Micheline Piché | Desjardins Group
The current economic environment is favourable for Canadian exporting companies. Some entrepreneurs may see this as the ideal opportunity to go global. But be forewarned! Taking a business to the international level involves as much work as starting up a business. Not only does it take time, but also a lot of conviction.
Before attempting to conquer new markets, entrepreneurs need to answer several questions, including: what qualities predispose my firm to doing business internationally?
This question requires a thorough analysis, but will provide an overall assessment of the business and give a perspective that goes beyond the scope of its functions.
It may also reveal opportunities not even imagined at the outset, and help guide entrepreneurs in terms of how to choose their target market or break into their target country, etc., which is part of the second step, known as international qualification.
To help determine a company's predispositions, several years ago, Mercadex developed an international qualification framework with assistance from the Caisse centrale Desjardins. This tool is called Chrome, which stands for: competencies, heritage, relationships, offerings, means and engagement.
Doing an exercise like this takes discipline and objectivity. "The qualification framework helps leaders determine their firm's readiness for internationalization so they can make the right decisions going forward. It highlights the firm's strengths and weaknesses," explains Jean-Paul David, President and Managing Director of Mercadex international.
What experience do the employees have? Do they have any training in international business? What languages do they speak?
Does the entrepreneur already do business abroad or have they in the past? Does their firm have any recognition in a particular country?
Does the firm have a physical or online presence, or do the managers have any connections (professional, personal, family) in certain countries?
To what extent can any aspects of the product and service offer be adapted or standardized if necessary? What is the product's life cycle in the country and elsewhere?
What is the production capacity? What is the financial health status of the firm and what kind of access to financing does it have?
Are the employees and leaders on the same wavelength? What are they apprehensive about, if anything?
"Questions like these help assess the firm's toolbox," says Jean-Paul David. A good diagnosis paints a realistic picture of the group's competencies. It also prepares entrepreneurs who may eventually respond to an international business opportunity, which is often the case with SMEs.
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