The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on international trade and commerce in Canada. SMEs seeking to diversify in overseas markets have postponed their expansion plans. Join us on this webcast to learn how businesses can effectively expand into foreign markets and navigate supply chain disruptions post-COVID.
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Gwenaele Montag...: Hi, good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today. My name is Gwenaele Montagner and I'm the Senior Director of International Trade Department at the World Trade Center Toronto. So welcome to the latest installment of our TAP Webcast Series. Before we get going, I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather today is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississauga of the Credit and the Williams Treaties, signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands. For thousands of years, indigenous people inhabited and cared for this land and continue to do today. So thank you to the many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishnabeg, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee and Wendat people, and the many other diverse First Nation, Inuit, and Metis people for the opportunity to work on this land. We offer our deepest respect to its first inhabitants.
This series wouldn't be possible either, without the support of our sponsors and partners: UPS, RBC, EDC, and BDC, and with extensive funding of the government of Canada and government of Ontario. We also add to all of these, our very strong partnership with the board's principle sponsors, which are the Globe and Mail, Scotiabank, and the University of Toronto. So thank you to all of that universe that makes it possible.
Some housekeeping notes right off the top. If your video is lagging or freezes, there's another stream that can be accessed by clicking the switch stream button on the right side of your screen. For any other technical issues, click request help in the bottom right corner of your screen and someone will be in touch with you ASAP. If you have any question at any point, please click on the questions tab. Everybody's on top of things to make sure that you get the answers you need. And finally, a recording of this webcast will be available on supportbusiness.bot.com.
So now, before we dive into today's important discussions, I'd like to tell you a little bit about the Toronto Region Board of Trade Accelerator Program, otherwise known as TAP, and why we encourage strongly you to participate. TAP is an award winning innovative practical program designed to help entrepreneurs like you grow your companies and expand internationally. In a few half days, spread over a few weeks, so it doesn't take too much on your time, you can access key resources and key industry experts and mentors, will give you all the necessary support to develop an actionable, professional export plan. All this for very small nominal costs, thanks to all our sponsors and partners. So please join the 1600 companies or so we have participating TAP across Canada and like them, grow your total revenue. I think it's roughly 18% of the one year and export revenues by over 44% of two years. All you have to do to join is to visit wtctoronto.com/tap and give us 10 to 15 minutes of your time to complete the registration form.
So it doesn't take a long to become a truly international company. So now onto today's program. I'm super excited to introduce you to our moderators, Scott Rennie, advisor at Northern Ontario Export Programs. Scott is a very well known expert of the Northern [inaudible 00:05:20] ecosystem, and he has supported hundreds of businesses expand internationally over his career. If you want to grow and diversify your revenue stream, he's the one of the key industry experts who can support you. In his current role, Scott focuses on supporting the growth of local and medium sized businesses, especially in the mining supply and services sector, clean tech environmental sector, but he's got so much of a wealth of experience that it doesn't matter where you're coming from, he will be able to actually support you and give you everything you need. So it's great to have you here with us today, Scott. I'm sure I've forgotten tons of things about the wonderful things you've done with companies, but for the sake of making sure we give all the time to the companies for them, I'll hand it over back to you. Thank you, Scott.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Gwenaele. Wow, what an introduction. I'm not sure I can really live up to those standards, but thank you. And allow me to say what a terrific job that you and your team are doing to provide these informative webinars to companies and in your work promoting, exporting to Canadian companies coast to coast, so thank you. I'm super excited today to begin today's program by introducing our panel of experts with us today. So beginning, first of all, we have Elizabeth Dipchand, who is the founder and partner of Dipchand LLP, a boutique law firm located on Bay Street in Toronto with a focus on biotechnology. Elizabeth practices intellectual property law and litigation, centering on her client's acquisition management and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Next, we have Karen Lai, president and founder of KPM Power Inc, a Toronto based company focused on lithium ion battery solutions and specializing in battery management systems. She is an ardent supporter of the advancement and implementation of clean technologies and is committed to fueling these initiatives to get to market. Karen graduated from the University of Waterloo with a degree in mechanical engineering, and she is also a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario. And our third and final panelist is Paul Gaspar, the director of small business at UPS Canada. Paul is responsible for educating and informing small businesses about the customized services, technologies and innovations available to them at UPS. He works with a team of small business ambassadors who help communicate how to better leverage UPS tools to help them grow and expand domestically and internationally. During Paul's 30 years of work with UPS, he developed an appetite for working with small businesses and educating them about opportunities in other markets. With his wealth of experience, Paul is able to share his knowledge to improve the success rate of small businesses.
