Say Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and most people think of loans and venture capital. As the only bank in Canada devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs, that’s a huge part of our activities. But we also provide advisory services; in fact, BDC is the largest advisory services firm in the country. We have a national network of experienced specialists who can provide practical advice on how to manage your business, increase your revenues and optimize your operations. Many of our programs are geared towards helping small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) realize their business dreams through careful and considered strategic planning. Experience—not to mention lots of research—tells us that one of the best ways for companies to grow their revenues is by expanding internationally. Before you go global, though, it’s critical to make sure that you’re fully prepared for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Are you ready to export?
I’m pretty sure the saying, “You don’t know, what you don’t know,” was coined with exporting in mind. You’ve experienced success at home, so why not sell abroad—it’s not that different, right? Actually, it is. There are many factors that enter the picture once you cross international borders: Logistics, product standards and compliance, competition and taxes are just a few. If you’re considering selling to international markets, start by taking the time to ensure you’re ready. You can take a quick export quiz offered by Global Affairs Canada that will get you thinking in the right direction. If you’ve got some gaps in your knowledge, the Trade Commissioner Service has a free Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting you should consult. It takes you through the paces, from assessing your export potential to shipping, international contracts and financing.
If you’re looking for a thorough, objective diagnostic, BDC offers an international readiness assessment. We analyze your company’s organizational and operational strengths and weaknesses and examine your finances to determine if you have the capacity to support your expansion plans. The assessment is performed by one of our seasoned international commerce specialists and involves a three-hour interview with your management team.
Here’s a quick preview of the types of questions asked that help determine your business fitness levels.
- Why do you want to export? Motivation is key. Is there a specific opportunity you want to capitalize on? Have you exhausted the Canadian market? Is international expansion part of your strategic plan? Establishing clear and achievable export objectives will illustrate how serious you are about your export project. Having an agile mindset is critical, especially being open to new ways of doing business. Scan your human resources to determine if you have the capacity to handle the extra demand associated with exporting. You’ll be up against global players, so your products and services need to be innovative and differentiated from the competition.
- Can you afford to go global? Selling internationally will definitely add to your sales, but keep in mind, the cycle takes time and you’ll need the financial capacity to see that through. In the short run, you’ll have to underwrite expenses, like business travel, exhibiting at trade shows and adapting your sales materials to your new market. Using benchmarking tools that measure specific collection period, payables and inventory turnover ratios, we can assess your processes against best practices in your sector. You’ll find a series of financial tools on our website, including leverage, liquidity and profitability ratios, as well as financial calculators. We can also advise about ways to reduce the risks of international trade using credit insurance.
- Do you have the capacity to export? If your export strategy succeeds, you’ll need to be operating at peak performance levels to deliver the goods. We’ll evaluate if you have sufficient production capacity to meet the increased demand for your products and services. We can review your customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning processes, and recommend alternative methods if required. By identifying possible causes of waste, plus the addition of value-added activities, we can assess the potential gains you’ll realize once you’ve implemented efficiencies. What’s more, we can put you on the path towards sustainable continuous improvement.
Financing with exporters in mind
After you’ve determined that you’re ready to go global, you’ll need to develop an export strategy. To execute your international plans, chances are you’ll need some financial backing. BDC provides an array of different financing solutions for the full spectrum of business needs. Need $100,000? Apply online and you could be approved in as little as 48 hours. For larger financing requirements, we have specialized programs. Want to buy a business, purchase equipment or obtain technology financing? We have tailored solutions for these and more.
If you need a cash infusion to export, look into our new Prêt Xpansion solution. This program has been specifically designed to support the many activities required to hit up international markets. From applying for the patents and trademarks to protect your intellectual property to launching a new marketing campaign, this loan will see you through. Your personal assets aren’t taken as collateral and your cash flow is protected through flexible repayment terms.
Once your hard work pays off and you land that big deal, we can help you with that as well. Purchase Order Financing takes the worry out of paying your suppliers by providing cash for up to 90% of the PO amount—without affecting your line of credit or working capital. Go ahead and build your international customer relationships, thanks to direct loan disbursement and flexible repayment schedules.
It takes a community to build an exporter
BDC is just one of many partners with whom you should align your company in order to succeed internationally. The Trade Accelerator Program, now available through World Trade Centres across Canada, provides export planning workshops led by industry experts. Make the Trade Commissioner Service your go-to resource when deciding which overseas markets are right for your product or service. Not only do they have free online market reports, they have trade experts located around the world, ready to introduce you to customers and support services in more than 160 markets. To work around the risks involved in going global—from getting paid and currency fluctuations to financing your international buyer—Export Development Canada will see that you’re covered. They also provide a wealth of free economic and political reports, including the Global Export Forecast and Country Risk Quarterly.