A new site helps would-be exporters calculate their risk.
Entrepreneurs determined to conquer the world may want to start with the World Wide Web. A new online database helps companies weigh the risks that come with doing business overseas. Assessyourinternationalrisk.org was set up by the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and insurance giant American International Group (AIG). The site highlights some of the steps that trip up small businesses when they expand abroad--from credit and liability risks to workers' compensation laws to more general cultural differences and their impact on commerce. "As the world becomes smaller and small businesses are poised for global markets, we realized this was a gap area of knowledge," says Ellen M. Thrasher, of the SBA's Office of Business and Community Initiatives. Companies without proper insurance and preparation can drown while testing foreign waters even if, from a purely business perspective, they seem ripe for expansion. And while comprehensive, the new site is more a starting point than a one-stop shop. "We're here to educate and inform," Thrasher says, "and what we do is raise questions."