PROFIT 100 Exporting tips

Written by Rebecca Gardiner

Deciding to export is a big step for your business and it’s a complicated one. PROFIT asked the leaders of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies to share their best tips for doing it successfully.

  1. “Don’t just ship something and tell your distributors, ‘Now it’s your problem.’ Make sure you are intimately involved in how your product is perceived and positioned,” says Randy Pilon, president and CEO of Virox Technologies (ranked No. 79 in the 2004 PROFIT 100) in Oakville, Ont.
  2. Give yourself a lot of lead time, do your research to see how your product fits into that particular country and have good go-to people that will be able to work closely with you,” advises Tom Semeniuk, president of Winnipeg-based Vendmax International (No. 71). “After you’ve done all your research, then decide whether you go ahead or not.”
  3. “Get some experienced help before you start,” advises Robert Heath, CEO of Triant Technologies (No. 53) in Vancouver. “Use the Canadian embassies and consulates around the world, they’re tremendously helpful.”
  4. Understand your market,” says Gregory Luciani, president of TravelOnly (No. 45), in Brantford, Ont. “For example, Americans do not think like Canadians. In the States, you have to be much more aggressive. In Canada, it’s a lot easier to be passive and get results.”
  5. “Ensure that your presence in the Canadian market is very strong, and then try to establish yourself in a number of countries so that you spread the risk (from currency fluctuations and economic changes) and the gains through different areas,” says Bruce Batchelor, president and CEO of Trafford Publishing (No. 5) in Victoria, B.C.
  6. Get local representation in your target market, make sure they already have the contacts, ask them who they’re selling to and what they’ve sold to them in the past,” says Christian Sterner, president of Sterner Automation (No. 54) in Toronto. “Then go see them face-to-face on their turf, see their office, how they operate, the car that they drive and the image they portray to your potential new clients.”
  7. Leverage your Canadian relationships by extending relationships with companies you’re working with in Canada south of the border,” advises Leerom Segal, president of Klick Communications (No. 32) in Toronto.
  8. Be as close as possible to your customer,” says Markus Gadinger, owner of Gadra Enterprise Inc. (No. 35) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. “They have to feel that you are just around the corner. So if he has a problem at 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., he knows he can call you.”
  9. Make sure your packaging works,” advises Martin Carsky of Cryopak Industries (No. 65) in Delta, B.C. “If it’s a different market, make sure it fits that market. Certain buyers in the States, for example, don’t like French on our packaging, but they really like our Spanish packaging. Canadian companies never think of that.”
  10. Don’t do it unless you’re willing to spend time to service your international customers as well as your local customers,” says Anuj Jain, co-president of Avnan Electro (No. 69) in Oakville, Ont. “There is so much competition out there, that if you don’t do it right you end up with half-satisfied customers and spending more than you’re getting out of it.”
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