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Free Trade Agreements: What You Should Know for Your Small Business Exports

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: May 19, 2014 Updated: September 26, 2016

Interested in exporting your small business’s goods or services outside the United States? Have you heard of free-trade agreements? Here’s what you should know about how they can benefit you in the exporting process.

What is a free-trade agreement?

A free-trade agreement, or FTA, is an agreement between two or more countries where the countries agree to take steps to make trade between the countries’ businesses easier and faster.  FTAs reduce trade tariffs and non-tariff barriers, such as import quotas, and also cover protections for investors and intellectual property rights.

For the United States, the main goals of trade agreements are to:

  • Reduce barriers to U.S. exports
  • Protect U.S. interests competing abroad
  • Enhance the rule of law in the FTA partner country or countries

Ultimately, it’s easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export to these trading partner markets, because  FTAs help create a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment, which reduces risks for you as a small-business exporter.

With which countries does the U.S. have an FTA?

As of January 1, 2014, the United States has 14 FTAs in force with 20 countries:

  • Australia
  • Bahrain
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • DR-CAFTA: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Korea
  • Morocco
  • NAFTA: Canada & Mexico
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Singapore

Other benefits of FTAs

Some other kinds of benefits often found in FTAs are:

  • The ability for a U.S. company to bid on certain government contracting opportunities in the FTA partner country
  • The ability for a U.S. investor to get prompt, adequate and effective compensation if its investment in the FTA partner country is taken away by the government
  • The ability for U.S. service suppliers to supply their services in the FTA partner country
  • Protection and enforcement of American-owned intellectual property rights in the FTA partner country
  • The ability for U.S. exporters to participate in the development of product standards in the FTA partner country

Learn more at Export.gov and find out what else you should know about exporting by exploring the resources below!

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Getting Work Done While Traveling

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: May 8, 2014

If you travel in your work, it can be a challenge to get much done in between catching flights, attending meetings and trying to get a little shuteye. And yet, the wheels of your business are still churning.

 

Here’s how to stay on top of your email and task list so that it doesn’t overwhelm you when you get back into the office.

 

Don’t Overestimate Your Ca​pacity

Most people vastly overestimate how much work they will get done while traveling.

I find I almost never have as much time to handle my regular workload while traveling as I expect to. That’s because we don't account for all the little things that eat up our time (such as trying to find a restaurant to get something to eat, figuring out how to get online at that hotspot, dealing with a slow connection in your hotel room, or trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B in your rental car in an unfamiliar city).

We also won’t have our same level of energy, because travel can sap it.

So step one to managing your business while traveling is not to assume you can carry on much of your regular workload remotely while you’re away. Anyway, you won’t be able to enjoy your conference or have productive meetings if you have to spend all your time holed up in a hotel room trying to keep your business going.

Plan Several Weeks Out

You must plan in advance, at least several weeks out. If you wait until two days before you’re about to leave, you won’t have enough time to make arrangements.

Take care of any assignments that will be due during your travel period by working harder ahead of time.

Let your clients know they shouldn’t expect any work from you that week, and for a day or two after you return. Certainly, you may be available for a phone call or to answer a quick email, but you don’t want them pressing you to deliver that huge presentation or important proposal in the middle of your trip.

Hand Over the Keys

If you have staff, select someone to take your place in your absence. Sometimes delegating is the hardest part for business owners. However, consider this a good opportunity to evaluate whether an employee is ready for more responsibility on a permanent basis.

This person should be able to answer questions from clients and other employees, and handle any issues with confidence. Keep in mind, your replacement will likely need more than a day or two to learn what he or she needs to know to take over for you, so plan accordingly.

Use Snippets of Time Wisely

If you’re traveling to attend a conference, consider planning some time to work quietly in your hotel room. You certainly don’t want to travel just to sit in a hotel room and work, but some conference schedules build in extra time. Rather than frittering it away by sitting in a lounge at a convention center for 2 hours, use it to get some work done.

Don’t neglect plane time on long flights. Many planes offer wi-fi, so subscribe to a service like GoGo Inflight Internet if you need an Internet connection to work. And if nothing else, plane time is great for strategy planning and thinking about your business.

You can also wake up an hour earlier to sort through your email before your day begins.

Prioritize Your Emails

In a given week, you might receive hundreds of emails. When you’re busy with work travel, focus just on the important emails. Save the rest to read when you return.

The easiest method is to quickly skim the emails in your inbox and delete any newsletters or promotional emails. Then open the ones from your clients or contacts based on the level of urgency or importance you feel they have.

