Program Helps Calgary Companies TAP Into New Markets

For years, Calgary companies had access to all the business they wanted with a booming economy right in their backyard. But times have changed and these days finding opportunities often means seeking out new markets.

The opportunity for companies to tap into new markets, with potential new customers, was the driving force behind creation of the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) in Canada for companies looking to fast-track the expansion of their business.

The opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to make their mark in select global markets is genuine, even if it may seem daunting at the outset. Canada is a trading nation and exports account for almost one-third of our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually. However, typically only about 10 per cent of SMEs nationally export even a percentage of the goods or services they produce.

Many companies are simply missing out on a major opportunity to grow because they are not aware of what it takes to get their business into global markets.

With the uncertainty for business from the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term changes in the energy sector in Calgary, businesses need to be creative in their thinking. One way to help ensure continued growth is to secure a larger client base through exports.

Exporting spreads business risk and increases the lifecycle of products, services and technologies. It can also help to boost a company’s credibility, profile, and profitability.

For Canadian companies looking to expand, there is now assistance available. Whether it’s traditional markets like the United States or Europe, or emerging markets such as South Korea or Brazil, local businesses can leverage their learnings from attending the Trade Accelerator Program to gain access to new customers, new revenue and new ideas by going global.

These days the world could use more Canada.

“The Canadian brand is associated universally with quality products and impeccable service,” points out Gwenaële Montagner, Program Creator, TAP & Senior Director, International Trade Development at World Trade Centre Toronto. “This is seen throughout all of our sectors; Canadian companies stand out on the world stage.”

TAP is an innovative program that was launched in select cities across Canada in 2018 to help SMEs gain the knowledge, skills, and network of contacts they need to realize their global potential. The program offers in-depth workshops, one-on-one coaching opportunities with Canadian business leaders and a number of resources to help companies overcome export barriers, reach new markets faster, and build and sustain a profitable future.

More than 70 per cent of graduates from the program nationally are now actively exporting in international markets. Companies that completed the TAP program have reported an average growth of 33 per cent in export sales a year after the course.

“Now is the time for Canadian companies to look globally,” says Montagner.

Graduates of the intense six-week program represent all of Canada’s major industrial sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, and energy, and 90 per cent report that the program helped better prepare them to do business internationally. The program is offered in most major cities in Canada, including Vancouver, Toronto, and Edmonton.

Calgary Economic Development operates the highly successful TAP cohorts for southern Alberta and has seen first-hand the positive impact the program can have on companies. More than 120 local firms have taken part in the program.

“The global stage represents an immense opportunity for Calgary companies to grow their businesses by opening the door to new customers and partnerships,” says Katie Findlay, Manager, Trade at Calgary Economic Development. “Since the launch of our first cohort in May 2018, the program has become a staple in the trade ecosystem."

The multi-session program has subject-matter experts who teach the participants everything from trade agreements and tariffs to HR or marketing and sales, as well as workshops about law, finance and building an actionable export plan. Several companies have participated in government trade missions since graduating from the Calgary program and 18 have signed trade deals.  

The program has been so successful, it has increased the number of cohorts offered in Calgary and is expanding to Red Deer and Lethbridge. The next change will be to introduce online training during the pandemic and afterward.

Sulfur Recovery Engineering of Calgary is among the vocal champions of the program.

The engineering field testing and consulting company helps clients operate safely, reduce emissions, and optimize performance. It was in the process of going international when it participated in a TAP Calgary cohort. Today it is operating in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, and believes expanding internationally has helped save its business.

“Five years ago, 80 per cent of our work was domestic. Now, while keeping domestic contracts, 80 per cent of our work is outside of North America. This has been instrumental to our growth as a company in Calgary,” says Don Green, Director, Business Development at Sulfur Recovery Engineering.

He says the program encouraged Sulfur’s team to think bigger and not be as risk-adverse.

“During Covid-19, our international work has been critical,” Green says. “If we were relying solely on our domestic contracts, we would probably not have been able to stay in business. We have pivoted our systems to support remote work and this has been a huge benefit to our international clients.”

Trusted Dispatch, a Calgary company that supports clients with automated shipping services for heavy hauls, took part in TAP Calgary cohort as well. Despite dealing with some hurdles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Dusty LaValley says the lessons learned through the program have helped it to maintain business in these uncertain times.

“The Trade Accelerator Program helped us gain the confidence to take the steps to grow beyond Canada,” says LaValley. “Today, a large proportion of our moves are cross-border, and even state-to-state, with the odd Mexico load in the mix. COVID-19 has been challenging for us, but we are fortunate to still be growing through it.”

To all Calgary companies looking to accelerate their international growth, the TAP Calgary team can help you take your business to the next level. The program will give you the tools, connections and knowledge to successfully enter new markets. For more information, visit our website: tapyyc.com.

Calgary Economic Development is an opportunity-maker. As conduits, connectors, catalysts and storytellers, we help shape and share Calgary’s story. We connect people with resources that can help them grow their careers or businesses, thrive in new locations or markets, and feel at home in our community. For more information, please visit our website (calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com) and follow us on Twitter (@calgaryeconomic).