So where do you start in exporting? As with any new business venture, you need to first take stock of both yourself and your business to see if you have the personality, mindset, and business that can benefit from exporting. Let’s begin with an assessment of you, which includes 12 characteristics that I find work in the export marketplace and then we’ll cover the business in a subsequent blog post.

What unique qualities and characteristics does it take to become a successful exporter?

To crack open a new overseas market? To become a top-notch international executive at a global conglomerate? The answer is that it takes the same qualities to do any of these things.  Successful exporters, international expansion artists, and global executives may vary in their temperament, personality, and experience, but in the ways that really count, they are more alike than different. What counts is their ability to venture out in the world and adapt as they go. I call it a global mindset – the ability and courage to operate their business in an unknown environment.

A global mindset starts with self-awareness, reflects an authentic openness to and engagement with the world, and employs a heightened awareness to the sensitivity of cross-cultural differences. Toss in an adventuresome spirit, adaptability, a solid educational background, core business competencies, and life experiences that preferably involve international travel, and you have a recipe for the ideal global thought leader. Capitalizing on these attributes is a powerful factor for developing a global mindset and achieving success in the export world.

Here’s my shortlist of twelve characteristics that I find work in the export marketplace.

They are based on my own hands-on experiences and the observations of others who have achieved success crossing boundaries in the business world:

  • The ability to venture out in the world and adapt quickly
  • Being comfortable and confident in your own skin, along with having a heightened sensitivity to others
  • Carrying a high level of intelligence, including cultural and emotional
  • Enjoying living in different parts of the world and relishing learning a foreign language
  • Knowing how to bring out the best in people no matter where they are from
  • Getting things done with people who come from diverse backgrounds in any part of the world
  • Being curious, having a love of learning, and immersing oneself in foreign cultures
  • Being objective and open to people and the environment
  • Having enough flexibility to focus on serving and helping others
  • Possessing the ability to take something complex and simplify it
  • Confronting obstacles with optimism and a willingness to continue learning new ways of doing things
  • Being resilient—or having the ability to bounce back from even the most challenging of circumstances

You may not have all of these characteristics, and I am sure there are some I have overlooked, but if you have most of them you will be comfortable operating anywhere in the world and well on your way to success in exporting.

About the Author(s)

 Laurel J. Delaney

Laurel J. Delaney is founder and president of Chicago-based, a management consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses go global.  The United States Small Business Administration has recognized Ms. Delaney as a world-renowned global small business expert by naming her the Illinois Exporter of the Year. She is the author of Start and Run a...

Founder and President,
12 Characteristics That Lead to Export Success