About the U.S. Commercial Service
Is it time to take your franchise overseas? Has your franchise already expanded into foreign markets? More importantly, are you ready to go global with your business? These are the questions the U.S. Commercial Service can help answer.  When the timing is right, we can assist you by finding the right partner in the right market.

The U.S. Commercial Service (CS) is the export promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce – a vital resource for U.S. companies that conduct business internationally. Our mission is to work in partnership with U.S. companies pursuing and growing sales of U.S. made goods and services to international markets. We focus on established companies who have existing track records domestically, who currently seek to increase existing foreign revenues, or who seek new export business into foreign markets for the first time. The U.S. Commercial Service has professional staff across more than 100 offices domestically and in over 75 countries overseas.  Our global network of professionals is designed to provide clients with what they need to succeed in international markets – including local market intelligence, guidance on rules and regulations, commercial diplomacy, matchmaking services, and personalized business counseling.

How can we help your company take the steps in franchising globally?
The U.S. Commercial Service offers a number of specific products and services to small and medium-sized enterprises to build and grow export successes.   Our locally-based international trade specialists can assist you in developing an export strategy and understanding export regulations and requirements. Our domestic offices work closely with colleagues overseas to provide up-to-the-minute information aimed at helping U.S. companies successfully enter new markets. For more information on your local office, please visit www.export.gov/locations.

To succeed in international franchising, it will require a deep understanding of the market for your unique product or service, knowledge of what rules and regulations shape the process, and a strategy for contacting and communicating with local businesses in-country. Our website, http://2016.export.gov/industry/franchising,can help you along the way by providing a variety of data, information ranging from just the basics of exporting, detailed market intelligence, trade and economic records, logistics process, and when to get paid – from start to finish. Our organization is here to support your success.

Coldwell Banker Real Estate: A Success Story of International Franchising
Coldwell Banker Real Estate approached the U.S. Commercial Service with the key objective to expand and strengthen the Coldwell Banker brand internationally. The Coldwell Banker brand has a global reach, with offices in 48 countries and territories. There are approximately 800  Coldwell Banker offices outside of the United States.  David Riker, Vice President of Global Operations, started to actively work with Susan Widmer, Director of the Commercial Service Northern NJ Office, in late 2015. Since then, Coldwell Banker has requested market information and assistance for more than 15 international markets.   Primarily, the U.S. Commercial Service offer companies a variety of services including market intelligence, guidance on rules and regulations, commercial diplomacy, matchmaking services, and personalized business counseling.   With Coldwell Banker, we aided in their international success by providing these services.

Market intelligence can come in many forms: market reports such as CS Country Commercial Guides, www.export.gov/ccg, conference call discussion with overseas CS employees, participation in trade missions and trade shows, and discussions at events with franchise colleagues, such as the International Franchise Association (IFA), www.franchise.org/international. Here, Riker was well-versed with CS programs, having served on the NJ District Export Council for several years and having worked with the CS while representing Hertz internationally.  He and his staff often work closely with Dir. Widmer in outreaching to Embassies and Consulates, obtaining market information, and increasing brand and networking capabilities.  Additionally, Coldwell Banker regularly participates in Showtime appointments at both the IFA Annual Convention and the International Franchise Expo (IFE). 

Trade Missions: Coldwell Banker participated in the CS 2016 Franchise Trade Mission to Brazil and Uruguay.  The mission included country briefings, one-on-one meetings with potential partners, and networking activities.  Coldwell Banker was also included in a luncheon with the U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay, adding to the company’s marketing efforts and social media outreach in the region.

Commercial Specialist Speakers at overseas Coldwell Banker Events: In both Dubai and Mexico City, Coldwell Banker requested the presence of the CS at its events. Specialists in both locations made presentations to the Coldwell Banker group to discuss outreach and expansion in their region.  This was a unique opportunity to utilize the expertise of the CS to educate and inform local representatives on market real estate and franchise conditions.

Matchmaking: The most effective method of establishing a successful business relationship with potential agents, distributors, or other strategic partners is to demonstrate your willingness to travel to meet with them internationally.  Coldwell Banker has taken advantage of our Gold Key Services program many times.  This service provides:

  • Customized market and industry briefings with our trade specialists;
  • Timely and relevant market research;
  • Appointments with prospective trade partners in key industry sectors;
  • Post-meeting debriefing with our trade specialists and assistance in developing appropriate;
  • follow-up strategies; and
  • Help with travel, accommodations, interpreter service, and clerical support.

In Thailand, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, Coldwell Banker has found success finding local master franchisors and additional franchisees. Substantial outreach followed, and Coldwell Banker was introduced to a contact that became a local partner.

Coldwell Banker current success
As a direct result of Commercial Service efforts, Coldwell Banker has increased its knowledge and exposure worldwide.  It has successfully tapped into the CS network of exceptional specialists to expand. Now, the Coldwell Banker brand has a franchised office opening in Phuket, Thailand, in 2017. This is due to the direct assistance from the Bangkok CS Office, which introduced the local partner to Coldwell Banker.  Additionally, Coldwell Banker is working with the CS network to meet new franchise candidates in India, Argentina, Nicaragua, and Uruguay.

“The U.S. Commercial Service continues to play a vital role in the Coldwell Banker global strategy,”  Riker later reflected, “They are accelerating our opportunities for growth beyond what we could accomplish on our own.”

The time is right to expand your international sales
Doing your homework is the key to your company’s international franchising success.  Resources are available through the IFA website (http://www.franchise.org/). It is important to have a team to assist you; we recommend having an international franchise lawyer depending on your needs. Although it is difficult to generalize about franchising, we note that a strong domestic base is generally encouraged before venturing overseas. We encourage you to assess your own efforts and be dedicated and open in investing the time and energy into expanding internationally. Suffice it to say, franchising domestically will almost always be easier than franchising internationally, and the vast complexity of different markets cannot be underestimated. 

Overall, a U.S. business selling only domestically is reaching just a small share of potential demand.  More than two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power and 95% of its population lie outside of the United States. Franchising overseas benefits a company by making it more competitive; international diversification has helped U.S. exporters to weather economic downturns better than their domestically-oriented competitors. 

So, if you find yourself examining whether your company is ready to go global, we are ready to start working for you!

**This article first ran in the  October, 2017 issue of Franchising World