Stuart Lombard is the President and CEO of ecobee – an innovative Toronto-based company that builds smart thermostats.
1. What was your first export sale?
Our first export sale was to a heating and cooling distributer called Fergusons, which was one of the top three heating and cooling distributors. We had some great traction in the early days and to have a significant order from one of the largest HVAC distributors in North America within three or four weeks of launching the product was really, really exciting.
2. How did that first export opportunity arise?
I think we were lucky. We launched the company online and we got some good press and PR around it. One of the buyers at Ferguson gave us a call and said: “Hey, we’ve got to carry this product. It looks awesome.” And so, they placed an order.
3. When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I think you really have to understand the export market that you’re going into. You can’t assume that the customers that you have in your home market are the same as the customers that you’ll have in some other market.
4. How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
One of the big changes is the rise of Amazon as a distribution channel. It’s unbelievable how much market power they have.
5. What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
You have to look to overseas markets because I don’t believe that focusing on the domestic market alone, for most companies, is enough to get you to the promised land. The Canadian market is a great market, it’s a great place to develop your products, but I think you really need an export orientation because being in large markets helps tremendously.