In telephone conversations or emails, I often have someone ask me, in a condescending manner, you just provide import export business resources, you do not actually do any exporting or importing?
If I am in a good mood (which I usually am) I will answer them that yes, I am currently and have been involved in international trade deals for more than 16 years now. There is currently one export deal I helped broker in 1997 that still pays me a commission several times a year for just a few hours worth of work almost 10 years ago.
I find it interesting that the people who ask this question would never think about asking a similar question of a professor of international business or a teacher at an actual sit down course. In most instances, these teachers have never actually received a check or been paid for helping bring an import or export business transaction to fruition, they simply teach about how others do it.
After years of being asked this question, I have found that it is basically a means of providing the asking party a reason to not get an import export business course (whether from us or anyone for that matter). They are excuse seekers looking for still another excuse to not act on their hopes and desires to start an import export business.
What most people do not seem to realize, especially in regards to the exporting business, is that you can be involved at many different levels.
The most extensive involvement is by an export management company (EMC as they are called) that actually buys the product from a manufacturer and resells it to their foreign buyer. The markup, after expenses, is their profit.
The EMC has complete financial responsibility for the goods, thus they have the potential for greater profits than others who are involved in an export business transaction to a lesser degree like an export broker or import export agents.
A broker will have much more involvement in the exporting business transaction (and often an ongoing one) than an export agent. An export broker will often carry out the negotiation, help the manufacturer arrange for shipping, insurance and other requirements and often continue to be in the loop of communications between the foreign buyer and the manufacturer that is supplying the goods they are brokering.
Import export agents often provide services similar to a broker but can most often be classified as a finder who brings two parties together (one selling a product and one seeking to buy a product). Import export agents are only paid upon completion of a transaction when their supplier has been paid for the goods they have shipped to the buyer they introduced to them.
Some import export agents work out deals where they are paid by both the buyer and the seller, these type of deals, however, are quite rare. In most instances import export agents are only paid by one of the two parties.
The great thing about being an import export agent or broker is how these type of deals can actually create a residual form of income (if they structure it correctly) as I mentioned earlier in this post regarding our 1997 deal.
Each level of involvement in an import export business deal warrants a different level of payment or profit.
Import export agents generally earn the least of the three levels mentioned above. As an import export broker or an import export agent, you should always have reasonable expectations for your part in the deal and be ready to accept a lower commission if it means the difference between your supplier making a much bigger deal or not. Remember, 5% of something is better than 10% of nothing.
The very best way for a person to become involved in the import export business is as an import export agent. Learn the processes by taking a good home study course so you have a basic understanding of how things work but initially you should focus on bringing buyers and sellers together (with an agreement to get paid by one or the other of course).
If, after a couple of years of working as an import export agent you decide you want a bigger slice of the profit pie, then be ready to get more involved in the import export business process. Ultimately, after these years of experience, if you find there is much more profit available by acting as an EMC, you will be prepared to do so through your self study and actual experience.
Bottom line, don't get hung up on the titles one assigns to you, i.e., broker, agent, finder, etc.. I simply say, call me what you will, but call me when I am at the bank deposting my latest check from a deal made 9 years ago.
Coble International Marketing Services
Import Export Business Help Center