So I want to thank all our panelists for joining us today. Thank you very much. And without further ado, I'd like to dive right into this conversation that we want to have. Let me begin by saying international trade is at the heart of any country's economy because of its direct impact on competitiveness, growth and job creation. The pandemic's effect on international supply chain, energy costs and labor availability, among other things, has prompted several companies to reconsider focusing their efforts on domestic markets and delaying international expansion. The reopening of the Canadian borders and the burgeoning economic recovery shows the promise of accelerated growth in the near future. As a business owner, you might be thinking or you're unsure of how to enter new markets, grow and expand your market share, navigate through uncharted territory and how to diversify your export markets. That's what we're here to talk about today.
So in this session, we will discuss how to grow your business globally and diversify into new markets, how to protect your business' intellectual property in foreign markets, and how to optimize the supply chain model of your business. Furthermore, our experts will share their insights and experiences to take advantage of this new economic landscape and the accelerated opportunities that are currently available. So Paul, if you're ready to go and you're unmuted, let's begin with you. Supply chain is one of TAP's key pillars, as it is important to manage and plan one supply chain in order to succeed and international markets. In light of the pandemic, how has ups handled unforeseen supply chain disruptions, and how did you work through them with your customers?
Paul Gaspar: Well, Scott, first of all, thank you for having me here today. So to answer the first question, at UPS, our highest priority is always to maintain outstanding service reliability for all of our customers, but of course, while ensuring the safety of all of our employees. Now we've always done that, but of course, with COVID-19, that's even more critical as we have 100,000 plus employees that are in the front lines every single day, ensuring that packages move from point A to point B. So I would have to say that for us, collaboration is key to our success. We've planned the work with our customers prior to COVID and during COVID. And now we are working those plans, to ensure that we have a smooth supply chain, not just through our network, but all of the customers that rely on us every single day. Our discipline planning and collaboration with our largest customers allows us to maintain the capacity that we need, at the same time ensuring that those large customers are getting what they require.
It allows us to still have the reliable delivery that our small and medium size customers are expecting. So it's critical that UPS, it's our customers that follow through on these plans that we built together, and we really hold them to it, especially our larger customers. So these agreed upon strategies that we have with them. They can include shifting packaging volume away from the heaviest demand shipping days. They could also include fully utilizing weekend capacity, which you hear a lot of now in logistics, and aligning promotional strategies with capacity as well too. So you see that as consumers, when you go to retail where holiday or seasonal stuff seem to be in shelves or online sooner than it ever happened before. And that's just to make sure that you can spread out those seasonalities, specifically when you get into busier times that we have now.
So we work with our customers to ensure package volume gets picked up and delivered, and this way, it makes sure that our network is available and optimized to ensure that everything is working well. So let me finish with our current plan as we head into what in the logistics world specifically for UPS is our busiest time. And that's of course the holiday season, Christmas, that we're heading into. So we've started our discussions with our largest customers in the spring. And that ensures that we understand their plans for the holiday season, as we are obviously getting prepared to move forward with that. So for our small and medium sized customers, we're working with them by constantly providing communication on how to plan for this seasonality, through our website and social media tips. So if you follow us through social media, you're probably seeing some of those tips and suggestions that we can communicate, to ensure that you're preparing for your global supply chain as we move forward. So again, I'll finish by saying that collaboration is key to develop plans. And then of course you got to put those plans into action.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Paul. Actually, I'll move on to Karen now. And the next question certainly is dear to my heart up here in Northern Ontario in my perch. And I hear so much of this from our companies up here. But Karen, can you tell us what were the effects of supply chain disruptions on your business and what changes did you make to adapt to these disruptions? Karen?
