How to bring your business global

International business experts at BCBusiness‘ International Outlook Breakfast say foreign regulations and hometown success as two of the reasons why B.C. companies are reluctant to venture international markets

The results of the 2014 BCBusiness Survey on International Business, published in the July 2014 issue of BCBusiness, revealed the hesitation B.C companies have when it comes to doing business beyond Canadian borders. On September 17th business leaders and entrepreneurs gathered for BCBusiness’ International Outlook Breakfast, presented in partnership with HSBC, at Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia, to discuss opportunities and barriers to chasing more business outside of B.C.’s and Canada’s borders.
The main challenges, according to a diverse panel fluent in international business, are foreign regulations and a healthy domestic market that sates regional business with steady business that isn’t demanding foreign expansion.
“We understand what the U.S consumer wants, we understand them culturally, we understand the language, and we understand the economic structure. When you start getting into the Asian complex, we don’t really understand [them],” said panelist David Watt, chief economist for HSBC Canada. “We don’t really understand the regulatory structure and, while we might see the growth opportunities and most of the economic growth over the next few years there, we don’t necessarily understand what those markets are.”
But when a local company takes on those challenges, the payoff is often well worth it, as the resource industry can attest.
“B.C. has certainly had more success doing business with Asia than other provinces,” said panelist Jock Finlayson, EVP and Chief Policy Officer with the Business Council of B.C. “Forty percent of our trade, as of today, is with Asian jurisdictions.”
Nevertheless, the numbers don’t lie. As the BCBusiness survey outlines, local companies prefer to not stray far from what’s comfortable and familiar when building and growing business.
After listing off resources and companies available to local businesses with eyes beyond B.C.—including the business match-making service of panelist Tommy Yuan, president of Canada Asia Business Network—Finlayson told the 80 people in attendance that despite the allure of Asia, the U.S. is the place to expand in the next two years. “The fundamentals are stronger than they’ve been in years,” he said. “It’s a ripe market.”
But as Watt explains, if companies take advantage of the resources that are at their disposal to become educated in regulatory government, political situation, culture, and receive support for “getting access to financing, understanding the markets and overcoming regulatory hurdles” in foreign markets, be it China, Mexico or India, the number of B.C. companies making their mark internationally can, and should, steadily climb.