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News Archives - Ontario Export Awards

12 Nov

By HSBC Bank Canada

Four ways market knowledge leads to global success

November 12, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

Foreign Market Knowledge

The thirst to grow and evolve leads many Canadian companies to set their sights on foreign markets. No business, however, can hope to flourish in an arena it does not understand. For the best chance of success, organizations planning to grow globally must match their desire to expand with an equally enthusiastic pursuit of in-depth market knowledge.

A recent report by The Conference Board of Canada entitled Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success* identified market knowledge as one of four key factors necessary for Canadian organizations to thrive in foreign markets. The other three keys are skilled executives, innovation capabilities and international networks. And, there are four ways that understanding your market will potentially help lead to global success.

Committing to Market Orientation

Developing insight into a foreign market is only possible once a company has made a commitment to having a market orientation. That means having a dedication to giving customers the best possible product or service by tailoring it to their specific needs.

In turn, market orientation drives firms to seek in-depth market knowledge to help them excel at three core activities: prioritizing which foreign customers to pursue, knowing the best way to meet the needs of those clients, and how best to adapt their products to international customers’ needs.

Selecting a Foreign Market

Deciding where to begin a global expansion can be overwhelming. By starting with a foundation of market orientation, organizations can focus on investigating where their goods and services will be in the greatest demand.

For example, when Manitoba-based Ag Growth International decided to expand outside Canada, its leaders took the time to carefully study which countries were most in need of their agricultural equipment. Based on thorough research, the company chose to move into Russia and the Ukraine, where there was the highest need for its products.

Choosing the Best Approach

Once a company has decided where to expand, it must then select the best approach to successfully enter its chosen markets. All approaches—acquisitions, direct sales, opening foreign offices—have their pros and cons. The more a business knows about its potential customer base, the greater chance it will have of successfully penetrating the market.

The leaders of Symbility Solutions, a small software company in Ontario, wanted to expand internationally but knew they didn’t have the means to establish foreign offices. Instead, the firm used resellers based in the local markets. The company recognized that these partners would bring existing customer relationships and a familiarity with the market that would ease the expansion process.

Adapting to New Customers’ Needs

A company with a market orientation does not develop products in isolation and then hope that customers will buy, but instead adapts its products and marketing approach to meet the specific needs of the customers it’s targeting.

For example, in the early 2000s, Ontario-based IMAX’s efforts to get commercial theatres interested in using its technology were continuously thwarted by the substantial costs customers would have to bear. Eventually IMAX realized it had to adapt its vision for expansion to the needs of potential clients. The company responded by making its technology more affordable and redesigning its theatres so they could fit into existing cinemas.

In-depth market knowledge is an indispensable tool for Canadian companies looking to take their products and services into the global marketplace.

HSBC offers a network of over 70 countries worldwide including over 167 outlets in 56 cities in China^ and 150 years of experience helping international businesses succeed. We bring unparalleled market knowledge to clients looking to expand across borders. That’s why HSBC can be your trusted advisor to navigate the markets as your company executes on its international vision.

Explore more about Selling to the World and what it takes to global success, download the full report here.

*Published in June 2015

^Network numbers as of March 5, 2015.

Issued by HSBC Bank Canada
© Copyright HSBC Bank Canada 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

09 Oct

By HSBC Bank Canada

Diversification helps H2O Innovation make a splash around the world

October 9, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

In 2009, when much of North America was slogging through the Great Recession, one Canadian company in the industrial water treatment business responded by diversifying. Quebec City-based H2O Innovation had established itself as a leading designer, manufacturer and builder of water treatment systems in Canada and the United States, and had tried its hand at building systems in other countries around the world. As the economy tanked, there was no way to know whether those large, complicated projects would continue to keep the company busy.

By purchasing a small California company that manufactured and sold specialty products and chemicals used in water treatment systems, H2O Innovation was able to launch a product division in 2009. Suddenly, it had an easier way to move into other markets around the world.

