Alexandre Simionescu is one of the co-founders of Float4, a multidisciplinary studio that integrates digital experiences in physical spaces to amplify their identity.
When and why did you start thinking exporting might be right for your business?
We always knew we would be successful internationally. We target leading-edge cities that set the stage for our design. Our potential customer base is mainly in large innovation centres.
Our first business trip was to Dubai, where we hoped, a little naively, to do some business development. However, our first export sale took place in 2009 when we established a permanent installation for the head office of Verizon in New Jersey, in the United States. Following this, in 2010, we built an interactive wall for Case-Mate at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
How did your exporting experience evolve to where you are today?
Working on the launch of a major product in the United States gave us excellent visibility among many companies that have since become our clients.
While the 2008 economic crisis curtailed our plans in Dubai, discussions have resumed over the last few years. Fortunately, the announcement that the 2020 World Expo will be held in this market has since reassured investors.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling abroad? How did you adapt?
We need to adapt continuously to cultures as the differences impact the way we showcase our business. Then there’s the question of distance, which impacts project management. In particular, we have to ensure that we have the resources available worldwide to offer the required support to our clients.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from a bad exporting experience?
We haven’t had any major mistakes or failures. However, every project is a learning experience. It’s important for us to be open and transparent with our clients, especially when assessing whether our offer will be able to meet their needs and expectations. Clients don’t often define the problem correctly, and tend to see technology as a miracle solution, which can give them a false sense of security. Our technology certainly offers unique possibilities, but we have to guide our clients to create value for them. This is where the creative process becomes essential. One of our strengths is doing things that have never been done before.
What do you know about exporting today that you would have liked to know when you started out?
There’s no magic formula or miracle solution, and every company has its specificities. You have to be patient and be well informed before starting the process. We’ve acquired some knowledge of the regions we export to and have a better understanding of the fiscal and legal aspects of the process. For example, we are currently paying more attention to the volatility of foreign currencies as we have clients all over the world.
What is the most important thing a new SME should know about exporting and international trade?
It’s important not to underestimate the extent of the work that has to be done! You have to fully evaluate the opportunity cost before beginning, and accept the fact that some elements will always remain out of your control.