Based on New Hamburg, Ontario, Ontario Drive & Gear leverages its vast experience in the extreme all-terrain vehicle (ATV) market to develop the best extreme terrain robotic platform in the world. Their uses extend to space exploration, military, security, agricultural, search & rescue, mining, firefighting, bomb disposal, and anywhere an unmanned vehicle keeps solves labour challenges or keeps humans out of harm’s way.
Jason Scheib is a Sales Manager at Ontario Drive & Gear.
When and why did you first start thinking about exporting as part of your business?
In establishing Space & Robotics Division of ARGO (ODG’s popular amphibious vehicle), we recognized right away that our biggest market would always be the U.S. As soon as we were able to commercialize our robotics technology, exporting became a major focus for the company.
What has your export journey been like to get to where you are today?
One of the consistent challenges we have had with the export process has been identifying the proper Harmonized Item Description and Coding System (HS) codes for our products. With many of our vehicles containing lithium ion batteries, we are often given a ‘Dangerous Goods’ classification which can also slow up the exporting process. It’s cumbersome to have this designation as it often requires specialized drivers and numerous inspections. Ideally we’d to have some clarity from the government as to the most accurate HS codes for our product and to make transport easier for what sometimes has the unfortunate label of ‘Dangerous Goods’.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country? How did you adapt to that difference?
One of our major customers is the U.S. Government and the challenge is that when you’re recognized as a ‘foreign national’, there are security issues that need to be overcome right out of the gate. One of the other issues we’re faced with when selling outside of North America is because we have a large and pricey product, it makes it very difficult and expensive to do trade shows and demos internationally, with no guarantees that sales will result.
How has exporting changed the way you market/sell your products/services in Canada?
As Canadian companies recognize that we’ve become strong in other markets, it gives us much better credibility within the domestic market, thereby making it easier to sell.
EDC resources to help you export
What have you learned from exporting that has benefitted your sales/operations in Canada?
We have a good deal of export experience under our belt so we now feel that we’re ready for anything. Having sold to multiple markets we now know what to expect and are better prepared from an operations and manufacturing standpoint.
Can you share the best lesson learned from a negative exporting experience?
Give yourself a lot of time beforehand to make sure you have all of your paperwork in order and be ready for all of the cross border challenges that can potentially come up.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I wish there were better government services available to help SMEs understand the shipping and logistics side of exporting. Market penetration has never been the hard part for us, it’s always been on the shipping and logistics.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about exporting and trade?
They need to understand the costs associated with doing business outside of the country such as proper documentation for shipping and inspections, etc. It’s always more costly and complicated than you think it should be.
What is the one characteristic that you believe every exporter should possess?
Flexibility and the ability to react quickly and adapt.