Beyond our borders

Beyond our borders

Q: I’d like to expand my business beyond Canada’s borders, but I’m not sure if I’m ready. How can I tell if it’s the right time to set up shop in other locations?

A: It’s a judgment call. No one knows exactly when the time is right, but it helps if you work out all your concerns before making a push into other markets.

First, know your product. If you’ve already developed your product or service here, consider the relatively friendly Canadian marketplace as your test market. Is the offering as good as it can be? Have you done a broad enough test run that you’ve solved the bugs that need to be fixed before moving into bigger, tougher and more competitive markets?

Second, know where you’re going. It makes sense to look at the North American market first before entering more global markets, particularly in the software and cloud sectors. The United States is a leader in the area of Internet-functioning businesses, so it’s a logical next step for most people with a cloud-related company.
Another idea is a deferred prot sharing plan, where a certain percentage of the company’s prots are contributed to the plan for the employee. Such a plan may be possible, but is more complex than a group RRSP. A stock option plan may also be an alternative to attract and retain recruits and oer the added benefit of aligning key employees with the objective of growing the organization.

However, keep in mind that the U.S. is a different market, and not only in terms of its competitive landscape and distribution channels, but also its regulatory, and state and local tax matters. Do some research, or consult your business adviser, about those differences and then see what that means for your ability to expand into that market. Do you have the expertise in-house?

Depending on your business, you could set up shop there or look for a partner to help distribute your product, whether that’s a real business partner or a third-party distribution chain. Also, make sure to safeguard your intellectual property by taking all the steps you can to protect what you’re doing and to maintain your proprietary interest in your company in foreign markets. At the same time, ensure that what you’re doing isn’t an infringement on someone else’s copyright.

Finally, are you ready to ramp up production and follow through? You don’t want to go out there and flop. Know how deep the market is, how much money you’ll need to penetrate it and be ready to take on all challenges.

- Guy Lancaster, Senior Manager, Corporate Tax, KPMG LLP (Canada)

Q: A lot of my business-owning friends have become “thought leaders” in their fields, and it’s brought in a lot of business for them. What exactly does that mean, and how can I do the same?

A: The amorphous concept of a thought leader or thought leadership is quite basic: it’s about differentiating yourself among your peers and competitors to deliver something of value to your target audiences that is aligned with your brand’s values.

Organizations are in a continual state of reflection, looking for new ways to inspire, lead and shape the right team members to bring the organization’s strategy to life, battling against a market in near-constant disruption. Audiences are short for time and overloaded with data. A shorter attention span means that brands need to reflect on the quality of the conversations with these audiences.

Thought leadership requires imagination and community. It’s about creating and extending relevant conversations and experiences that build a halo for the brand, while deepening relationships and revenue growth. The desired outcome is the recognition from the market that the individual or company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers and the market environment in which it operates.

A thought leader first needs to own the conversation. Understand what topic or conversation you want to own in the market, and then create a differentiated perspective and story that can be shared across social and digital channels, while being relevant during in-person conversations.

Next, keep the story going. Look for feedback and engage in two-way dialogues online and through the different channels your audiences frequent. Ultimately, becoming a thought leader requires consistency and commitment from the individual or group of individuals seeking to become a recognized authority on an issue, industry or market.

- Brian G. Miske, Chief Marketing Officer, KPMG LLP (Canada) / Illustration by: Alex Azalea Jin