David and Brian McAdam are the father and son (and President and General Manager, respectively) of Western Oiltools Ltd. – a Calgary-based company specializing in pump jack application equipment.
When and why did you first start thinking about exporting as part of your business?
When Western Oiltools Ltd. was incorporated back in 2015, exporting to the U.S. was initially top-of-mind due to the larger market share and relationships that had been previously established. Our friends across the border seemed very keen on adopting new and innovative products.
What was your export journey like to get where you are today?
From the get-go, we experienced so much success in the U.S. that we had to consciously make a point of setting time to continue to market our products to Canadian companies. Western Oiltools Ltd. is a Canadian family-run company and we take pride in fostering relationships and building our customer base here in our homeland.
Is there a specific story /anecdote from your company’s history that you would consider a critical moment for your export journey?
We signed up a new U.S. customer that had no clue what a customer broker was. It was at that point we realized that ordering products across borders was a new concept for a lot of customers. We realized we would need to make the process as seamless as possible for the end user.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country? How did you adapt to that difference?
People expect immediate service. This is the nature of oil patch operations. Because everything is typically ordered last minute, no matter how fast you ship something, it’s inevitable that customs and transportation will take time. Hence why we strive to build strong relationships with our distributors. Distributors stocking inventory of our products has allowed us to assure that our customers are never left hanging.
Has exporting abroad changed the way you market/sell your products/services in Canada?
A lot of oilfield slang is different in the U.S., which was interesting to adapt to. For instance, operators are called pumpers in the U.S.
What have you learned from exporting that has benefitted your sales/ operations in Canada?
Having a positive track record with a large customer base in the U.S. has allowed us to build up our trust and credibility with our Canadian customers. Oftentimes, different countries have different ways of doing things. This has allowed us to gain knowledge and enhance our products and processes back home.
Can you share a “best lesson learned” from a challenging exporting experience?
Listen to the pain-points of your target customers. By learning what hasn’t previously worked and why, we were able to engineer solutions in an agile matter. This has been a huge key to our success.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started exporting?
Generally, customers in the U.S. prefer to order U.S. parts. The reason they buy from Western Oiltools Ltd. is because nobody is offering the patented products we offer. My best advice for someone considering to export is to create a product or service that is strategically advantageous to your key demographic – something that is unique and does not already exist in your target market.
What is the #1 thing new SME’s need to know about exporting and trade?
If you have an original product that customers see value in, with perseverance and the right attitude, it is possible to get in the door and have success in export markets with great success.
What is one characteristic that you believe every exporter should possess?
Stick with it. Perseverance has been an essential ingredient to our success.