The company’s willingness to be innovative by adding a new product line has translated into great success: In the six years since launching its product division, H2O Innovation has grown the division from zero revenue to now cover 90 percent of the company’s fixed costs. The product division, which earned US$200,000 in 2009 was responsible for US$18 million in 2014. The company finds its international buyers mostly through networking at trade shows and building relationships in its industry, says Marc Blanchet, vice president of corporate affairs at H2O Innovation.

H2O Innovation’s willingness to diversify and expand in international trade has transformed the company. Although the company has experienced ups and downs in doing global business, it continues to build highly respected water systems while also selling water treatment products in 40 countries around the world.

The H2O difference

Like most internationally successful companies, H2O Innovation understands the qualities that set it apart from the competition—its Global Competitive Advantages—and how to capitalize on them. One of the company’s most important differentiations is its skilled executives: Not only do its executive team members have prior international experience, but the company is known for the high quality of its water systems, which results in a deep understanding of how water systems work.

“The system we build is our flagship; it’s very high-end equipment”, says Marc Blanchet, vice president of corporate affairs at H2O Innovation. “The project business is not our most profitable division, but it is very synergetic with our service and products division. Our experience building those systems provides us the credibility to service the customers and keep the long term relationships.”

That expertise in building water system projects gives it knowledge that carries over into the product business. For instance, H2O Innovation customers could purchase couplings, devices for connecting parts of machinery, from a number of suppliers.It may seem like a very simple product, but desalination needs a certain type of stainless steel and not everyone understands those requirements,” Blanchet says. “That’s the added value we bring”.

Read the full article

Want to learn more and download a new report by HSBC and The Conference Board of Canada about the key to winning in international markets? Click here

Issued by HSBC Bank Canada
© Copyright HSBC Bank Canada 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

08 Oct


Riding the U.S. market rebound

October 8, 2015 | By |

—Sponsored article by Grant Thornton

TORONTO—The economic rebound in the United States offers major opportunities for Canadian manufacturers.

The US economy has expanded more rapidly than most others around the globe since the global financial crisis—and is projected to grow even if the world economy remains sluggish. This is good news for Canadian manufacturers, as exports to the United States rose to approximately US$218.3 billion in 2014—nearly reaching their pre-recession peak.

The United States is Canada’s biggest trade partner, accounting for 79 per cent of Canadian exports. Only China and Mexico export more into the U.S.

The Canadian advantage
Canada has enormous advantages in trade with the United States—and proximity isn’t the biggest one. As economies around the world foundered during the financial crisis, Canada’s economy and manufacturers stayed strong.

Other Canadian advantages include:
Favourable exchange rate for exports: In early May, the Canadian dollar was worth US$0.80, with some predicting a drop below US$0.70—from a high of US$1.10 in November 2007. (Of course, Canadian manufacturers that rely on imported components will be hurt by a falling Canadian dollar).

Familiarity: Canadian manufacturers are generally familiar with US markets, customer habits, and distribution channels (in some cases, they know more about these facets of business in the United States than about distant regions of Canada). For many firms, their exports to the United States kept flowing even during the downturn—making them ready to capitalize on US growth.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): The pact with the United States and Mexico—more than 20 years old—eased trade restrictions among partners. Total Canadian exports to the United States have increased about 200 per cent since then, rising from $110.9 billion in 1993 to $332.1 billion in 2013. NAFTA continues to offer significant advantages to Canadian firms.

Proximity: Canadian manufacturers are close to major U.S. markets, by land and sea—Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Boston, New York, Philadelphia to name just a few. With transportation costs lower due to low fuel prices, Canadians have a sizeable logistics advantage in getting goods to U.S. customers.

There remains plenty of room for Canadian exports to US markets and elsewhere. A Grant Thornton-sponsored survey with PLANT magazine found that approximately 26 per cent of Canadian manufacturer revenues are from U.S. sales. So it’s not surprising that 37 per cent of Canadian firms will seek new markets in the United States in the next three years (31 per cent will look for new markets in Canada, 15 per cent in Mexico and other Central/South American countries, and 12 per cent in Brazil). In addition, 30 per cent of Canadian manufacturers strongly agree that pursuing new geographic markets is an important strategy — although 43 per cent say pursuit of North American markets is a priority over global markets.

