By Eduardo Lopez, Director, System for Engineering and Business Planning, FedEx Express

As a small or medium sized business owner, you know that there’s a world of opportunity in today’s international marketplace. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are no longer disadvantaged by size or economy of scale. Thanks especially to the huge increase in ecommerce, international trade continues to open up many doors to SMEs all around the world. So how can you best maximize this potential? We’ve drawn up a series of easy to follow tips to get you started. The advice is based on my professional experience of several years in the transportation and logistics business and on my personal interactions with numerous SMEs.

1. Understand how logistics can help your business

To help you get off to a flying start, let’s start at the very beginning. Logistics is about more than simply transporting goods from A to B. It’s a solution for getting the right thing to the right place at the right time – and in the process bringing real value to your supply chain. Logistics is about access; access to a solid integrated supply chain, access to new markets anywhere in the world and access to new revenue streams… It’s about maximizing your business’ potential in the complex marketplace we live in.

2. Ask the right questions up front

By selecting the perfect transportation and logistics partner, you can reap a huge variety of business benefits. In order to achieve these benefits however, you first need to make sure you are asking the right questions and sharing the right information from the very beginning of the relationship.

Over the years, I’ve met with many SMEs. Often they’ve come to the first meeting armed with very tactical questions about prices, terms & conditions and transit times. It’s only when I’ve broadened the conversation, discussing the possibilities of leveraging our knowledge and expertise to tap new markets for example, that we have been able to provide much more valuable strategic advice.

With this in mind, I’ve provided a handful of topline questions that I recommend you ask:

How can you support my business objectives?
• Run through your business objectives and ask questions like:
o How can you help me be successful launching in new markets?
o Can you provide me with previous examples of how you’ve helped other SMEs achieve this?
o How does your business model fit with my business?
• Describing your supply chain in detail can often spark additional value generation ideas and ensure a more accurate proposal.
• Logistics isn’t just a tick list of costs at times. It’s about adding value.
• A good transportation and logistics provider should see customer pain points which may previously have gone unidentified.

How can I prepare for the unexpected?
• Be as prepared as possible so even unexpected events don’t interfere with your plans
• Ask your transportation and logistics provider for information not only about service and reliability levels but ensure they have recovery and contingency plans, and they provide regular customer communications and emergency contact information. You need to be sure that your product will be properly taken care of no matter what happens.

What is different about your service offering?
• Compare and contrast by ask your provider what’s unique about them.
o Making direct comparisons between providers can be tricky because of the different ways they all deliver their quotations. My advice would be to persevere – don’t be afraid to keep asking questions until you have the right information.

3. Knowledge is power: your transportation and logistics provider is a mine of information

Whether it’s the physical movement of goods, monitoring inventories in different places or securing access to new locations, there is a whole host of information in play throughout the supply chain. It’s up to your provider to put this information at your fingertips. Make sure you can see where your packages are at any time, what the costs of delays are and how quickly your goods will reach their destination. All of this ultimately equips you to better manage your inventories as well as your business.

The tips I’ve shared should give you an insight into dealing with transportation and logistics providers and the reassurance that you can indeed rely on us to help you achieve real success. These are exciting times for you and we are sure that if you ask the right questions of your transportation and logistics provider at the outset, you will soon be able to benefit from global trade and see your business grow from strength to strength. Nothing pleases us more than to be a part of your success.