It’s entirely possible to run a business that makes money exclusively from exporting goods or providing a service in a foreign market. Many firms do it with incredible success. The Canadian market only makes up 2 per cent of the global economy, so it’s entirely rational to focus your efforts internationally.
However, if you are already selling successfully within Canada, you don’t want to neglect your faithful customers, and you certainly don’t want those revenue streams to take a hit—which can happen if you bite off more than you can chew when making the jump into international markets.
Staying within your capacity is pivotal to export success. If your firm doesn’t have the resources to take on global markets and still keep your local clients or customers happy, the results can damage your profits and your reputation.
Figure out where your company stands financially, and in terms of material resources and human capital, and be prepared to make some tough choices.
By answering the questions in the self-assessment in the previous section, you can start to delve into the guts of your company and figure out whether you currently have the resources to meet international demand in the market you want to break into:
If, after a thorough examination of these logistics, you discover that it’s either too expensive, time-consuming or impractical to expand internationally, it may not be the right time to start exporting. Alternatively, if you have a certain export goal in mind, you might want to set a less ambitious one.
First time exporters, regardless of how large their business is or how well they are doing back home, should only take on one or two markets to start with. Excercising restraint becomes even more important if your business has restrictive financial, material or human limitations.
Find out what kind of financing do you have access to, and the risks and rewards of using borrowed capital to expand your business.
Beyond financing, assess which exporting goals are attainable within the near future, and which will have to wait a few years down the line. There is no harm in setting these up as three, five or ten year benchmarks once you’ve established yourself in a new market and enjoyed some success.
Developing an Export Plan
Key to success in international markets is an exporting plan.
This clip from the International Trade Administration provides useful tips for getting started on an export plan. While the content is U.S.-focused, the fundamental ideas are applicable to all exporters:
Exporting always carries uncertainty and risk, and regardless of how well prepared you are, complications and unforeseen problems will arise. However, if you have a comprehensive plan in place, you can navigate these risks more easily and better adjust to changing circumstances.
An export plan is also crucial to securing financing for your new venture. Many banks and lending agencies require an export plan from you before they will even consider backing you.
A solid export plan should have the following elements, courtesy of The Trade Commissioner Service:
Products and Services
Regulatory and Logistical Issues