“Export opportunities to the United States vary greatly by manufacturing sector, and so executives need to perform a rigourous analysis of the potential for U.S. sales for their products. It’s not a one-size­fits-all opportunity, and new competitors emerge daily that affect those decisions.” – Jim Menzies, National Manufacturing Leader, Grant Thornton LLP.

Among manufactured products, vehicles (13 per cent of total exports) and machinery (6.8 per cent of total exports) top the list of Canadian exports to the United States. (Mineral fuels, including oil, are the country’s largest export to the United States (26.1 per cent).)

The good news is that U.S. automotive markets are again roaring in 2015, and the broader U.S. manufacturing resurgence bodes well for Canadian equipment makers, especially with a favourable exchange rate. From 2009 to 2013, U.S. manufacturing output grew by an average rate of nearly 6 per cent per year. Not surprisingly, U.S. plant output has reached a median 80 per cent of designed capacity—a benchmark that typically requires new capacity across the industrial sector.

Other sectors are less attractive. For example, the trend toward local sourcing of food and beverages has many shoppers looking for US or regional brands; the boom in US craft beer and distillery products has specifically dampened the demand for Canadian products. Canadian beer exports to the United States totalled just US$245.5 million in 2013, down from US$378.8 million in 2007 and are expected to fall below US$200 million in coming years. Yet despite the allure of promising U.S. markets, many Canadian executives remain reluctant to increase exports. Some remember the bottom-line damage done by the financial crisis while others worry that Canadian products—especially against a backdrop of “Buy American” sentiment—won’t be embraced by U.S. customers.

“We also know that many Canadian manufacturers have been very cautious in their approach to selling and/or operating internationally in the past,” adds Menzies. “For these companies, a first step in breaking through that barrier is to export to the United States, where risks are minimal—especially compared to challenges of exporting to popular export destinations such as the BRIC countries.”

Take advantage of U.S. opportunity
Canadian manufacturers with US customers are already benefitting from the upturn. What’s more, these manufacturers are finding that export infrastructures can be modified to acquire new customers in the United States: fabrication operations that are supplying automotive customers in one region of the States can be leveraged for other regions and for other sectors in need of similar components.

“Seek the advice of experienced industry or local colleagues,” advises Menzies. “And look to professional allies such as Grant Thornton. We have a vast array of offices and expertise throughout the United States— people on the ground with a wealth of industry-specific experience.”

The best news for Canadian business owners looking to the United States is that their desire to export is often matched by readily-available funding. Canada’s banking system—one of the world’s most stable—appears ready to invest in manufacturers with big plans, whether to increase exports or even to acquire new businesses in the States.

15 Sep

By HSBC Bank Canada

The four essential qualities of successful global leaders

September 15, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

Is your business seeking out new markets overseas? If not, you should be. Canada’s aging population and slower economic growth limit your expansion options at home, but Canada’s weak dollar is making your goods and services more competitive internationally.

A new report conducted by The Conference Board of Canada, Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success, identified the critical factors that enable firms to succeed in global markets. These keys to success are skilled executives, foreign market knowledge, innovation capabilities, and international networks. These factors influence one another and can be combined to increase a company’s Global Competitive Advantage (GCA).

This article takes a closer look at the first key, skilled executives who can lead their organizations as they pursue opportunities beyond Canada’s borders.

The report found that successful global leaders have four essential traits in common: an entrepreneurial bent, a vision and commitment to international expansion, prior international experience, and the ability to build a management team with others who can execute the leader’s vision.

Vision and entrepreneurship

Committing to international expansion requires vision and an entrepreneurial bent. Some firms’ commitment to international growth is so entrenched in corporate culture that it is directly integrated into the company’s mission. For example, British Columbia-based Global Relay’s mission is to be the number one global provider of compliance messaging solutions to the financial services sector. At Distech Controls in Quebec, the management team has always aimed to become a global player in the energy management solutions segment.

