Rory Armes is the CEO of Eight Solutions – a Vancouver-based big data analytics company.
What was your first export sale?
It was to a U.S. company called Ace, an aeronautic parts manufacturer in the U.S. The second one was to a major Hollywood studio that I can’t name.
How did that first export opportunity arise?
We were working with a U.S. non-profit, funded by the government out of Washington and its job was to move the manufacturing knowledge around the U.S. They set this up because the U.S. was losing ground to a lot of others. I did a talk on big data and a woman who ran this group connected us with our eventual customers.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
The U.S. is very easy. They’re wonderful in the sense that they get it and they’re aggressive and they will launch into your product if you can sell it well enough.
We’ve done a lot of work in China and India and they’re both unique in the way they negotiate and do business. You can get very frustrated with both of those cultures because they’re a little insular. There are opportunities to partner, but it will take way longer than you would think. I’m cautious now — I don’t spend a lot of time up front because different cultures will pull so much information and you end up revealing a lot and then the deal doesn’t go through.
How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
Now that we’ve done a licensing and partnership deal with India’s Prime Focus, I’m finding that from an Indian perspective, there’s a huge interest in partnerships and figuring out technology. From a China perspective, I would say it’s closed off a little bit more than two years ago. It could be because of the change in the government, or the change in their economy, but my focus is more on India than China now.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
Don’t leap in and believe you’re going to get deals. There’s about a three-per-cent chance it will happen and it doesn’t matter how excited they are. They’re going to have to want it really badly to write you a cheque. Economize on your time in the beginning. But it is worth it if and when it works out, however, so keep doing it.
Can you share the best lesson learned from a bad exporting experience?
One deal we did in China went really sour. It ended up in court. If you’re talking about big closed-border countries, you can’t do due diligence. You meet and you hope it works out, but when it comes to mainland China, you have no hope of doing your homework. You know nothing about the partners you’re dealing with. The guy we were dealing with went to jail for a ponzi-type scheme. The operating rules are very different.