Thanks to modern technology, having a global reach is no longer reserved for the well-heeled, big brands. In fact, any company with a creative business strategy and product or service that can be sold across our borders can have an international impact.

But how do you know when it’s time to start thinking about growing your business outside of Canada? If you’ve experienced any of these four signs, the time to start developing your export strategy is now.

1. You have a well-defined vision for your company

Referencing his Model T, Henry Ford once announced, “When I’m through, everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways.” A bold statement at the time, but Ford’s steadfast vision created a truly visionary company.

It’s not necessary to have a company vision as grandiose as Ford’s, but companies that enjoy global success have a core vison that remains fixed while their strategies and practices adapt to the ever-changing business world.

2. International customers are already knocking at your door

You are a hit at trade shows, and your inbox is full of messages asking when your product will be available in a certain country. If web analytics shows evidence of a growing number of visitors to your website from abroad, then it may be time to examine the potential customer base in foreign markets. Start by doing research on some of these markets to see how your product or service would fit and what may need to be adapted. Be sure you understand the required compliance for local regulations, such as for labelling, as well. There are a number of market research resources on our About Exporting section that you can check out.

3. You’re riding high on domestic sales

If you’re the big fish in the pond and you see your domestic sales start to dry up, you may think it’s another sign that you should look outside Canada’s borders. This is especially true when you consider that free trade agreements, while offering Canadian companies new opportunities abroad, also allow companies from those markets to compete directly with businesses in Canada. The ideal time to look at international opportunities is when you are riding high on the wave of strong local business. Make expanding internationally a pro-active measure instead of a desperate act if local sales take a plunge.

4. You’re excited by the idea of people using your products/services around the world – and you have the patience to make it happen

If the idea of some person across the globe using your product or service brings a smile to your face and a feeling of anticipation in your gut, this is probably the most important sign you should be listening to. All you need is the drive to get your business there.

Entering a new market for the first time, and building sales there, is not a simple task. Did you know it took McCain Foods about five years to build sales in India? Today it has almost two-thirds of the market for frozen french fries.

Begin by researching one new market, and focus on it. Look at the ones with the greatest potential at the lowest possible entry cost to minimize the risk.

Growing internationally can seem daunting, but there’s plenty of help

Often, even with all of these signs telling you it’s time to go global, what holds a company back is simply the fear of the unknown: foreign markets, unfamiliar languages, cultural nuances and confusing local laws.

But by seeking out advice from organizations like Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service, finding an experienced delivery partner, and learning as much as you can about your chosen markets, you can conquer the fears that are tying up your export plans.