Jeremie Lavoie is the CFO of Aval Engineering – an engineering procurement and construction management company based in Calgary.
1. What was your first export sale?
It was to Mexico, where we now have a subsidiary company set up.
2. How did that first export opportunity arise?
We were introduced to our current partner in Mexico when we were invited to work with them. We pieced together a shared-responsibility project.
3. When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Mexico has been very successful, but the whole tax system was a challenge. The transfer of guarantees from Canada to other countries was not as easy as you’d think. Different countries’ banks work differently even if they use international systems. Also, knowing about EDC sooner would have alleviated some pain.
4. How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
It hasn’t been that long, but in that time, the Canadian dollar has dropped and that’s had an impact. And I would say that risk management has become very tight. We’re dealing more with risk avoidance than risk management.
5. What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
Knowing how to access EDC’s services is important. It took us a long time to understand what EDC needed. Also, in our case, we did it while we were doing the job, so that was challenging. You should do all of this before you start the project. When you’re bidding on a project, your numbers change until the last minute when you submit your tender. Then word comes very quickly and you have to present the guarantees right away. Now we know how to get it in place beforehand. Also, when you’re dealing with a different culture, there are differences in business practices. In Mexico, we discovered we’d have to pay twice as fast as we expected and collect half as fast.