For many U.S. small to mid-sized businesses, 2013 could be the year for global expansion. The uneven economic recovery and the administration’s focus on doubling exports by 2014 (National Export Initiative) means greater business opportunities in international markets, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as other regions with the greatest growth.

However, different language and cultures, unique customs and trade regulations and foreign currencies can be real barriers to successful expansion. Business owners can better tap into existing opportunities and avoid some potential pitfalls with five key steps, compiled by international shipping and logistics specialist, DHL:

  • Identify the right markets: Whether a business is importing or exporting, conducting research on the countries that best suits a company’s expansion is a vital first step as this will dictate which foreign firms to buy from or sell to and which countries have a need for a particular service or product. When identifying markets, business owners should pay attention not only to which countries have growing economies, but the specific growth sectors within each country.
  • Know the rules: These can vary greatly from one country to the next, and these laws not only will govern how shipments are received, but they will also be specific to the types of product being shipped.
  • Find a reputable logistics agent with market intelligence: If shipments do not arrive on time, stall in customs and require additional fees or arrive in the wrong locations, this could put a quick end to a business’ growth goals. Partnering with a logistics firm that only not only can provide “standard” shipping services, but can also strategic advice on trade and customs issues is key.
  • Secure financing: Expansion typically requires additional funds, but fortunately, because of the NEI and the U.S. focus toward globalization, capital is generally available for business owners interested in expanding overseas.
  • Utilize free resources: There are numerous U.S. government and Chamber of Commerce websites that provide detailed information, tools and other tips on what’s needed to become a global company such as, and

Tips from DHL Small Business Solutions.