John Paul Morgan is the President and CTO of Morgan Solar – a Toronto-based solar power technology company.
1. What was your first export sale?
A project in New Delhi, India.
2. How did that export opportunity arise?
It came through a federal program called the Built in Canada Innovation Program, which helped us establish our first sale years before we were able to have commercial projects. When the technology was frankly still in development, it gave us an opportunity to put it out there in a harsh environment, with a customer. We learned, we improved, we maintained, and every project we’ve done since then has been better for it.
3. When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
We should have paid more attention to the U.S. market in the beginning, simply because of its proximity and ease of doing business. There’s a lubricant to business and it just makes things move more quickly. We really did go after a number of large, complex developing world projects, which took a long time to complete. Some of them dropped off and it ate up a lot of time.
It remains the vision of the company to bring this technology into the rural village setting. But frankly, we have to get there to do that, and part of getting there means succeeding today. I think when there are opportunities right across the border to succeed you’re silly to ignore them. Not that we ignored them, but if I could go back I would have had a much more targeted sales strategy in the beginning with just a few countries on the horizon, rather than trying to go fully global right from day one.
4. How has the trading world changed since you started your exports?
I don’t really know.
5. What is the number-one thing that new SMEs need to know about export and trade, based on your experience?
I don’t know that there is a number-one thing. I think that you need to fully understand all of the cost implications of exporting. You need to pay attention to currency risk and sovereign risk and all of the various things that can bite you. You need to cover yourself with letters of credit. The financial instruments that are involved in large projects are not actually that complicated. I think some SME founders may think they lack the savvy to actually make sense of it all, but it’s really not that complicated.