Getting Rid of Global Glitches - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue


When he first started shipping products overseas in 2005, Alex Ayalew, owner of Joint International Business Group L.L.C., learned that he had to fill out 60 documents the first time he sent just five electric generators to Ethiopia and Tanzania. In addition, he had to search through some 8,000 commodity classifications codes to assign codes to the products.

If all the regulation caused a shipment to be delayed, Ayalew says the buyer could try to penalize his Charlotte, North Carolina-based trading company. In fact, a customer once penalized him 10%, $85,000 in that instance, for a shipment that was a few days late. As the company grew, Ayalew started to ship up to 60 products a year to the Middle East, South America, and Africa. When the paperwork became too much to handle in 2007, he turned to Cargo Logistics Networks, a freight forwarding company that arranges to ship products and handles the compliance process for small businesses. Cargo Logistics uses global trade management software (GTM) to automatically scan every transaction to verify its compliance with laws governing international trade, licensing, and security.

Nearly 97% of U.S. exporters are small and medium-size firms, and most of them are operating under the customs radar, meaning they do all of the paperwork and shipping manually, says Lauri Lee Elliott, president of Conceptualee Inc., a business incubator for those focused on emerging markets. Demand for American goods has increased. In fact, U.S. exports rose by 16% from January to March of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, according to the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

GTM software has an extremely high learning curve and entry costs may prevent some businesses from implementing it in-house. Low-end vendors can charge from $10,000 to $50,000 per year for software as a service (SaaS) and higher-end GTM software for large businesses can range between $150,000 and $1 million per year, according to a research analyst at Gartner Inc. Companies that offer SaaS solutions such as QuestaWeb, have opened the market to a broader client base because of the lower price point. But like Ayalew, many small businesses often hire freight forwarding companies that have the experience, channels, relationships, and platforms, says Elliott. The cost of hiring a freight forwarder can vary widely, depending on the port you ship from, ship to, or the size of the shipment.

Whether owners decide to handle their own compliance or hire a logistics company to do it, they need to be familiar with how to use the software to access reports and improve the transparency and efficiency of their supply chain.

Before you invest in software, make sure it is compatible with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Automated Export System.

It should be current with regulatory requirements for any country in the world. For example, Management Dynamics maintains a comprehensive database of trade content and international business rules from 122 countries and checks customer eligibility against more than 90 restricted-party lists.

Also, it should be written in a web-based or web-native language. With programs like Integration Point’s automated export management software, you can get live, real-time data and track your products throughout the transaction from port to port.
For a list of trade compliance software, visit: Federation of International Trade Associations at

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.