The quality of entrepreneurship is vital at management level for a company to succeed when expanding internationally. Leaders must not be afraid to experiment and try something new. They must be innovative, proactive, and willing to take risks.

Having started off as an exhibitor at EXPO ’67 in Montreal, IMAX was bought in the 1990s by Richard Gelfond, the current CEO, with a partner. He saw the potential for commercial success beyond the original IMAX business of nature documentaries. To bring IMAX to where it is today—with technology in more than 800 theatres worldwide and blockbuster movie successes such as Interstellar – countless risks were taken, including convincing Hollywood producers and distributors of the commercial potential of IMAX technology. This was a process of trial and error that lasted nearly 15 years. A particularly successful gamble was the decision to seize on growing affluence in China and the increasing popularity of Hollywood-produced movies.

Go international, but go prepared

Prior international experience is a major bonus for a global leader. For Ontario-based Redknee, which provides billing software to global wireless companies, the founders had previously worked for Nortel – a Canadian based global telecoms company. They had traveled extensively across the United States and Europe, were comfortable with foreign cultures, and had many useful contacts. The company had an international focus from the start, as Redknee’s first customers were European. The founders’ international experience also helped with the integration of foreign acquisitions and Redknee’s expansion into 90 countries in a decade.

Finally, building a management team that blends appropriate experience and drive is critical. Not all companies have the chance to count on entrepreneurial executives, or on those who have had the opportunity to acquire international experience. However, firms looking to expand their reach in global markets can search externally and hire executives with these skills and characteristics.

While doing business in Canada has provided a solid foundation for your business, the time may be right to leverage that footing and harness the appropriate traits of your management team so that your organization can grow on a global scale. With our experience and knowledge, HSBC as a trusted partner, can help your executive team gain the international experience you need to be successful. With Relationship Managers in over 70 countries and 150 years of experience helping international businesses succeed we have the prior international experience required to help you execute on your vision.

Want to learn more and download a new report by HSBC and The Conference Board of Canada about the key to winning in international markets? Click here.

Interested in registering HSBC events? Click here.

Source: Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success Report, June 2015

Issued by HSBC Bank Canada
© Copyright HSBC Bank Canada 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

HSBC Webinar: Crossing the Border—Trade with the U.S.

August 24, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada | No Comments

Thursday, September 10
2 pm | 11 am PT

The U.S. is our biggest trading partner, and Canadian businesses are already benefiting from an established trading relationship between both countries. With the U.S. economy growing faster than Canada’s, is your company taking full advantage of the strengthening U.S. demand?

At HSBC, we believe it’s a great time for Canadian businesses to expand. In this webinar, find out how the U.S. can affect Canada’s export growth, what a stronger U.S. dollar means for international trade and uncover the opportunities that your company can capitalize on.

What to expect from the webinar:
• U.S. and Canadian economic update
• Trade trends and opportunities between U.S. and Canada
• Insight into the U.S. as a gateway to global trade

Join HSBC online for 30 minutes of insights, followed by an interactive Q&A, from virtually anywhere – on your PC, tablet or smartphone.

Don’t miss out – REGISTER NOW! Click here for details.

A World of Difference: What It Takes to Win in International Markets

August 11, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

New study shows preferred path to global success for Canadian companies

No two companies, and no two global markets, are the same. But as it turns out, Canadian companies from a wide variety of industries have taken a remarkably similar path toward success in numerous nations around the world.

A new report by HSBC and The Conference Board of Canada found that the key to winning in international markets is to create a Global Competitive Advantage (GCA).

The report examined the findings of research on global company performance from around the world, and then interviewed Canadian companies that had demonstrated success in markets outside of Canada. The report determined that at the centre of international business success is a GCA, as evidenced through the experience of these Canadian companies. The results have been published in a recently released report, Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success.

So what is a GCA and how did companies like H2O Innovation, Global Relay, Clearwater Seafoods Inc., Distech Controls, and Nuform Building Technologies develop one?

