According to Adeel Zaidi, 41, the key to successful exporting is understanding Canada's business culture. Zaidi should know--he's founder and CEO of newly launched Vehicular Thermal Management, a project-based alliance between six companies in the United States and Mexico, and CEO of Karmazin Products Corp., which has exported heat exchange systems to Canada for more than 20 years.
What then is Canadian business culture? One thing it's not, according to Zaidi, is unified. He points to, rather, three distinct cultures in Canada--those who see themselves as North American, as British European and as French. Few think of themselves as "American" in the sense of sharing U.S. culture.
Each Canadian business tends to have its own corporate culture in addition to its national identity, so Zaidi recommends you personally visit your Canadian partners. "We ask them how we can help, what aspects of our products we can improve, and how our products are working for them," Zaidi says.
Canadian businesses demand high levels of customer service and economic knowledge, and aren't interested in hype. "You don't sell products by taking someone out to lunch and trying to impress them." Instead, he recommends putting together technical, as well as commercial, presentations. "Then you can go in and say, 'Look, our product is 15 percent cheaper, gives you 10 percent more performance and is environmentally friendly.' " Quality and price get you in the door, says Zaidi, but technical competence and innovation are what get the business.