"...when I have been in Canada, I have never heard a Canadian refer to an American as a "foreigner." He is just an "American." And, in the same way, in the United States, Canadians are not "foreigners," they are "Canadians." That simple little distinction illustrates to me better than anything else the relationship between our two countries."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Watching the budding, beautiful, bromance of Trudeau and Obama, its possible that more than one Canadian business owner may be having exporting and international expansion day dreams. And really, can you blame them? For many they are simply that, dreams of future possibilities, and for others – perhaps it was the inspirational boost you didn’t know you were looking for, (and maybe none of the above apply) but either way let’s talk about that dream – exporting and international expansion into the American market.

Roosevelt was right in many ways, and arguably his wisdom is more true now than it was on his visit to Quebec City in 1936. Since the signing of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1989, Canada’s bi-lateral trade in goods and services with the USA has more than tripled. The relationship between our two countries has deepened and helped create jobs and prosperity in both nations with two-way trade exchanging approximately $2.4 billion in goods and services every day in 2015.1

This translates into pretty straight forward facts: a) demand for Canadian products is strong in many growing markets, and b) its never been easier to access those markets. (Thanks NAFTA!)

But, don’t get too excited… in the oh so famous words of Ice Cube “you better check yo self before you wreck yo self”, or more specifically remember that this isn’t a fast-cash exercise and you should be sure you are fully equipped with all of the information and particulars needed for success in your new venture.

Is your company prepared to embark on this new business venture?

  • Product/Service: What makes you special? Business wise that is. What is it about the product you provide or service you offer that will help you stand out in a foreign market filled with new competition and markets? Will you have to adapt if needed?
  • Finances: You’re going to be making a financial commitment with any major business venture, can you afford the long-term commitment to an exporting/foreign venture?
  • Leadership: Have you discussed this with your team? You will need the full support of your leadership and management team to really succeed. What about external leadership? You will most likely have to get outside support and expertise for this venture, breaking into a foreign market - no matter how easy it may be, will require either an external expert to join or advise the team and/or existing leadership to learn and step into new roles.
  • Team: Does your internal team have the expertise to handle the new and additional marketing, sales and other HR work? If not, what additions do you need to make to your team?

Market Research, market research, market research… and in case you missed it… more market research.

This is a seemingly obvious one, but you want to make sure you research potential markets, ensuring that you are looking at them objectively and with a keen eye for both opportunities and risks. Keep in mind things like local culture and customs, this may influence how you market your products as well as your in-person business relationships. You want to conduct your business in a contentious manner. No one wants to be in an Earls’ humane beef situation. Remote research is not enough either, you will want to have an in-person assessment of your potential markets – this probably will translate into a travel adventure, with a business flare. Check out tradeshows, events, and competitors in your potential market – you want your eyes to be wide open, not shut, in this business venture.

Be prepared and develop a comprehensive market entry strategy. You are going to want to include; a budget, regions you are targeting, opportunities and risks, competitors, customization/adaptation of your product and/or service for a new market, pricing, goals, timeframes, additional staffing, and consideration for an expansion loan.

Now I am sure all of this can seem overwhelming, but keep in mind that the Canadian Government wants you to succeed, which has translated into the provision of extensive information and support. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has an excellent online guide for Canadian businesses looking to export or enter into the American market. If you need further assistance or clarity, they also offer access to consultant specialists for additional support.

Business always involves some risk, make sure the risk you take is informed and well planned, but at the end of the day, if you have prepared and educated yourself and your team your true strength lies in your people, because success really does #startwithpeople. And as always, Morris Interactive is here to support you in all of your dream chasing and achieving. All you need to do is ask.

Katie Penstone is the Communications Manager at Morris Interactive

1. http://can-am.gc.ca/relations/commercial_relations_commerciales.aspx?lang=eng