The 7 Signs of Import/Export Business Deterioration

Tired worker in warehouse
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While running your import/export business, how many times have you felt, “It’s not working”? Everyone at some point experiences trouble, but how do you know when it’s just around the corner? Here are seven signs that serve as early detectors of import/export business deterioration.

People are Tired

Especially you, and things are so dismal that the malaise has become contagious and spread to your outside world, too.

Where once key influencers grabbed a quick bite or returned a call or e-mail, they no longer respond to any of your overtures. Everybody is tired because business is flat or has run out of steam. There is also constant chatter that revenues are drying up and no one knows what to do about it.

Focus on the Past

We’ve always done it that way and it worked in the past. If you are constantly dwelling on the past instead of the future, your business is winding down. Let’s face it. If your business model is not working now, it means your future is doomed.

The Word ‘New’ Has Been Eliminated from Everyone’s Vocabulary 

If you haven’t launched one new “something” — project, service export, product import, technology or talent, for example — in well over a year (nowadays, with technology, it’s more like every week!), you’re in a downward spiral toward not just mediocrity but “Boringsville,” and no one will pay attention to you, let alone buy from or consult with you.

Experimentation or calculated risk-taking is essential, and if it dries up, so does the business.

Customers Keep Complaining

You export or import high-quality products and promise miracles on post sales support. After doing that, you have customers who can’t wait for the magic promised and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to please them.

In other words, all your customers have turned into Customers from Hell. It is possible that you are raising expectations you cannot meet?

You Keep Looking for Answers on the Internet

Every time you run into a challenge, you search the Internet for an answer. You post questions through groups such as Quora, LinkedIn and Facebook, and check in daily to find answers. You even reach out to people you don’t know who are experts in your industry to ask them for help on how to solve your problems. When you spend more time searching for answers versus running your business, there’s trouble ahead. It’s good to ask people for help but there’s a fine line of expending too much energy away from your core business.

You Base Your Success on Awards and Rest on Your Laurels

Don’t get me wrong. Awards are great, especially ones that are long overdue and seen as the “best in its class” because they give widespread recognition to the recipient and his/her achievement that may otherwise never have gotten any notice (e.g., recent SBA Export Awards, for example). But it’s possible to get carried away with awards. Winning a couple of stellar awards in a year distinguishes you as a serious player in your industry and certainly can boost your credibility in the marketplace; but receiving more than a handful, particularly unheard of honors, and tooting your horn all over about it looks more like you have nothing better to do with your time.

The question that begs to be asked: How is business?

The Last Straw Breaks the Business

Your star employee leaves for a competitor; your single biggest client takes its business elsewhere; your spouse breaks his leg; a water pipe breaks in your main office area. All of these unfortunate incidents can be handled, provided they occur individually and over a prolonged period of time. But should they occur all at once, the straw that’s been propping up the business will break. Is a Band-Aid holding your business together? If it went through a stress test, would it pass?

If you see one or all of the signs above, approach a trusted savvy business owner or a mentor — one who faced a situation similar to yours and overcame it — who will listen, talk straight with you and offer advice on how to manage a course correction, spice things up a bit and make some big bets.

Put yourself back in the import/export driver’s seat and you will discover that the international road to recovery and perpetual renewal for your business is only a short distance away.