Google Mail has a Priority Inbox feature that allows you to sort your mail based on who they’re from and level of priority.

Don’t Forget Your Email Autoresponder

If your contacts are accustomed to receiving a response via email from you quickly, it’s wise to let them know you might be slower to respond while traveling. Set up your autoresponder to let people who email you know you are traveling, with limited access to email.

While you won’t not get as much done while traveling as on a typical work week, you don’t have to come back to the office to stacks of work to do.

With a little planning, you can better manage your workload, and ensure the smooth continuation of your business, no matter where you happen to be.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

5 Ways to Honor the Military this Memorial Day

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: May 7, 2014

Did you know that May is Military Appreciation Month? And with Memorial Day coming up, it’s a perfect opportunity for your small business to honor the service of our veterans and military men and women. Here’s a look at some ideas to consider from that go beyond a traditional discount on products or services with inspiration from Kathryn Hawkins, who writes extensively on business and entrepreneurship.

  • Collections for troops – Host a collection for items deployed troops need. Let customers know via email newsletters and social media – in addition to in-store signage – that you’ll be gathering items to send overseas. Check out efforts like Operation Gratitude for specifics about how you can help and what our soldiers need.
  • Discounts and free offers – Customize a special offer for those who present military ID, such as 20 percent off your product or service. If you can afford it, toss in a little something extra with a purchase. Run a restaurant? Sweeten the deal with free dessert at the end of the meal.
  • Volunteering – Know a local military family in need? Round up employees to donate time and materials to help out on a project or effort. For example, says Hawkins, if there’s a need for a home renovation project and you run a hardware store, you can donate tools or building materials. Own a nursery? Offer plants or flowers. If you have a café, consider providing a meal or lightening the cooking load with help in the kitchen.
  • Highlight soldiers’ stories – Through email newsletters, Facebook or your other social media channels, pay respect to those who have fallen and express gratitude for those you know who are currently serving. Invite customers to share their stories as well. This kind of effort is great to add another personal (and memorable) touch to your business relationships.  
  • Parades – Does your town or city host a Memorial Day Parade? Many do, and they ask local businesses to sponsor floats to support the cost of the parade. This is a great way to show your support and honor service members, and it also gets your business name out there in a unique way to parade-goers or to folks watching on television. Check in with your local chamber of commerce to learn what’s happening in your area.

However you decide to honor the military this year, customize your effort to make it work for your business. And don’t forget to record what you do and share it on your website, social media or through email. Your customers and community will be glad to know what you’re up to and the successes that benefit the military community.

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

A Mother’s Day Reminder for Momtrepreneurs: 3 Ways to Make and Take Time for You

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: May 5, 2014

You’re an entrepreneur. You’re a mom. You’re a momtrepreneur! Running a business is hard work – and raising kids at the same time means your “work” days probably seem never-ending. While you’re busy managing various responsibilities, it’s important to make sure you’re taking time for yourself too. After all – a healthier, happier you means can contribute to a healthy business as well!

Take a lunch break!

Think skipping lunch means more time for valuable contributions to your business? Think again. As this article from Fast Company points out, even a 20-minute break will help you stay more concentrated and energetic for the rest of the day. Science is on your side – working longer doesn’t mean you’re working smarter, so step back while you enjoy your meal. You’ll come back refreshed and reinvigorated for a more productive afternoon.

Delegate!

As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats – distribute some! Make sure you’re not trying to do everything, or you’ll find that you’ll be too exhausted to do anything. Having a trusted team and employees you can count on can go a long way in reducing your stress levels and freeing you up from the day-to-day nitty-gritty.

Self-employed? Consider outsourcing to a virtual assistant to free up some of your time. This person can help you manage a variety of tasks – from answering emails to arranging travel schedules and engaging on your social media networks. You may not have employees, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.

Take a vacation!

Like an extended lunch break, vacations provide time to recharge. It may be challenging to think about leaving your business to get away for a long weekend or to take a trip for a week, but consider these benefits cited in a recent Forbes article in which people reported a better life perspective and more motivation to achieve goals; feelings of greater creativity; and a reduction in conflict and tension in the workplace.

If those reasons aren’t enough to convince you, think about the health benefits – or consequences of avoiding vacations. Studies have shown that never taking time off can ignite issues ranging from health problems to burnout. And business psychology expert Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., has written that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and 70% of visits to healthcare providers are because of stress-related conditions. If you think you don’t have time for a vacation, you know you don’t have time for these negative situations.

With all you have going on with your business – and the business of raising kids – it’s easy to lose track of the importance of making sure you’re also taking care of yourself. Take this time and consider these tips to help you do just that.

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

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