CoolIT Systems (CoolIT) is a Calgary-based technology company that is in the business of liquid cooling high performance computers and data centers. Randy Coates is the company’s Chief Operating Office.

You can read about the company’s export journey here.

When was your first export sale?

The first export sale was in 2004 to a boutique gaming firm out of London called SavRow, for a computer they called Deuterium. We sold them a total of 12 units.

What’s the biggest lesson learned in going global?

A couple of things come to mind. First, make sure you have appropriate credit-check procedures in place. Some very large companies have poor credit ratings.

Secondly, take all of your timeline estimates and double them, and them double them again. Between last minute design changes, contract negotiations, onsite factory audits, safety and compliance certifications etc. Things take a very long time to get over the revenue finish line!

What advice would you give to an SME breaking into a new market?

Find a partner/distributor/agent with local knowledge that you can trust. Easier said than done of course, but leverage is the only way to scale on a global basis.

We have recently signed a strategic relationship with a very large company called STULZ. STULZ is an ISO 9001 registered German manufacturer of environmental control equipment, including a full line of energy efficient precision air conditioners, air handling units, ultrasonic humidifiers and desiccant dehumidifiers. STULZ sells and supports their solutions in over 140 countries.

Can you share any supply chain anecdotes?

Probably our longest standing supply chain issue involves language. Not only do we sometimes have trouble understanding what a customer wants when say their first language is Dutch, but we have the issue in spades when we send the Canadian models to our team in China. Since only a few of our Canadian staff speak fluent Chinese, often conversations occur in ‘Chinglish.’ So, it is not altogether shocking when we sometimes make a prototype incorrectly when something has been translated from, for example, Dutch to English to Chinglish to Chinese, back to Chinglish and then back to English for delivery to a Dutch customer.

Another example would be shipping. Parts need rush service from China, so ship express international priority. Parts go from China to Anchorage to Memphis; and back to Anchorage and then to Japan; from Japan back to China; from China to Anchorage to Memphis and then to Calgary. What should have been a three-day turnaround becomes six days and when the parts are received, they are rejected.

How would you describe your success so far?

We certainly have elements of success, but for true success all company stakeholders would have to be in alignment. Once our 145 shareholders tell me we are successful then we will really be on to something.

If you could summarize your export journey in one word or one sentence what would it be?

Challenging – learn how to spell intestinal fortitude!

What’s the one goal you most want to achieve?

Industry standardization for liquid cooling in the data center.

Can you share the best lesson learned from a bad exporting experience?

Just because a customer has sufficient credit at the outset of the relationship, don’t assume it will always be that way. You should have a process in place to review your internal credit policies on an annual basis.

What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about exporting and trade?

Take the time to understand receivables insurance. We use EDC for this and are very happy with the program.