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Q&A: Breaking into the Export Industry

When Rick Serola became a chiropractor in the '80s, he discovered an amazing pattern among his patients. "All of their problems started with their sacroiliac joint," he says. But when he went looking for support products to help them ease their pain he felt that the products were not adequate. So he decided to address the problem himself.

In 1989, he launched Serola Biomechanics and began selling his Serola Sacroiliac Belt. The belt supports the sacroiliac joints in the lower back area, reducing chronic pain and lessening the chance of injury. Today, the company has 12 employees, and 40 percent of its business comes from exporting to foreign countries.

Export business owners can rely on the services of a trusted online foreign exchange provider to obtain live currency value quotes and access tools that can make it easier to secure preferred exchange rates. Risk management tools such as bids and helpful notifications such as email market-rate alerts can help a company protect its profits and improve its cash flow.

Whatever the exchange rate is on the day the transaction occurs is what we get.

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Serola shares how he broke into the export industry with his U.S. exports.

What prompted you to export the Sacroiliac Belt?

Serola: Shortly after we opened the business, I got a call from a guy in the U.K. He wanted to sell the belts over there, so I gave him a price that he was happy with and that's how it started. He's still our biggest customer.

Today we export to most of the countries in the EU, along with Australia, and we are currently working on plans to expand our business in South America, where we currently do a few scattered sales.

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How did you grow your U.S. exports?

Serola: At first, we sold a lot of our products through conferences for medical equipment in the U.S. Foreign companies would purchase the belts directly from us. …Then they brought them back to their home country to sell directly. It saved us the grief of managing the exporting part ourselves, when we didn't know what we were doing.

But as the company grew, we started doing more direct exporting. Five years ago, we contracted with a warehouse in the Netherlands to handle all of our contract fulfillment orders in the EU. Now we ship the belts to them, and they repackage and ship them to customers as the orders come in.

What is the benefit of having a warehouse abroad?

Serola: Shipping costs on small international orders is cost prohibitive. With the warehouse, we ship the belts in bulk, so we pay less in customs and duty fees than if we had shipped each order individually. And because the warehouse is in the Netherlands, they can send shipments to any EU country without having to pay any additional customs fees, which saves money. It also saves hassle for the smaller distributors who do not import, making them more likely to buy from us.

Does having the warehouse in a foreign country impact how you are paid?

Serola: Absolutely. Customers purchasing from us in the USA and importing into their own countries pay in dollars. Customers buying from our warehouse in Europe pay in euros through our online website.

We have to account for fluctuations in currency as part of that process. Whatever the exchange rate is on the day the transaction occurs is what we get. Usually it's not a huge difference, but over time it could swing by as much as 10 percent. So we make sure we build that risk into our margins.

Live Cross Rates

USD 69.2140 1.3102 0.7847 53.3150 1.0000 0.8805
CAD 52.7990 1.0000 0.5987 40.6750 0.7626 0.6718
AUD 50.1090 0.9483 0.5680 38.6030 0.7234 0.6374
EUR 78.5490 1.4869 0.8906 60.5130 1.1343 1.0000
GBP 88.1480 1.6687 1.0000 67.9070 1.2730 1.1216

Example: 1USD = xx INR

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