According to the report, a company builds a GCA by creating more value than global rivals do through differentiation. A GCA is more complex than the traditional idea of having a competitive advantage or “unique selling proposition.” A GCA can’t be sustained solely by competing on price, for example. That’s because a GCA, by definition, is difficult to imitate.

Rather, a GCA requires consistent and long-term differentiation, most commonly by providing unique products aimed at niche markets.

And developing such differentiation, according to the report, requires the nurturing of four distinct keys:

Skilled Executives: leaders with an entrepreneurial nature and international experience
Foreign Market Knowledge: a deep understanding of how business is conducted in another nation and where the opportunities lie in a target market
• Innovation Capabilities: a commitment to Research and Development and the ability to create new and unique product and/or processes
• International Networks: As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Success comes to companies that have a network of customers, distributors, partners, and advisors that can help crack a new international market.

HSBC believes that many Canadian companies have what it takes to develop a GCA and find success in international markets, and they can also help.

As a leading international bank, HSBC’s extensive network of international connections and expertise in global trade, international finance, and the nuances of cash flow and foreign exchange are available to customers seeking to grow outside of Canada’s borders. Or, to put it another way, HSBC itself has more than a century of nurturing the four international success keys (skilled executives, market knowledge, innovation, and international networks) identified in the report. And activating those resources for our customers benefit is our GCA.

Interested in registering for HSBC events to learn more? Click here

Download the full report: Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success

Source: Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success Report, June 2015

Issued by HSBC Bank Canada
© Copyright HSBC Bank Canada 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

20 Jul


How to execute expansion in the global food and beverage sector

July 20, 2015 | By |

A report from audit, tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton outlines common mistakes and the 10 biggest myths on entering global markets.

Canada’s food and beverage sector has long been regarded as the country’s most recession-proofed industry. But as companies begin to test international jurisdictions for expansion opportunities, the risks begin to build.

Indeed, when it comes to going global, food and beverage executives begin to face some very real challenges. Geopolitical uncertainty, distribution and logistical limitations, disparate food safety regulations and wild currency fluctuations are all factors that will toss a wrench into a company’s global expansion plans.

However, with an exploding global population powering widespread growth in the retail food sector, the rewards are often worth the risk, as long as the expansion plan is creative, executable and measurable.

If your company is in the process of developing such a plan, you’re in luck. Grant Thornton, a global audit, tax and advisory firm, has developed a report that outlines some of the very good reasons to pursue international food and beverage expansion. And it’s more than an overview of the sector.

Expanding Horizons: Food and beverage looks for growth, which was authored by Jim Menzies, Toronto-based partner and global leader, food and beverage , also tackles some common myths and pitfalls associated with such a complex endeavor.

If your company’s management expects that simply following global customers into new markets will achieve profitable growth, it’s adhering to myth number two out of 10. If you are planning on devising the organizational structure once all the other elements are in place, you are living myth number five.

Deferring that exit strategy until the time comes for you to exit? Let us introduce you to myth number nine. (Scroll down for Grant Thornton’s list of 10 common misconceptions on global expansion in the food and beverage sector).

Be assured, if your company has included in its plans any of Grant Thornton’s 10 common misconceptions about global food and beverage expansion, it’s not alone. But if you’re keen to separate yourself from the competition by avoiding the common mistakes and executing a solid, dynamic and successful expansion, this report is an excellent place to start.

View the full report as a PDF document here, or visit Grant Thornton LLP in Canada’s website at

10 common misconceptions about global expansion in the food and beverage sector

  1. Our checklist will guide us through the process.
  2. By following global customers as they go abroad, we will achieve profitable growth.
  3. Find the best location and a reliable partner first.
  4. Our current business model will work in every global market.
  5. We will figure out the organizational structure once all the other elements are in place.
  6. If we can’t predict our likely outcomes from the venture, why bother trying?
  7. Capital is not an issue for us.
  8. We need to do the deal now or miss the opportunity.
  9. We will worry about an exit strategy if and when we need one.
  10. Of course things are different. It’s just the local culture.

