Three Ways to Join a Global Value Chain

Many small businesses get their feet wet in emerging markets by selling to a large Canadian or U.S.-based multinational. Here’s how.

Membership, to adapt a popular slogan, has its perks. That’s certainly true when you are part of a global supply chain or value chain, as others call it. Indeed, many small businesses we know first get their feet wet in emerging markets by selling to a large Canadian or U.S.-based company that has operations in many parts of the world.

There are a number of ways to join this “club.” The good thing is that there is nothing elite about it – in fact the opposite is true; this is one of the most basic ways for a small business to grow, some even say survive, over the long haul.

For starters, don’t just sell your product or service. You also need to sell a vision of your firm and how that complements the world view of the globally-engaged companies you are targeting. To do so, segment your customers or potential customers by their own strategic direction. If you know, for instance, they are interested in high-growth, then find out what new products or services are in their pipeline that need additional supplies, services or technological improvements. These types of firms will be most interested in your “matching vision” overtures – that is, showing them you have the essential elements that can speed up their growth!

A second tip: don’t underestimate the “loose networks” of outside contacts your own staff has. The best partner may come from an unexpected source. So go ahead, tap into your own internal assets for those leads.

Third on this list, but probably foremost, is pay attention to your existing customers. They may already have the ability to take you into international value chains. The relationship and trust you’ve developed domestically can carry you along as your customers seek new lines of business in new markets.

Remember, inserting yourself in a global supply chain is different for every company. Sometimes advertising a unique product or service on the Internet is all that it will take to do business globally. Usually, however, it is not that simple and only a thorough review of your company’s capabilities, strengths and leverage points –where your existing customers are doing business, what connections your employees have, and the overall value you deliver to your client base — will help you successfully become a member of a global value chain.

Finally, keep on top of the latest trade developments through the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. We suggest all companies register (free) with the Virtual Trade Commissioner to obtain country information, market assessments, in-country contacts and events, and the name of the Trade Commissioner with specific responsibility for your sector — plus links to when you are ready for trade financing and risk management tools and expertise to complete a deal.

Contact Denis L’Heureux at or visit for more small business solutions.

EDC is Canada’s export credit agency, offering innovative commercial solutions to help Canadian exporters and investors expand their international business. EDC’s knowledge and partnerships are used by more than 7,700 Canadian companies and their global customers in up to 200 markets worldwide each year. EDC is financially self-sustaining and a recognized leader in financial reporting and economic analysis.

Categories Small Business Insights

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