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Creating an Export Plan to Manage Your Company’s Expansion

Most business owners are familiar with the purposes and benefits of creating a detailed business plan. Often a required component of debt financing and investor pitches, the business plan is an excellent exercise for condensing and articulating the business’s specific goals and anticipated paths to achieving those goals. In much the same way, businesses seeking to expand to foreign markets greatly benefit from the creation of a detailed export plan.

An export plan provides the opportunity for businesses with plans to expand overseas to investigate the front-end administrative burdens, U.S.-side export controls and licensing obligations (if any), and the overseas import and sector regulatory environment. Export plans are also a key compliance tool, which can help keep businesses out of trouble with U.S. regulatory agencies. A number of export regulations violations carry significant civil monetary penalties and even criminal penalties under some circumstances.

While export plans for specific lines of business may involve a number of variables, particularly where a company’s prospective exports are controlled or require licensing under the U.S. Export Administration Regulations, export plans can generally be seen as covering a standard set of topics which will serve as a roadmap to successful export operations and getting U.S. products to consumers in foreign markets with the least amount of administrative friction.

The U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) recommends the following as necessary elements of a basic export plan:

  1. Management commitment

  2. Risk assessment

  3. Export authorization

  4. Record-keeping

  5. Training

  6. Audits

  7. Handling export violations and taking corrective action

  8. Building and maintaining an export compliance manual

A well-written export plan will walk the business through compliance steps with each transaction, to ensure that individual transactions are compliant. In addition, the overall export plan, training, and management commitment components, will serve to create an internal compliance culture, helping to reduce and eliminate risks of violations.

In the end, the scope of an export plan that is best for your business will depend on the frequency and volume of exports, the number of foreign markets, end-users, end-uses, and most importantly, the type of exported items themselves.

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