This blog is about perseverance in the face of adversity; it’s about that U.S. small business entrepreneurial spirit and it’s about your government working together for you. Yes, your government works cooperatively with over 28 U.S. Government departments, agencies and offices in a city near you and in locations all over the globe. They are brought together with a single purpose - developing and enabling international business opportunities for U.S. companies.
We Need A HERO
The story begins during the Great Recession when a small, family-owned business in Jacksonville, Fla., dealing in landscaping equipment for construction contracting firms was faced with hard a hard choice: find a new market or shutter a business that had supported the local economy with jobs and taxes for 30 years. In 2008, both Carlton Smith and his father were leafing through the Jacksonville Journal when they saw an ad for “Export 101”: a class put on by the U.S. Commercial Service in cooperation with the Small Business Development Center, and the Small Business Administration (SBA). They ended up taking the full six week course.
It was during the Export 101 course that Carlton Senior had a “eureka” moment and hit on the idea of exporting heavy machinery. Based on his knowledge of the construction industry, he saw an opportunity to capitalize on heavy machinery lying idle due to the downturn in the local economy.
The International Buyer Program and MINExpo INTERNATIONAL® Trade Show in Las Vegas
They finished the full course, incorporated their new company, Heavy Equipment Resources of Florida, Inc. (HERO FL) and decided that the best place to meet international buyers would be at the MINExpo INTERNATIONAL® Show that September. The MINExpo INTERNATIONAL® show is one of many domestic trade shows where the U.S. Department of Commerce proactively promotes U.S. exports. U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) specialists recruit and accompany thousands of qualified international buyers to attend roughly 30 U.S. industry trade shows every year. Additional services such as access to market research, international partners, and one-on-one export counseling by experts, like trade finance specialists from EXIM Bank are made available.
Not Sorry for Party Rocking …
The Smiths consulted with their contact at their local U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) to see if HERO could host a reception with USCS pre-qualified foreign buyer delegations attending the convention. Over 150 ended up attending the reception and the party was a success. Carlton and his father did not come with purchase order books in hand, but they did bring a warm handshake and the opportunity for the buyer to get to know them and vice-versa. The Ghanaian delegation was the largest in attendance, so it was serendipitous that members of the delegation ended up flying back to Jacksonville with HERO to check out their company, building trust in the relationship. From that came HERO’s first $3 million deal for ten machines to Ghana.
Backing up their claim to rapidly deliver hard-to-find parts and components essential to mine operations and heavy construction projects across the globe, Carlton flew to Ghana to personally supervise off-loading, operational training and servicing requirements. While in country, they decided to extend their stay and visit other mines. Africa is now HERO’s largest market and the first Ghanaian buyer they met with the IBP delegation at MINExpo INTERNATIONAL® is a cherished customer.
Growing Business Internationally
Today, HERO does business all over Africa, including Mali, Senegal, Guinea, South Africa and Botswana. HERO has leveraged a single meeting into export sales to 29 countries on six continents. They still rely upon the U.S. Government agencies and departments under the TPCC umbrella such as the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service and EXIM Bank.
HERO FL was the recipient of the 2013 President’s “E” Award for Export, the highest recognition a U.S. company may receive for making a significant contribution to U.S. exports. HERO FL also won the 2014 United States Small Business Administration Exporter of the Year for Florida and the Southeast Region.
Carlton mentioned that, no matter which country he is doing business in, he first reaches out to the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS). Of particular note, he mentioned an instance in which a USFCS officer went out on Christmas Eve to help facilitate a transaction that needed immediate attention. It’s not just markets far afield that the USCS can help you with—HERO is working closely with USCS officers to access Canadian markets as well.
HERO FL uses the EXIM Bank’s Short-Term and Medium-Term Export Credit Insurance policies and EXIM Bank’s foreign buyer financing products to help them realize this impressive sales growth. If you are interested in learning more about how EXIM Bank can help you grow your international sales, give us a call to find out if you qualify.