Turning Summer Dreams into Reality
By Peter G Hall *
Vice-President and Chief Economist Export Development Canada
Summer offers many Canadians a rare opportunity to step off the daily treadmill and enjoy time with friends, family, and sometimes, just alone. Whether it's watching a sunset from the deck, fishing on a misty morning, enjoying a mid-hike mountain view or just lounging on a chaise, alone-moments can give rise to great dreams. Can we channel those dreamy thoughts to make them more realizable?
Let's start with growth. Yes, many have given up on it, thanks to prolonged global stagnation. But what if it were to pick up in a big way? How would we make the best of it? Are we prepared for it, or would we choke on the deluge of orders? Would we see it coming, or would it take us unawares? Good questions; are there answers?
Growth rarely makes reservations; it just shows up. It's the same in every economic cycle, so those who are more prepared get the business. This time around, it will almost certainly arrive from abroad, as our local economy is tapped out. That shouldn't be a surprise to Canadians, as recovery is rarely self-generated; we are a trading economy. So if you're ready to dream international-style, here are some basic points to ponder.
Where should I go? International opportunities are almost endless, and it's easy to lose focus. Sales are a key driver, and it's critical to look for the global hot spots. These are typically our less typical customers. You can access them either by being there, or by aligning your activities with those who are. Accessing resources - materials, people, know-how - is an increasingly critical determinant of location, suggesting that foreign investments should not be left out of those summer dreams.
What should I do? When it comes to product offering, don't presume the status quo. Maybe you need to expand your product lineup. Maybe you need to narrow it. Perhaps there are those that do parts of your production process better than you do. That could be an opportunity to leverage their expertise, and focus more on the things you do best.
How should I produce it? Renewed growth will make home-grown solutions increasingly rare. Not long into the next growth cycle, Canada will bump into tight labour markets, constrained industrial capacity, intense competition for financial capital, our legendary sluggish productivity record, and limited physical infrastructure. Rather than turn away sales, why not augment productive capacity offshore? It could even add to efficiency, and open the doors to brand new sales opportunities.
Learn from others. A decade of trade diversification has taken many Canadian exporters into multiple non-traditional markets, blazing a trail for others to follow. In most cases, they are more than willing to tell their story, and to help other Canadians - OK, non-competitors - prosper while avoiding the common pitfalls. Plan to tap in to this growing compendium of experience.
Be ready for risk. Today's higher growth opportunities come with greater risks. That's a reality, and it's necessary to shed our traditional Canadian risk aversion and embrace the risk. Many Canadian exporters are already ’there’, and reaping the rewards. Lots are discovering innovative ways to mitigate the risks, with specially-designed financing and insurance products, careful selection of partners, legal due diligence, in-market advisors, government-to-government connections and so on.
The bottom line? Growth may take awhile to arrive, but it may be just around the corner. When it gets here, it's likely to have a different makeup, that is, a significant and diverse international flavour. In your summer business dreams, make room - lots of room - for international aspirations. Those who do are taking steps to harnessing what may well be the most rewarding growth cycle in recent times.