Source: Grant Thornton, Expanding Horizons Food and Beverage Looks for Growth

06 Jul

By HSBC Bank Canada

Chinese currency presents growth opportunity, but Canadian companies hesitate

July 6, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

With expected weakening of the RMB against the CAD dollar in 2015, contracts settled in RMB will be more attractive to Chinese buyers than those denominated in either Canadian or U.S. currency.

The Chinese renminbi (RMB) has been accessible outside China for only a few years, but it has already become the fifth-most-popular trading currency in the world. With the hope for the RMB to become a global reserve currency alongside the U.S. dollar over time, the Chinese government has been carefully managing the global rollout or “liberalization” of the RMB. Late last year, China signaled its support for more trade with Canada by signing a currency swap agreement and authorizing the first RMB trading hub in North America. The clearing centre officially opened in March 2015.

The trading hub enables the direct exchange of the Canadian dollar with the RMB in real time, allowing the trade to be completed in Canadian time zones and eliminating the step of converting to another currency first. Through a related agreement, China has also issued a quota for institutional investors to trade in RMB-denominated stocks and bonds issued onshore in China and through the Hong Kong Stock Connect.

Globally, the most common use of the RMB is for import/export activities. The Canadian government, trade organizations, and banking industry worked hard to have the RMB trading hub located in Canada in an effort to fuel more trade and investment flows between Canada and China at a time when Canada’s economic growth has stalled and domestic expansion and investment possibilities are limited.

China is already Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, as well as its fastest-growing, but the balance of trade has shifted decidedly in China’s favor since 2001. In 2013, China’s imports from Canada totaled US$25.2 billion, while Canada’s imports from China were more than double that amount at US$51.2 billion.1

Chick here to read the full article on HSBC Global Connections and see the “RMB Be Ready” section on HSBC’s web site to learn more.

Source: HSBC RMB Internationalisation Study 2015

Remarks: 1 Industry Canada’s Trade Data Online database

12 May

By HSBC Bank Canada

How Canada’s Bombardier makes NAFTA work

May 12, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

When a Montreal startup began making snowmobiles in 1942, nobody could have guessed the company would become one of the world’s leading transportation manufacturers.

Today, Bombardier Inc. is the world’s only manufacturer of both railcars and airplanes, with annual revenue of $9.4 billion Canadian dollars. The company employs more than 76,000 employees at 79 production and engineering sites.

Much of the company’s growth occurred in the past two decades. The expansion coincides with the 1994 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated most tariffs on trade between Canada, Mexico and the United States, and established infrastructure for telecommunications and transportation among the three countries. NAFTA also allows certain types of employees to move freely across borders, and created a more unified business climate across the countries.

The groundwork NAFTA laid made it easier for Bombardier to link development, manufacturing and sales operations across three countries. Before the trade agreement, Bombardier did some manufacturing and sales in the United States. But NAFTA provided a structure of cooperation that supported the company’s growth in neighboring countries, says Pierre Pyun, the company’s vice president of government affairs.

“We are very active in both the United States and Mexico, and we see our presence and facilities in those countries as part of a highly integrated North American platform that allows us to do business not only in the region but also globally,” Pyun says.

Read the full article on HSBC Global Connections—Canada web site.

04 May

By HSBC Bank Canada

HSBC Fueling Growth Worldwide: 2015 webinar series

May 4, 2015 | By HSBC Bank Canada |

Q2: Looking East—Trade with China

Date & Time:
Wednesday, May 20
11AM ET | 8AM PT

As Canadian companies look abroad for growth, more and more of them are finding it in China. In fact, 62% of Canadian companies surveyed expect to increase trade with China in the coming year*. That’s why the upcoming HSBC quarterly webinar explores how our trade and economic relationship with the world’s number one trading nation, China, is changing – and how Canadian companies can find growth opportunities and profit from them.

Join us online for 30 minutes of insights, followed by an interactive Q&A, from virtually anywhere – on your PC, tablet or smartphone. Click here for details.

*Source: HSBC RMB Internationalisation Survey 2015 Results.