How Middle Market Companies Can Succeed as Exporters

By Generational Equity


Many owners of small to mid-sized companies think the export market lies beyond their company’s abilities.

However, the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) reports 54% of U.S. middle market companies export to other countries, according to a 2016 study, “Winning in the Americas.”

Key to a mid-market company’s success when exporting is to believe it’s possible, says Roy Paulson, CEO of Paulson Manufacturing Corporation of Temecula, California, the 2011 Small Business Administration District Exporter of the Year. The industrial safety products company, founded 15 years ago, currently ships more than 50% of its output to foreign markets.

The NCMM survey also discovered that the most successful mid-market exporters exhibited these characteristics:

  • Looked both north and south for customers.
  • Established strong relationships with trustworthy local distributors first, then built their own warehouses in the countries with their biggest share of exports.
  • Invest time with customers through personal visits and a long-term approach to building relationships.
  • Pay attention to trade deals with particular countries that may convey an advantage to your business.

Who’s trading internationally?

A survey conducted in 2015, in partnership with American Express and Dun & Bradstreet, found:

  • Middle-market companies generally establish themselves in the domestic market before branching into other countries.
  • The longer a middle market business is in operation, the more likely it is to export.
  • The larger a company’s revenues, the more likely it is to engage in international trade.

Overall, the survey concluded:

“Middle market firms are cautiously—and strategically—entering foreign markets,” said Susan Sobbott, president, global corporate payments, American Express. “Mid-sized companies are driving job growth domestically, and many could benefit from overseas expansion earlier in their lifecycles.”

If you’re looking for new markets for your products and services, think strategically about the idea of exporting to other countries.

For more information about how to succeed in international markets, consider a visit to Growing Global, an American Express site with free information designed to help small and middle market companies grow into international markets.

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