Cross-border business expansion a realistic option for Canadian companies

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Canada and the United States are two countries tied closely together by both geography and ideology. As such, the friendly neighbours have formed close cross-border relations.

It seems natural for the two nations that share the longest undefended border in the world to be important economic partners as well. This is exactly the case. Canada and the United States are closely tied to one another in all facets, and that includes business and trade.

However, a key distinction between the two exists: size. Canada is, by far, the smaller player.

Business Infographic

While Canada is one of the U.S.’ largest foreign investors, it is not the largest, such as the U.S. is for Canada.

The two nations share a mutually beneficial relationship; however, Canada has more to lose and more to gain. That’s why Canadian businesses may consider expanding south, and offering their services across the border.

Expanding to the U.S.

Sentry Metrics, a cyber security company based in Toronto, is one such business that did just that. After being in business for 14 years, it began the endeavour to operate south of the border.

Computers

With so much of our world now operating online, cyber security is not only a priority, but a growing business.

“[There is] significantly more market size compared to Canada,” said Sheldom Malm, the Vice President of Business Development for Sentry Metrics, and a key player in the expansion.

A combination of being in business for so long, technology having developed over that period of time, and a perfect storm of market forces – that is, larger security companies acquiring smaller ones, leaving Sentry Metrics available for companies that require something more appropriate for their sizes – made it the right time to grow business operations.

The main expectation of this move is, of course, increased revenue. By serving a much larger customer base, which the U.S. provides, Malm is hoping for significant growth. “The Canadian market alone makes it difficult to establish a large customer base to sustain industry specialization,” he said, “which is why U.S. expansion is so important.”

It’s simple. Offer your services to a larger market, and you will pick up more clients. While it is possible to have success in a Canadian market – after all, Sentry Metrics did for 14 years – it can still be rather limiting.

Asking for help

Actually expanding operations to another country, however, is not quite as simple. It still took Sentry Metrics 14 years to even begin the process. And while the Canadian and American border is a friendly one, and one that engages in cross-business relations frequently, it still takes time to achieve this.

An established business and patience are key.

Furthermore, nobody can go it alone. As both Canada and the U.S. are close economic partners, programs have been set up so as to help businesses expand across the border, so as to encourage closer economic relations.

One such Canadian program, offered by the federal government, is InnovationScan. InnovationScan works as a showcasing platform, alerting potential partners to Canadian businesses interested in crossing the border, and allowing for further development from there.

Sentry Metrics was approved as a participant for InnovationScan, and it has made making the move across the border much easier. “The [partnerships formed have] served as an accelerator for our expansion,” said Malm. “I would strongly recommend that Canadian technology companies engage with the Canadian Federal Government to take advantage of their cross-border programs.”

Remaining difficulties

There is, however, only so much assistance programs can do, before it is up to the company itself.

Sentry Metrics is not sailing smoothly quite yet. Despite the friendship both nations share, Canadians are still foreigners to Americans, and in a business like cyber security, that can bring cause for hesitation.

“We have been able to develop customized solutions to minimize the amount of confidential data that leaves the customer environment,” Malm said. Such additional work may be necessary in order to reassure potential foreign clients that a Canadian company is, indeed, trustworthy.

Another potential hurdle is marketing, due to the different climates and tastes of the two nations. “However, [these challenges] are more than offset by enabling industry-specific focus,” according to Malm.

Basically, as long as a Canadian company has established American contacts; is aware of how to approach new, foreign clientele; and, of course, offers a good, wanted product, then cross-border expansion is a very real, and potentially very promising, possibility for a Canadian business.

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