it’s importing beautiful textiles from another continent or exporting local Canadian products abroad, all you need is passion and drive to get started.
You probably have plenty of ideas swirling around in your head, but the only way to make your business a reality and ensure your success is to write a winning business plan. Business plans are notoriously long and complex but don’t be disheartened. Here are 6 steps to writing the perfect business plan for your import-export company:
1. Start with an Executive Summary.
Think of this as the ultimate introduction to your business. It should concisely delineate exactly what you want as a business owner. Remember, you need to know where your business is going. It’s up to you to clarify your vision. No one is going to be as passionate about your import-export storefront as you are.
Your executive summary should have:
- Your business concept: what you’ll sell, who will purchase it, and why your business will work
- Financial points: your sales, profits, cash flows, and ROI
- Required finances: what capital is needed and how it will be used
- Current business state: a short history of your business including key members of staff
- Achievements: may include test marketing, facility locations, important contracts, etc.
Keep it short and sweet. Ideally, your executive summary will be no more than half a page. The rest of your business plan is where you’ll go into greater detail about these components.
It might be helpful to go through How to Start an Import Export Business before you create your executive summary to ensure everything is carefully thought out before you present it in your business plan.
2. Include a Business Description.
This is your opportunity to describe exactly what you’re importing or exporting and how it will succeed. Are you importing Congolese avocados? Show how you can guarantee perfect ripeness when they reach stores. Are you exporting blenders to Bolivia? Demonstrate you’ve found the perfect blender to suit the demand of that market.
Here are some questions to consider and incorporate:
- How does the industry look now and how might it change in the future?
- Is your business brand new or already established?
- What kind of business is it (e.g. partnership, corporation)?
- What are the ins and outs of the distribution of your product?
- How is your business better than your competitors?
- What exactly makes your business profitable?
Don’t forget insurance. Investors and lenders need to see you’re responsible and won’t lose money from major oversights. You might think skipping product insurance will help you make more money, but this is a huge mistake in the long run. Find a premium insurance company and include that information in your business description.
3. Conduct a Market Analysis.
Roll up your sleeves—this part takes a lot of effort. If you put the work in and do the research, it will pay off. The point of your market analysis is to demonstrate your knowledge of the market and your ability to claim a significant share of it.
A great market analysis can look like this:
- Define the market: talk about size, trends, rules and regulations, prospective growth areas, and sales potential
- Nail down the total feasible market: specifically address the portion of the market your business can realistically capture
- Estimate market share: take into consideration industry growth and your product’s life cycle
- Determine pricing: discuss your reasons for pricing and how you will cover costs
- Explain your promotion strategy: this includes advertising, packaging, PR, etc.
Factor in exchange rates. As you’re figuring out your price, be sure to include exchange rates in your calculations. Neglecting this could sink your business. You might want to consider using the local currency of the country you’re working with, especially if they use an international currency such as euros or US dollars. Are you planning on exporting to the EU? Don’t miss this helpful guide.
4. Summarize a Competitive Analysis.
Not quite the same as your market analysis, your competitive analysis focuses mainly on the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Planning to import Italian cars? Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. What options do they have for purchasing an Italian car? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each option?
After you make a list of all your potential competitors, you’ll want to organize all the information in a competitive strength grid, which outlines which competitors are strong in each skill category and which ones are weak (e.g. price, product quality).
Lastly, you’ll need to clearly define your competitive advantage. Do you have a lower price point? Are your cars of better quality? Do you have a more solid advertising plan? Can you break into a new market?
Your price equates to your product’s value. If you price your product too far below your competitors, it may cheapen your product in the eyes of consumers. There’s nothing wrong with trying to outpace your competitors in pricing, but make sure you don’t overdo it and cause your customers to overlook your product due to a lower perceived quality.
5. Create a Design & Development Plan.
This is where you focus on details, details, details. How are you going to make your business a reality? Now is your opportunity to get it all on paper.
Here are some questions to answer in this section:
- What are your goals for product development?
- Which procedures will you have in place for product review, marketing, and distribution?
- What is your exact production schedule?
- What’s in your detailed development budget?
- How many employees need to be recruited and in what areas?
- What possible risks are apparent?
- How will your business function on a continuing basis?
- What is the organizational structure of your business?
If you’ve left any of these questions unanswered, you’ll need to add more details.
Don’t go it alone. You might prefer to do everything on your own, but that will only leave you overworked and exhausted. There are so many specifics in the import-export world that you can easily get overwhelmed. Do yourself a favor and hire a team to help.
Are you planning on selling your product on Amazon? Check out these useful logistical tips.
6. Don’t Forget the Financial Data.
When it comes down to it, this is what investors really want to see. This is how they’ll determine whether your business – anything from exporting dresses to importing sailboats – will succeed or not.
You’ll need to include three statements in the financial section:
- Income statement: a simple report on monthly sales and expenses
- Cash flow statement: a schedule of what money is needed and where it will come from
- Balance sheet: a summary of your business’s assets, liabilities, and equity
Let your words be few. You should include a short analysis statement after the income statement, but resist the temptation to ramble. The idea is to let the financial statements in this portion speak for themselves.
Once you’ve finished your business plan, send it out to investors and lenders you’ve already established a connection with. Make big asks—you never know who might say yes! With an excellent import export business plan at your disposal, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful business owner.
BorderBuddy creates importing and exporting solutions for any size of business. We specialize in smoothing the process for you—handling the paperwork and logistics so you can focus on growing your company. We love supporting small businesses and are proud of the success stories we’ve been a part of. Give us a call and let us help you create a unique and sustainable import-export business today.