Export insights from Steve Johnston of Ably Productions

Export insights from Steve Johnston of Ably Productions

When and why did you first start thinking about exporting as part of your business?

 It was always in the back of my mind. I was part of a successful exporting business in the 1990s and early 2000s. I realized we could adapt that strategy to any product.

What was your export journey like to get to where you are today?

Growing up, playing in a rock band, and then starting my own recording studio sent me down a path of entertainment production and development. Our band spent a lot of time in recording studios, and naturally, that lead to me asking about getting CDs produced. One thing lead to another and I ended up working at Healey Disc Manufacturing, where I spent a number of years running this CD/DVD manufacturing business, servicing American clients (including artists, record labels, and corporate clients) who required graphic design, printing, and replication of media.

What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country? How did you adapt to that difference?

For me, I found that I related to U.S. clients a little more than I related to my own domestic clients. Being a musician, I like the freewheeling corporate landscape that the U.S. operates in. Competition weeds out the lazy.

Has exporting abroad changed the way you market/sell your products/services in Canada?

Not really, at least in my field of work. I find the two markets to be very different indeed, and as such, I have two separate strategies completely.

What have you learned from exporting that has benefitted your sales/operations in Canada?

Collect the money before anything goes out!

Can you share a “best lesson learned” from a challenging exporting experience?

Shipping product and having it sustain damage during that process. We need to not cut corners and inspect everything fully before shipping out, in order to better make a case against shipping ‘issues’. Do not cut corners when trying to resolve such issues, as this will result in a spiraling of issues that are hard to control.

When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started exporting?

That the Canadian dollar would rebound so strongly, then lose value again. I mean, I realize things are cyclical, but it really hits home when you lose a ton of money overnight.

What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about exporting and trade?

Be ever vigilant about fluctuating currencies and internal pressures that effect your clientele. You may not be aware of an impactful event that transforms your customers’ ideals.

What is one characteristic that you believe every exporter should possess?

Resilience. You will be facing a tough audience that is only interested in you (or your product) because it makes sense to investigate every opportunity. Be ready when the opportunity shows itself.

Categories Editor's Pick, Exporting

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