Small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) dominate the Canadian business landscape. Together they are more than 1 million strong, represent 98 per cent of all businesses in Canada and account for 60 per cent of all jobs.
But what might surprise some is that only 41,000 SMEs are involved in exports. That’s a mere four per cent of Canada’s economic engine that is tapping into customers and supply chains beyond our borders. For a nation that relies on trade for a healthy economy, four per cent is not enough.
According to Paul Gaspar, UPS Canada’s Director of Small Business, it will take a coordinated effort to bring that percentage up.
“We believe that increasing the number of SME exporters is a responsibility shared by the government, trade organizations, and larger businesses like UPS,” says Gaspar.
“It’s hard enough to get a startup off its feet and running at home, but even more difficult to grow that business domestically given Canada’s limited customer base. Looking to new markets overseas is imperative to ensuring the sustainability and growth of Canadian enterprises, and a strong support network at home will encourage that expansion.”
In March, UPS was quick to applaud Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he announced $50 million in funding to support SMEs looking to export to emerging markets – those markets being the fast growing pockets of the world economy that are seen to offer the most opportunities for Canadian businesses.
The money will be used to finance activities such as SME participation in trade fairs and missions, as well as market research. The program is expected to help between 500 and 1,000 Canadian exporters per year.
“Take this announcement and add all the Go Global events taking place across Canada and it demonstrates a real willingness by the government, as well of trade organizations like Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service, to push Canadian SMEs into the international limelight,” added Gaspar.
UPS Canada Small Business Division
For their part, UPS Canada introduced a Small Business division in 2013, with Gaspar as the director. His team’s mandate is to provide tailored solutions and incentives to SMEs that transport their goods both domestically and abroad.
One particular offering that UPS is pushing is their ambassador service, which connects SMEs with UPS agents who analyze their supply chains and distribution goals. The agents then use this analysis to help new clients put their distribution plans together.
This can be especially helpful for SMEs that are exporting to new markets, as UPS is present in more than 200 countries and can assist with landed costs, local trade regulations, and ensuring that SMEs are meeting specific market expectations.
“UPS has been in the carrier business for more than 100 years so we understand the challenges of transporting goods abroad, but we’ve also seen how well companies can do when they overcome those challenges,” says Gaspar.
“With continued support from the government and organizations like EDC, we think that more SMEs will take that export step, and we’ll be there to help make it possible.”