4 Steps to the President’s “E” Award Podium or How to Become a Top U.S. Exporter

May 30, 2012

Linda Caruso is a Commercial Officer with the Commercial Service.  She currently serves domestically in the Commercial Service Cleveland office in Ohio. 

May is World Trade Month and traditionally the time that the Commerce Department chooses to recognize U.S. companies with The President’s “E” and “E Star” Awards.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program which was created in 1961 by President Kennedy to recognize those people and organizations who contribute significantly to United States exports. Could this year be the turning point for you to develop an export strategy?

The 2012 Ohio "E" and "E Star" Award winners (left to right) Frank Reynolds of International Projects; Jim Huttner of Bionix; Ron Swinko of Jet, Inc.; Mike Ivany of Flow Polymer; Milton Knight of New Waste Concepts

The 2012 Ohio “E” and “E Star” Award winners (left to right) Frank Reynolds of International Projects; Jim Huttner of Bionix; Ron Swinko of Jet, Inc.; Mike Ivany of Flow Polymer; Milton Knight of New Waste Concepts

Maybe you are thinking, “What can I do to be invited to the White House for next year’s awards ceremony?”  Well to begin you can watch for an announcement from the Commercial Service office in your state about the release of the application. Check out the guidelines below to see how these top exporters were able to make great strides in capturing customers from around the globe. Follow in their footsteps and you may just be the next top exporter from your State.

1. Measure Your Export Growth
First and foremost, the White House looks for measurable statistics to show growth in exports. This means that applicants must provide actual data (i.e. not projected) demonstrating a sustained increase in total U.S. export sales in order to qualify for this prestigious award.  All of the companies who won this year’s “E” Awards were able to show that their exports grew overall for the period under review.  Despite the great global recession, or perhaps because of it, two Ohio companies were even able to achieve triple-digit growth.

Jet, Inc. from Cleveland, Ohio manufactures residential and commercial wastewater treatment plants and related products. Now active in 25 countries, Commerce Secretary Bryson recognized Jet, Inc. this year for their focus and commitment to expand internationally – specifically to counteract declining domestic sales. As a result, this company has reaped the rewards of their engagement by reporting an outstanding increase of 111% in exports in the face of a flat domestic market.

Another Cleveland company and 2012 President’s “E” Award winner, Flow Polymers, saw exports nearly double as the company expanded into 28 countries from 2008 to 2011. This manufacturer of additives for use in the tire industry reported that international sales now contribute fully 50% to the company’s bottom line.  They must be doing something right for their exports to have nearly doubled since 2008.

2. Showcase Innovation
In addition to expanding exports, it helps if your company can demonstrate innovation. Whether the innovative characteristic is the product itself or the particular path your company has carved to go to market, if you can present a compelling case about how your company overcame some of the many challenges unique to international business – you’re halfway there.

Luckily, innovation is a characteristic that U.S. exporters have in spades. But did you know that it can also serve as a secret weapon to catapult your company to new heights in export sales?  Read on to find out how some Ohio exporters rose to the top of their game through innovation.

Secretary Bryson recognized New Waste Concepts, Inc. of Perrysburg, Ohio for their innovative approach to new global markets.  Early on, company managers found themselves in a difficult spot when their U.S. customers who took them overseas in the first place, withdrew from the market entirely.  But instead of following suit, this manufacturer of patented spray applications for landfills was willing to completely change their business model and invest as partners in their overseas business development.

The company also chose to build a significant web presence focusing on key product markets. They even have a full Chinese version of website allowing customers to check on their orders.

A second innovative strategy the company used was to position its employees as industry experts by speaking at trade shows and publishing white papers.  Jet, Inc. also used education and training to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and to gain leverage and influence in their sector. These two companies have shown that they were able to raise the profile of their company overseas and win the business ahead of the competition by changing their approach to market.

3. Sustain the Export Business
Once you’ve landed the contract or gained access into your overseas market of choice, the next question to ask is whether your success is sustainable.  If you can show how your company has learned and applied the lessons and gained repeat business – you’re almost there.

Bionix Development Corporation (BDC), a Toledo, Ohio company, was cited by the Commerce Department as an exemplary exporter for several reasons.  With clients in 47 countries and 6 continents, the company’s unique pricing and product placement strategy has netted them steady, consistent double-digit sales growth year after year.  This, and the fact that Bionix spends considerable face time with their international customers, allows the company to stay one step ahead of the competition on a global scale.

4. Broaden Impact on Trade
Finally, if your exporting activities have had a broad impact on global trade or influenced other U.S. companies, you may have all of the ingredients necessary to be a President’s “E” Award Winner.  If you’ve forged new markets or created a replicable model that others can use, we’d like to hear about it!

This year, the Commerce Department recognized International Projects, Inc. with an “E” Star Award for their long-standing work in developing Incoterms® with the International Chamber of Commerce, and for sharing the fruits of their labor with thousands of U.S. exporters. The “E Star” was authorized in 1969 to recognize “E” Award winners for continued efforts in export expansion. As the lone American on the board, Frank Reynolds, President of International Projects, Inc., spoke up for U.S. interests so that Incoterms® 2010 would better reflect our unique North American business practices.

So whether you are just getting started in exports or have already managed to gain a foothold in international markets, we’d love to hear from you.  Remember, we’ll be cheering for you as you walk onto the podium to accept your future President’s “E” Award.

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