Help your clients go global: part 1

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In the first part of a two-part series, Barb Feldman looks at the steps advisors need to take in assisting their clients with international expansion plans.

    Whether a client has a product or a service they’re considering exporting beyond Canada’s borders, it is always a challenge to help them sort through the myriad possibilities and among the vast array of available resources and help them make the right choices for their unique business.

Here’s how they can help their clients grow:

1. Create a targeted market strategy. “The fact is that very few people in small and medium-size businesses sit down and do a targeted market strategy,” says Pernille Fischer Boulter, founder and president of Kisserup International Trade Roots in Halifax. “It’s export by accident a lot of the time. They get an e-mail from somebody from Poland and say, ‘We should go to Poland. It’ll be a great market in Poland!’”

“Half our job as advisors is to say ‘With your product, or with your services, here are the five best markets in the European Union. Don’t go after all 28 – narrow it down to those five, or go to those two markets in Latin America,” says. Advisors need to understand the global supply chain “from idea to landing in market,” says Fischer Boulter, “to say ‘Are you sure you can get into this market with GMO-modified foods?’ or ‘Do you know there’s a 26% tariff on frozen lobsters, or on blueberries, or on maple syrup?’

2. Know your client’s needs.
A new survey by global workplace provider Regus is like a wish list of businesses wanting to expand beyond Canada’s borders. When 20,000 senior executives and business owners in 95 countries were asked to identify major areas of concern when expanding beyond their own borders, “hiring top-quality staff” and “lack of local knowledge and connections” topped the list; almost half chose “a lack of market information” and the difficulty of “setting up logistics and distribution networks.” Half cited accessing office space in what might be new or unknown locations.

3. Determine their risks. “The biggest risk is a capital outlay,” says Craig Townsend, Regus’s Director of Marketing/Partnerships-Canada, who observes that in some countries foreign companies may not qualify for financing unless they also have a local address. He points out that renting flexible office space instead of committing to a long-term lease and buying office furniture and IT infrastructure, lets a business venturing into a new market free up capital for business development.

A Canadian company can even rent a “virtual office” if it is only needed for a few days a month, says Townsend. “You’d still receive the business and mailing address, the physical location and the reception services” in the local language, he says. “The client would have no idea that the receptionist was transferring the phone call to someone in Toronto.”

Transcontinental Media G.P.