The Canadian economy has been built on the backs of driven, savvy and determined entrepreneurs. Industry Canada indicates that small and medium-sized enterprises (fewer than 500 employees) make up 99 per cent of business in Canada and employ 64 per cent of workers in the private sector.
As borders shrink and global markets open, all eyes are on the success of these Canadian entrepreneurs – but international success can be tricky. Traditionally faced with legal, financial and governmental challenges, the road can be long and bumpy.
At a Canadian media panel discussion at Dreamforce, Salesforce announced survey results that explore the attitudes and experiences of more than 500 Canadian small businesses (SMBs) regarding expansion of their businesses into the U.S. and other global markets.
According to the survey, 81 per cent of Canadian SMB owners have considered expanding their company beyond the Canadian border, and almost half (49 per cent) said they are likely to expand in the future.1 51% of those who are very/somewhat likely to do so, plan to do so in the next 11 months. Alternately, 70% plan to do so sometime within the next 2 years, with the most desirable market being the U.S./Mexico (78 per cent of respondents).2 But the reasoning behind the desire to expand isn’t what some might assume. In fact, the survey shows that just over a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents say they plan on expanding because it will make them more attractive for acquisition.2 The remainder are looking to make a go on their own.
Always fiscally responsible, the survey shows that 40 per cent of small businesses who plan to expand across borders do not believe they require any funding, and many intend to use existing Canadian revenue (30 per cent), personal savings (39 per cent), or bank loans (36 per cent) to fund growth.2 Showing remarkable confidence, only 15 per cent of these SMBs are concerned about finding new customers, 10 per cent are concerned about customer retention and six per cent are concerned about running their business remotely.2
When it comes to how SMB owners feel about future growth, the general attitude is optimism, indicating that they’re not only eyeing international expansion, but exhibiting pride about their global prospects.
But could all this optimism be misplaced? According to the survey, almost a third (30 per cent) of businesses with expansion plans agree that information on expanding beyond Canadian borders is conflicting, and one in five (19 per cent) respondents doubt they have the proper tools and resources to expand.2 And they might be right. The survey showed that 84 per cent of SMB owners that plan to expand do not use a customer relationship management solution, and more than a third (37 per cent) do not use a digital marketing platform, custom mobile application, a data analytics tool, a sales tracking/lead generation tool or accounting software. 2
While the survey shows that Canadian small business owners are eager about international expansion, it’s clear that many are lacking the knowledge and necessary technology to achieve this growth.
To be successful in today’s ever-expanding and changing global economy, it’s important that Canadian small business owners develop a detailed plan and use the right business tools. Being hungry and aggressive can take entrepreneurs a long way, but without relevant and timely insight into their business and target markets, small business owners with an eye towards expansion could be setting themselves up for disappointment.
Organizations like the C100 can help businesses plan accordingly for the exciting expansion ahead, giving SMBs smart recommendations on how to best enter foreign markets. But SMBs with an eye toward international expansion should arm themselves with the right technology tools, such as cloud computing. When information is centrally stored and managed, it becomes easier to see how it’s growing– and how many people will need to help make use of it. Customer relationship management (CRM) and analytics tools also provide businesses with greater insight into their customers, helping identify the skill sets they need to hire in order to best serve them.
And, more importantly, cloud computing has made it possible for software to run anywhere, anytime, on any device, allowing decisions to happen more quickly than ever before from any location.
In the year ahead, smart entrepreneurs will be wise to utilize all the technology and expertise available to them before looking to expand. While it’s true that international markets provide endless opportunities for Canadian small businesses, only those armed with the proper knowledge and tools will grow and thrive.
1. Refers to statistic quoting total sample:
From August 29th to September 7th, 2015, an online survey was conducted among 523 randomly selected Canadian small business owners who are members of the Angus Reid Forum panel or partnering networks. All qualified respondents are employed full-time/part-time/self-employed, own a business with zero to 99 employees and either currently conduct business outside of Canada or look to expand their business beyond the Canadian border in the future. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.
2. Refers to statistic quoting subset of total sample:
For statistics quoting sub-group of those who plan to expand:
From August 29th to September 7th, 2015, an online survey was conducted among 212 randomly selected Canadian small business owners who are members of the Angus Reid Forum panel or partnering networks. All qualified respondents are employed full-time/part-time/self-employed, own a business with zero to 99 employees and look to expand their business beyond the Canadian border in the future. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.