Martin Thériault is President and CEO of Eddyfi, a Québec City-based company that offers inspection solutions for critical components and equipment using eddy currents and electromagnetic testing.
Mr. Thériault talks aboutEddyfi’s exporting experience.
How did you adapt to international markets?
Canadians and Americans take a more pragmatic approach to business, whereas elsewhere in the world, more weight is put into relationships. It’s important not to skip steps; there are many customs to understand and differences in how business is conducted. We were able to succeed in this area by hiring local partners which helped us fully grasp these realities.
Although we initially managed our exports remotely, opening local offices with locally engaged staff was a game changer. That’s what we did in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
And if we had to do it again, the one thing we’d change is opening local offices sooner, because that’s when our business really took off.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from a bad exporting experience?
Credit has always been a difficult issue for us. In some places around the world, payment terms can be long, even very long! In other places, it’s better to get paid in advance. We now insure our accounts, even when doing business with governments.
EDC resources to help you export
What is the most important thing a new SME should know about exporting and international trade?
You need to be able to make the right choices and identify the right targets, whether in terms of geography or industry. With Eddyfi, we focused on specific industries, and then targeted countries where customers working in those industries were based. You must also be able to go there on short notice to find local partners working in the industry. Don’t hesitate to hire local people, because they allow you to quickly know who the local players are.
Since our products are very specialized, each industry that we target has its own distinctive features. For our business strategy, we decided it would be easier to target a single market and adapt our products accordingly before reaching out to all actors in the industry. In the past, we lost time trying to sell a product that was not adapted to the industry’s needs. It’s important to learn to focus your efforts by identifying specific targets rather than trying to reach a variety of industries.
In your opinion, what quality should all exporters have?
You need to have an international mindset, meaning that you enjoy travelling, want to talk to all kinds of people in various languages and discover new cultures. You need to be open-minded during the hiring process and not be afraid to take certain risks; this requires fearlessness and determination.