One of the biggest challenges Canadian businesses face, including automotive companies, is finding new customers. That’s one of the reasons I get so much satisfaction out of working with Export Development Canada’s (EDC’s) Global Trade Group, because it’s focused on connecting Canadian companies to international business opportunities. The Global Trade Group has advisors dedicated to every sector, and my main focus is on the automotive sector, connecting Canadian automotive suppliers to international business opportunities to help them expand their global footprint. My day to day work is fast-paced and varied, and can range across a long list of activities and responsibilities including calls with Canadian automotive or technology companies, talking with global automotive leaders and companies, planning events, working with associations, facilitating financing transactions, and traveling. My goal for each day is to try to make a difference for Canada’s diverse automotive industry exporters.

7:00 a.m. - Starting the day with kids and quality time

As a father of two kids, mornings are a busy time. To prepare for the day ahead, I start off by spending quality time with my kids. After breakfast I walk them to school which is only five minutes away – very convenient on those days with snow or freezing rain!

8:00 a.m. - Keeping up on the commute

My bus ride to work, typically 40 minutes, provides the perfect reading opportunity to stay on top of what’s going on in the automotive industry, to help inform my insight and decisions for EDC’s customers. Each day, I browse through the key news feeds, databases and partnership sites that issue sector-specific content for the automotive world.

9:00 a.m. - Connecting with the team

I’m usually in the office by between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m., depending on my scheduled meetings and calls. I work closely with Robert Caouette, our Global Trade Lead for Automotive and Lina Alvarez, our Associate for Transportation. First thing in the morning, we take some time to review our Huddle Board. We discuss any upcoming events or projects with our international network of automotive relationships, as well as any new opportunities for Canadian companies.

11:00 a.m. - (Virtual) meeting with Indian automaker

Of course, to help Canadian companies connect with global opportunities, we must spend time building relationships with key international decision-makers and understanding their requirements. On this particular day, our team has a call with our colleagues from EDC’s offices in India. An Indian automaker is interested in learning more about Canada’s emerging automotive technology cluster. We speak with members of the automaker’s engineering and procurement teams and determine key areas of interest. Our top priority is to understand the buyer’s needs to ensure the “short-list” we provide of matching Canadian companies is a good fit. We commit to getting back to them within a few weeks.

1:00 p.m. - Planning an inbound matchmaking mission with a German automaker

After lunch, it’s time to do some logistics planning for an inbound mission taking place in a few weeks. Representatives from a German automaker are coming to Canada to meet with innovative Canadian automotive suppliers. We’re putting together a mission book for the German representatives which includes their itinerary, travel arrangements, meeting schedule and comprehensive company profiles for all of the Canadian companies they will meet with. We also engage with our regional offices to make sure everything is in place to ensure the meetings are productive and successful. We work with Canadian companies across the country, so some of these meetings could involve Vancouver businesses going to our EDC Vancouver office and teleconferencing with the mission participants at EDC’s Toronto office.

2:00 p.m. - Engaging and presenting to industry associations

The Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA) is hosting an event in Windsor next week and I’ve been invited to speak about EDC’s solutions and how Canadian companies can leverage them to expand their international sales and investments. I’m reviewing the presentation one last time and working with our Business Intelligence team to gather data on the number of automotive customers we serve. I always love going to these events because they not only allow me to reconnect in person with companies I usually only work with by email or phone, but they also provide great opportunities to meet new companies that EDC is not yet working with.

3:00 p.m. - Matchmaking follow-ups

I have some calls to make with companies that participated in a matchmaking event a couple of weeks ago with an American OEM we are working with. After the meetings, various follow-up items were identified between the buyers and the Canadian companies. I always try to follow up to see if there is anything we can do to help them progress on these items, and also to get feedback from the Canadian companies on how the meetings went and if there is anything we could do differently to make them even more beneficial next time.

4:00 p.m. - Helping an early-commercialization Canadian exporter

Last week, an innovative automotive technology company that was moving through early commercialization reached out to our Global Trade team. They wanted to discuss how we could help them connect to international business opportunities in the global automotive space. Today, we spend an hour learning about their autonomous driving technology, their success to date in automotive, their target markets and their value proposition. Having these kinds of calls with Canadian companies helps us know which opportunities, events and potential introductions are best suited to the company in the future.

5:30 p.m. - Setting up for tomorrow before going home

After a busy day, I always try to finish up by doing some final planning or research in preparation for the next day. Then it’s time to catch the bus and reconnect with the family at home.

Words of advice for Canadian businesses looking to grow internationally:

  • Build your network. Finding new business relationships in foreign markets is tough business. We work very closely with a number of international trade partners, including the Trade Commissioner Service with Global Affairs Canada, APMA, and many others. A number of provinces such as Ontario and Quebec also have international trade-focused staff focused on industry specific work abroad.
  • Do your research. Succeeding in a new market is so much more than just attending a conference or trade show once a year. Do your homework – know the business environment, tax and permit issues, business and social customs, and your top prospects, inside-out. Local Chambers of Commerce or business associations can also prove invaluable in getting to know the market.
  • Reach out to EDC. Although we do business with approximately 500 Canadian automotive suppliers every year, we don’t know all of the Canadian companies that market to the global automotive industry. Reach out to one of our Account Managers to tell us about your company and to learn about how we can help you go, grow and succeed internationally.