Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in EDC’s, 4 Ways to Boost Your Global Competitive Advantage webinar, along with guest panelists Valerie St-Jean (CEO, 4elements), Saurabh Mukhi (CTO, Think Research) and Trade Commissioner Rick Sudeyko.

Not surprisingly, I walked away from this webinar inspired by what I learned from the other panelists, especially our guest companies, 4elements and Think Research.

The webinar focused on exploring deliberate ways that Canadian companies can boost their global competitive advantage. EDC’s own research shows that being competitive is among the top challenges Canadian companies face when going global and so the subject matter of this webinar was highly relevant.

The 4 common attributes of success

Recent EDC research from 700 businesses found that companies that had attained the highest levels of international success displayed four common attributes:

  1. They’ve built solid international networks
  2. They foster a culture of innovation
  3. They have extensive knowledge about international markets
  4. They possess skilled talent at all levels

These four pillars represent a formula of sorts for enhancing your competitive advantage. Here are some of the key insights on each pillar shared by our panel.

International Networks

International trade is a team sport. Building your team is a critical step to success. This includes specialized players to cover off all positions. In this case, that means shipping firms, logistics providers, lawyers, accountants, government departments and agencies, agents, distributors and wholesalers. To quarterback your partner strategy, consider hiring an export manager who can dedicate all their time to driving your export strategy forward. You should also take time to align your partner strategy with your networking strategy so that your team of advisors helps to drive your company’s international business developments efforts at the right time. Start at home. Many of the firms you work with locally may already have established international networks, so ask for introductions. For more tips on building your global network, check out my blog from last week.

Culture of Innovation

The number of players on the international stage have increased dramatically in the last decade, so you need to be innovative to distinguish yourself. For Valerie St-Jean of 4elements, that meant rethinking their entire business model. During the webinar, she explained how a Blue Ocean Strategy helped her company distinguish their value proposition amid a sea of competitive industry players. This blue ocean strategy helped 4elements  gain competitive advantages and offer a value proposition that was difficult for incumbents to replicate.

Market Knowledge

Providing market intelligence, including in-market expertise, is just one of four key services offered by Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TCS). TCS employs roughly 1,000 commercial officers in over 160 countries all over the globe and they can knock on the right doors in foreign markets when your firm is ready to go global. To make the most of your collaboration with TCS, get in touch with them through their Regional Trade Offices. If your ready and committed to grow internationally, they can help evaluate your business plan and market entry strategy and connect you with the right Commissioners abroad. Trade Commissioner Rick Sudeyko also had some pragmatic advice to share with companies who are ready to export: “Don’t over-reach your financial and human resources; rather, plan on entering no more than three to five markets over a period of perhaps two years.”

Skilled Talent

The consequences of not having the right talent is sobering. In fact, poor skills alignment can result in substantial costs to an organization – according to Think Research CTO Saurabh Mukhi, such costs could be  15 times higher than an employee’s salary. At the international level, those costs are magnified. Mukhi, shared his experience on how best to find, recruit and nurture talent, as well how Think Research turned an old HR strategy on its head by deliberating asking employees about their aspirations and motivations and aligning operational policies to foster these goals. Think Research  is now reaping the benefits of employee loyalty and a culture of innovative problem solving.

The Q&As

The interactive webinar format gave audience members a chance to ask our panelists questions, one of which was, “Are there tools that can help a company be more competitive?” In fact, there are two new ones:

  • EDC will be releasing the Competitive Index tool – a Q&A format that allows you to benchmark where you rank relative to peers in your industry from a competitiveness perspective, and includes markers like skills and talent acquisition, innovation, international networks, and knowledge of markets.
  • Connect with FITT (Forum for International Trade Training) to acquire the practical skills needed to go international.

If I can leave you with one key takeaway from the webinar, it would be to think about weaving the four pillars of international competitiveness into your overall business strategy. Being innovative is important not only in differentiating your business, but also in how you choose to embrace and empower your team. Building an international network involves ramping up your market knowledge and linking this knowledge to the network of experts already set up domestically to support your business globally.

Want to see the full webinar?

4 Ways to Boost Your Global Competitive Advantage webinar is available on demand. You can also check out other on-demand webinars, upcoming webinars and other events here.