Expert views

Go big or go home: getting small business to think large

3 June 2019
Philippe Gilbert, President, Supply Chain Solutions, UPS

Using technology to create a global presence means more customers, revenue

If global trade were fashion, it would be a challenge to keep track of whether it was in the ‘what’s hot’ or ’what’s not’ category. The broad-stroke headlines suggest challenging headwinds one day and great opportunities another. The reality is simple, though: global trade is not going away. We live in a deeply intertwined world.

Dig beyond grand headlines and you’ll see something bigger and more important that isn’t going away either. Worse, it can prevent micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) from competing in a global e-commerce boom that is projected hit $3.3 trillion this year and more than double to $6.7 trillion by 2025. The sticky wicket? It’s called complexity.

Global trade is, quite simply, complex. When you consider the number of touch points for an international shipment, the intricacy of it all can seem daunting. Very quickly, you have to factor in working in multiple languages, working across time zones and trading in different currencies (which, of course, fluctuate). There are multiple modes of transport and harmonized tariff codes as confusing as the regulatory requirements attached to the goods being moved. As if that isn’t enough, factor in excessive manual and paper-based forms and processes as well as duty drawback services.


Pulling your hair out yet? Here’s the good news: the complexity of global trade can be mitigated by technology. We work every single day to smooth the flow of digital trade. When you’re moving 3% of the world’s GDP daily, as we do, efficiency is the name of the game. We are committed to sharing these efficiencies with our customers so they can focus on what they do best, while we focus on shipping and logistics.

For example, we recently announced a new software platform called eFulfillment that immediately connects shippers to 21 online marketplaces. Plug in and we take care of the rest. It’s turnkey. It allows small businesses to market at scale with a fully managed presence on eBay, Wal-Mart, Etsy, Amazon and many others.

In a similar fashion, there’s a massive need for a turnkey software platform to simplify the complexities of global trade.

MSMEs have an enormous and largely untapped market staring them in the face every day – it’s called ‘the world.’ However, if they don’t get some help to simplify the complexities of trading across borders they will become just another statistic. They may never trade beyond their own borders.


Get expert advice.
It sounds elementary, but surrounding yourself with experts with an outside view is a safe place to start. We can help. Our staff can see a problem from halfway around the world and, based on previous experience, know the solution before the challenge lands. As the world’s largest brokerage provider, we’re building even more expertise via strategic acquisitions. Most recently we acquired Zone Solutions to add Free Trade Zone (FTZ) services to our portfolio, as well as Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services to provide expert legal and trade management and consulting services.

Make smart technology purchases.
It won’t come as a surprise that you will need purpose-built technology. An initial investment in software and a multi-language website is enough to tell the world about your product and respond effectively to customer requests. Accurate online tracking services also give your customers predictability as well as the confidence to know where a shipment is and when it will arrive.

Seemingly small touches can have an outsized effect. Once orders start rolling in, having the right supply chain and logistics partner by your side – one who can help you manage returns, distribution, warehousing and customs regulations – can make the difference between success and failure. Today, our smart global network moves nearly 21 million packages around the planet each day and the technology that makes it run plays no small part in smoothing the process of global trade. You will want to put your key into a network that is ready to go for you on the first turn.

Get excited.
If you’ve got a good source for external advice lined up and a tech-ready network in the wings, you’re ready to punch above your weight and tap into new cross-border markets. Since you know that the complexities are as great as the opportunities, you’ll be well-placed to combine trusted outside advice and purpose-built technology together and be ready to scale. If you operate a women-owned businesses you can also get help from UPS and The UPS Foundation’s Women’s Exporters Program and the company’s new alliance with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – efforts meant to enable women-owned businesses to strengthen their skills in order to be able to export around the globe. Another vital resource for women entrepreneurs looking to enhance their visibility on the global stage and get connected with potential buyers, investors, suppliers and business support organizations is ITC’s SheTrades Initiative.

Being prepared to scale is another way of showing the world you’re ready for success. What are you waiting for? Go global or go home!