Arlene Anderson is the President of SAM BAT – The Original Maple Bat Corporation. After creating the first Major League sanctioned maple baseball bat in 1996, the Ottawa-based company continues to produce the high-quality maple bats that many professional baseball players use today.
What has your export journey been like to get to where you are today?
Exporting was always a part of Sam Bat. Sam’s [Sam Holman, SAM BAT founder] first MLB customer was Joe Carter who was then with the Toronto Blue Jays. Sam took his product around to all the teams at spring training in the US. The professional players were the first market and the product got traction worldwide in the first four years. It has been a long, hilly road.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country?
It has been very much impacted by international exchange rates and the worldwide economy in general. Sam has experienced great success and had issues managing growth. With his success came emulation. Many tried to copy what Sam Bat was doing.
How did you adapt to that difference?
Pricing must take into consideration duties, taxes, the exchange rate and shipping. Also cultural differences with respect to what finishes are more popular, and well as model profiles. Certain models are more popular in Japan and Korea for example. Being aware of market expectations and doing your research is key. We have used any means possible via the Internet, tradeshows, and personal introductions.
How has exporting changed the way you market/sell your product/services in Canada?
We are very careful with pricing in Canada, and price the product for what the Canadian market will bear. This is true of all of our markets. We have two websites – one in USD and one in Canadian. This way we can feature products and events that are relevant and timely for the Canadian market without muddying the waters for the rest of the world.
What have you learned from exporting that has benefitted your sales/operations in Canada?
Always be as flexible and “nimble” as possible. Adapt to the market quickly to mitigate loss and to take advantage of opportunities that arise.
Can you share a lesson-learned from a negative exporting experience?
Do not give any unsecured credit – we have only done this once. Always get the funds upfront before production begins on anything custom. Even if you have had a long-term relationship with a customer it is almost impossible to know what is happening on the flip side. Better to be cautious. Some customers will test your limit in what they can get away with.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
If a customer is really difficult to work with, assess this early. Cultural differences will always be there – determine if you will be able to communicate and how to communicate effectively. Otherwise it is a waste of time and move on.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about exporting and trade?
Before tacking a new market you must research any tariffs and duties that your customer must absorb. This will immediately tell you if your pricing is in a range that you both can make money or it will be a constant roadblock.
What is the one characteristic that you believe every exporter should possess?
Tenacity – if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.