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Emerging Markets

Canadian companies need to look past their borders Add to ...

Peter Lukomskyj has seen first hand the ups and downs of the technology industry after more than 15 years in the business.

New corporate giants emerged on the global stage while industry stalwarts suffered dramatic falls from the top. And the chief operating officer of Vancouver-based QuickMobile says he believes the main lesson for Canadian companies interested in going global is clear: “It’s really important to get the culture right.”

Launched in 2006, QuickMobile produces mobile apps for events, and it boasts dozens of multinational clients, including Salesforce, Disney and Goodyear. It has evolved from a startup to a global player, active in events hosted in 34 different countries.

The company’s latest move was the recent opening of a new office in London. The space will support customers and partners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and it’s part of an ambitious global growth strategy, Mr. Lukomskyj adds.

“Our customers were taking us into those markets.”

He says the decision to go global came soon after QuickMobile’s launch. Companies, he explains, will know the time is right to enter a new market when its clients encourage them to or when their competitors start to do business in the country of interest. But they must also understand the logistical, legal, financial and cultural challenges of doing business in other markets and leverage resources in countries of interest such as existing clients and channel partners.

“It’s really important to have the right partner,” Mr. Lukomskyj says.

HSBC Bank Canada recently announced it has earmarked $1-billion over the next 18 months to support Canadian small and medium-sized businesses seeking international growth. The funding is available to new and existing HSBC customers that have annual revenue of $3-million to $250-million, and an interest in cross-border trading or global expansion.

“Our main objective is to help companies grow internationally through access to dedicated capital,” says Linda Seymour, the company’s head of commercial banking.

HSBC Bank Canada, itself a subsidiary of HSBC Holdings PLC, is part of an international network of 6,600 offices in more than 80 countries and territories. “Since May, 2011, HSBC Group chief executive Stuart Gulliver has emphasized that we will review a number of our businesses globally and will accordingly prioritize investment in those areas where we have a unique advantage to benefit our customers,” Ms. Seymour says. “Through this international loan program, we want to invest our capital and focus on those customers whom we are best positioned to serve.”

She says Canadian companies should be exploring the opportunities international expansion provides.

“Companies that take advantage of those opportunities tend to grow faster over the longer term,” Ms. Seymour says. “Statistics Canada data shows this, and so has a recent Conference Board of Canada report. Whether it is opportunities to reduce costs, open up new revenue opportunities, or leverage experience and capabilities within those international markets, there are real advantages that businesses can leverage by having presence in more than one market.”

HSBC's February 2013 Global Connections Trade Forecast report revealed that, while the top three markets for Canadian exports are the United States, Britain and China, the fastest-growing corridors of growth by 2030 will be Asia and the Middle East.

International trade specialist Perry Newman recommends businesses do solid research before pursuing those markets.

“One of the first things a company or an entrepreneur needs to do is undertake some targeted market research,” Mr. Newman says. “By targeted I mean research that goes beyond the standard market overview research with which many of us are familiar, which typically relates to the size of the market, legal system, potential distributors, ports of entry, and so on. These are all important, but they’re irrelevant if the product or service is unwanted or unneeded by the market.”

He says targeted market research might involve examining the product offerings of local competitors, or interviewing potential customers to find out what dissatisfactions they may have with their current suppliers. “There’s some deeper competitive analysis that can be done, too, if the financial upside justifies the expense,” Mr. Newman says.

The professor of international business at the University of Southern Maine applauds any assistance for export-focused businesses as long as it helps the company become competitive internationally. The result will be positive for the economy, Mr Newman says.

“Research suggests that companies that do business internationally are more competitive in the marketplace, they pay their employees higher wages, they are more efficient, they are better able to withstand downturns in the business cycles, and so on.”

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