To break into a foreign market, you will need extensive human resources.
If you are using your own sales staff (as opposed to third-party channels or e-platforms), you may need to hire new salespeople.
You will also need enough staff to meet increased production of your products, or if you offer a service, additional employees to provide that service.
In addition, marketing and advertising specialists will be needed, as will individuals responsible for logistics and shipping.
You can contract some of your manpower needs to third parties, but generally speaking, to meet increased production, increased sales and increased shipping, you will need more staff.
While it is possible to delegate more work and responsibility to existing staff and management members, keep in mind that ramping up operations to sell into a new market is not a temporary endeavour. If you are venturing into an international market, it will take years to make an indelible impact. Maintaining an increased workload of the magnitude required to run a successful export operation over a sustained period isn’t feasible.
You don’t need to be a big firm to have success as an exporter, but you need have clearly laid out goals and acquire the human resources necessary to meet them. There is no magic number for how many employees you need to start exporting, but if you are increasing your output as a company, you should be addressing that through additional staff or external partnerships.
SMEs need to expand abroad
Despite the accessibility of international markets in an age of liberalized trade, globalization and e-commerce, export sales in Canada is still concentrated primarily in large companies.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, Canadian companies which qualify as large exporters accounted for 60 per cent of total export sales, despite making up less than 3 per cent of all exporters. This was further concentrated among the largest 500 exporters, representing only 1 per cent of exporters, but responsible for over 75 per cent of total export sales, and the top 20 exporters in 2016 accounted for one third of all exports.
The majority of Canadian exporting firms, 97.4 per cent, are small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but these companies account for a proportionally tiny share of Canada’s total export sales. This is due in part to the fact that the majority of exporters, over three quarters, are bringing in less than $1 million in exporting revenue. However, another crucial factor is that 96 per cent of SMEs in Canada aren’t exporting at all. This doesn’t stack up well to our G7 compatriots:
More Canadian SMEs need to get in the game. With the opportunities that exist in established and emerging markets and the efficient and cost-effective sales channels made available by digital technologies, namely e-commerce, even the smallest firms can make in-roads in international markets.
Every firm, regardless of size, should be thinking about international sales, because Canada only accounts for roughly 2 per cent of the world’s economy. The rest of the world is out there, waiting.
This report from the Toronto Region Board of Trade details some of the opportunities that SMEs can take advantage of in international markets, particularly those situated in the Greater Toronto Area.