STEP 1.2.1

Introduction to Exporting from Canada

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:

  • Look at the capital you have to work with and decide whether you can feasibly get more.
  • Examine your current budget and operating costs and figure out whether or not these can go up.
  • Decide if it’s possible to hire more staff—sales, production, service, managerial or otherwise. If you are exporting a service, how easy will it be to hire individuals with the particular expertise you require?
  • If you are exporting a product, figure out if you have the capital to acquire more of the components or materials needed to make it. How readily available are the materials you need, and will you need to open up new supply chains to get your hands on more?

As part of’s Export Insights 2018 report, Canadian businesses were asked why the began selling internationally. These were the most popular answers. Study conducted by RK Insights

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.

Export Insights 2018 explored the capabilities of Canadian exporters: where they are investing in business improvements, what they are lacking and how prepared they are. Study conducted by RK Insights

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:


  • business history
  • vision and mission statements
  • purpose of the export plan
  • organizational goals and objectives
  • international market goals
  • short- and medium-term objectives for exporting
  • location and facilities


  • ownership
  • management
  • staffing
  • level of commitment by senior management
  • relationship between exporting and domestic operations
  • corporate experience and expertise in exporting
  • strategic alliances
  • labour market issues abroad

Products and Services

  • description of products and services
  • key and/or unique features that distinguish your product/services from those in the target market adaptation and redesign required for exporting
  • production of products and services
  • future products/services pipeline
  • comparative advantage in production

Market Overview

  • political environment
  • economic environment
  • size of market
  • key market segments
  • purchasing process and buying criteria
  • description of industry participants
  • market share held by imports
  • tariff and non-tariff barriers
  • industry trends and other market factors
  • market outlook

Market-Entry Strategy

  • target market(s)
  • description of key competitors
  • analysis of competitive position
  • product positioning
  • pricing strategy
  • terms of sale
  • distribution strategy
  • promotion strategy / development of sales leads
  • description of intermediaries and partners

Regulatory and Logistical Issues

  • intellectual property protection
  • other regulatory issues
  • modes of transportation and cargo insurance
  • trade documentation
  • use of trade service providers

Risk Factors

  • market risks
  • credit and currency risks
  • political and other risks

Implementation Plan

  • key activities
  • evaluation criteria and process

Financial Plan

  • revenues or sources of funding
  • operating budget
  • cost of sales
  • marketing and promotion costs
  • other expenses or expenditures

Source: TCS


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