Doing business in the US

The US is the largest economy in the world and therefore offers substantial opportunities for your business to expand its activities and profitability. This guide outlines how to do business in the US by looking at:

  • Why you should look at the US
  • Risks
  • Getting started
  • Regulations

Why you should look at the US

It is the UK's largest trading partner and a key import and export market. English is the first language there and it has a sizeable population interested in the range of products and services popular in the UK. US businesses are also organised in a similar way to those in the UK. It has a highly skilled workforce and a work-centric culture. It has excellent transportation links and communications. Big trading sectors for UK companies include IT, biochemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering and entertainment.

  • English is the first language and product popularity often overlaps with UK
  • Business is organised in a similar way and has a work-centric culture
  • Excellent transport and comms
  • Good for IT, biochemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering, entertainment

Risks

It is a highly competitive market and you will be faced with a host of local US based suppliers to beat on both price and customer service which is more highly valued in the US than in the UK. Each state has different characteristics and business cultures which you have to understand and adapt to. The population is a melting pot of different ethnic and social backgrounds which you will have to market and sell to. You also have to price your products in US dollars so there is a risk if the exchange rate changes. If you open an office in the US you may also become liable for US taxation.

  • The US is a very competitive market and you have to understand its business and consumer culture thoroughly

Getting started

The US is a vast country with a diverse multi-ethnic population. One common mistake businesses make is to try and take on the whole market in one go. Instead you should find the most promising region or state for your product/service. So if you are in manufacturing then look at the mid-West and if you are involved in IT then look at California. It's a good idea to start networking at US trade fairs or after organising a trade visit. Talk to UK Trade & Investment who can offer a range of support and will put you in touch with your local trade advisor. Visit their section on trading in the US for a wealth of practical information.

  • US Trade Fairs are a good place to network and meet contacts

Regulations

The US has a very litigious culture. You need to be aware of any US regulations or standards your product needs to comply with such as product liability. Get US legal advice on this.
Certain products and industries have separate regulations such as food & drugs and utilities.
States take federal standards on regulations and add more of their own. Corporate/contract law  is set by the States.

  • Get US legal advice on the different regulations and standards that apply there

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