How to Run a More Efficient Import/Export Business

3 Mins read

Import/export businesses can be lucrative, but they can also be complex and difficult to manage. If you want to maximize your chances of success, you’ll need to make proactive changes to ensure that your business can run efficiently.

Invest in Business Insurance

One of your first priorities should be investing in business insurance for your import/export business. Business insurance comes in many forms, but can protect your stock, your vehicles, your employees, your property, and third-party liabilities.
For example, if you lose cargo or suffer physical damage to your inventory during shipment, your insurance policy may cover you. You may also be covered for product-specific liability, which is especially important if you’re doing business overseas.
Insurance will instantly make your business more financially efficient; you’ll be less likely to incur major losses and will be protected against a number of external threats.

Master Currency Exchanges

Most likely, you’ll be dealing with multiple types of currency in your import/export business. This can be very challenging, especially if you’re relying on antiquated software or basic spreadsheets. With the right investment, you can get software that makes it easy to use many different currencies simultaneously; at a glance, you can review costs in up-to-date amounts from all over the world. When it comes time to run financial reports, you’ll be especially grateful for this option.

Get Used to Running on Global Time

Your import/export business will likely be running continuously, even when you’re not there. Your shipments will be continuously traveling, and your customers and partners all over the world will be in different time zones. If you want a better chance at running profitably, you need to get used to running on global time. That means getting a better grasp on how time zones work throughout the world, hiring a team of people on rotation so someone is always available to handle an emergency, and making yourself on call to handle big issues.

Decrease Your Time to Market

One of the keys to success for an import/export business is getting your products to market faster. The longer they sit in inventory and the longer they take to clear customers, the longer it’s going to take to convert those assets to cash.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can improve your speed here. For example, you can impose better quality control standards and work with partners whom you trust; this will minimize issues before shipment, reduce your number of returns, and minimize potential disputes. You can also work with a customers broker to make it faster to clear your imports through customs, or a freight forwarder that can streamline your incoming shipments.

Improve Workflow Efficiency

You’ll also need to spend time improving your overall workflow efficiency. There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Invest in better software. You and your employees will be using digital devices for nearly everything associated with your business. If you use software that’s clean, easy to learn, easy to organize, and fast, you’ll all be able to perform much faster and more reliably.
  • Automate whatever you can. Next, try to automate any aspects of your business that you can to save time. For example, you might be able to send out financial reports automatically on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Discover and integrate new shortcuts. Look for convenient ways you can reduce manual time expenditure for common tasks. As long as you aren’t sacrificing quality or interfering with the business in another way, you could easily save hours per week this way.
  • Reflexively self-improve. Don’t get too used to your existing workflows. Always be on the lookout for weaknesses and be ready to issue new changes to make those workflows better.

Gather Feedback

Next, make sure you gather plenty of feedback, from all areas of your import/export business. Listen to what your employees have to say about your internal workflow and their main barriers to efficient work. Listen to your customers about how you could serve them better. And if you’re having trouble getting opinions from people, consider issuing anonymous surveys to gather more data.

These points of feedback will be indispensable to you as you continue mastering efficiency in your business. You’ll figure out which of your tactics are working or not working, and you’ll glean insights you can use to develop your business further in the future.

The Path to Continuous Self-Improvement

The best import/export businesses are ones that have committed to ongoing improvements; increasing efficiency isn’t a one-time round of changes. Instead, it’s a philosophy on business management. You have to be prepared to continue improving your business indefinitely as you learn more information and gain more experience. There’s no such thing as perfection, but you can keep getting closer to it.

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Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.