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Here at Small Business Trends we like to discover what’s on the minds of small biz owners and entrepreneurs. So at the recent GrowCo conference April 6-8, 2011 in Las Vegas, I knew what I wanted to ask Luke Mauricio, Small Business Marketing Manager for UPS (pictured below), when I had the chance to sit down with him.
My question was simple: what do small business owners attending the conference want to know about? In other words, what’s on their minds when they talk to a company like UPS?
According to Luke, not many people had questions about basic shipping services. Most people seem to have a good handle on that. Instead, the questions were about:
(1) How do you ship internationally?
(2) How do you save money on shipping?
Well, seeing as how I had Luke’s ear, I sat down with him for a chat to get some information about these questions.
On shipping internationally…
The reason this question comes up so much is that “You’re dealing with unknowns when shipping to another country,” according to Luke. You’re probably not familiar with local customs regulations. Business practices may be different. Currencies are different. Even the language may be unknown to you. It’s natural to feel out of your element.
When it comes to international shipping, Luke says “UPS wants to inspire confidence” — confidence that items will be delivered and that someone will help them slice through the red tape. For instance, Luke pointed out that UPS has partnered with the U.S. Commercial Service (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) to help give businesses information about exporting.
UPS also makes available an online resource library with information about shipping internationally. There you will find a downloadable international shipping guide (PDF). The guide explains things such as the documentation used in international shipping — example, the Certificate of Origin document. Another useful feature on the UPS international resource library is the country snapshots. These snapshots are concise documents giving you facts and figures for doing business in specific countries. Countries include Canada, China, Brazil, Vietnam, Poland and India.
On saving money …
According to Luke, a goal should be to create an efficient and effective supply chain. That can have a direct impact on your customers’ experience.
“An effective supply chain is not so much about cutting expenses, but about your customer’s experience. There are a lot of paybacks from an effective supply chain. It becomes a comparative advantage for your company.”
And sometimes the bigger issue businesses face is a cash flow issue, i.e., having to wait too long to get payment in hand. “Not a lot of people know that UPS has a finance subsidiary called UPS Capital. We actually give out small business loans,” says Luke Mauricio. Loans are designed to bridge a short-term situation a business may face, such as the gap between delivering products and getting paid for them.
UPS is itself an entrepreneurial story. It was founded 104 years ago in Seattle by two teenagers who took out a $100 loan. According to Luke, “Their first business model was very very simple. They were bicycle messengers who delivered customer purchases from Nordstroms, the department store.” The two young entrepreneurs saw a need and expanded to meet that need for package delivery services.
For additional coverage of Growco, see Why You Should Never Define Your Financial Goals as Revenue.
Photos above: (1) View of Las Vegas from my hotel balcony at the beautiful Cosmopolitan Hotel, at night. (2) Luke Mauricio during a few quiet moments at the UPS Lounge at #GrowCo. Note: UPS subsidized my attendance at the conference.