Karen Lai: Yeah. Thank you, Scott. It wasn't easy at all through this pandemic. Planes weren't moving, even using courier services, UPS, FedEx, it was complicated because this pandemic impacted the world. So we saw, first it was delays on the shipments and then container shortages. We now face chip component shortages, plastic shortages, and then back to container shortages. And now there's a mudslide in Vancouver that just shut off the port. It's been a nightmare. But what we've been doing a lot is just working closer with our customers to just keep that communication going, because we need to make sure they're planning as well for these delays. And what we've also done is already planned for a stock for the next 12 months, to make sure that even like chips now are 52 weekly times. So we have to really make sure if we can't make this quarter, then we try to get to the next one. And delivery's key to keep these businesses running. And it was really trying, communication with the supplier, logistics, customers. And that was really the way to get through these disruptions.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Karen. And if I have to say, in the current global geopolitical context where countries are revving up protectionism to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic and accelerate their economic recovery, we're likely going to see a significant increase of trade disruption and trade disputes. On that note, Elizabeth, I'd like to bring you in at this point. What can you share about strategies that Canadian companies can employ to proactively mitigate these kinds of risks?
Elizabeth Dipsh...: Thanks Scott. I think there's going to be a theme during this period of this chat that we're all having, and that theme is planning. That theme is entirely about making sure that you're able to mitigate risk to the best that you can through planning. Now, I think that this entire world has also undergone a situation where you can't plan for everything. That is a lesson that we certainly all learned right now. From the business perspective, insurance is always a really nice way to attempt to and mitigate risk. But there's a whole lot of things you can do from a legal perspective to mitigate those risks as well. That comes down to relationships. Relationships, relationships, relationships. Those types of relationships and what we've heard from Karen, we've heard from Paul about that connection, that communication with customers, the next most logical step is to ensure that the there's agreements between your customers, partners, your suppliers and distributors. Those agreements will allow you to apportion risk and apportion risk appropriately in light, and with an appreciation that you can't plan for absolutely everything.
When you're talking about moving things around borders and shipping goods and services as well across borders, you also have to think about the apportionment of risks in different jurisdictions, because that's the name of the game for export. Disputes will arise. There's no question about that. So it's how you fight, not when you fight because you will fight. So then how do you make sure that you're taking some strategies proactively to ensure that when you fight, there is rules and boundaries around how to do it? The World Trade Organization right now and any of the dispute resolutions through that body, it's not going to be a smooth proposition because of the log jam and the US withdrawing its support in many respects. Your agreements and probably one of the best ways to mitigate your risk and unfortunate liability, is to do so through international arbitration.
So there's a whole code that a lot of companies who do business in a multinational way will agree to, in order to resolve disputes that arise outside of costly litigation, and this is coming from the lawyer who does the costly litigation. The fact of the matter is that when you are able to agree how to fight in advance in a more cost effective and time conscious way, arbitration is often the way to go. Those agreements will then include your arbitration clauses, that can happen in great venues like New York, London, Toronto, Singapore. A lot of these countries will have service providers who will be able to help you get through these things effectively.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Elizabeth. Amidst slow economic activity, COVID-19 has led to a surge in eCommerce and accelerated digital transformation. As lockdowns become the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly went digital, providing and purchasing more goods and services online, raising eCommerce's share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020, likely to be even higher this year. Going back to you, Paul, what would be your advice to our Canadian companies that never sold online before COVID, but are now interested in going that route? Where should they start?
Paul Gaspar: Great question, Scott. So let's make a point clear here. eCommerce continues to change how not just B2C, but also B2B companies serve their customers. So we know the man remains strong. We see it as consumers ourselves for B2C, delivery. But we're also seeing great opportunities with B2B. So small and medium size businesses, they really need to focus if they're looking to not just grow locally, but globally to look online. And COVID really has pushed, as the question's asking, allow them to think if they weren't doing that. Now the first thing you need to do, if this is your first time heading in into that space, it's really important to define what your online presence is essentially going to be for your customers and how are you going to communicate those offerings to them? So basically what is your online strategy?
Because it's not just about putting up a website. A lot of businesses think that's what they need to do. Put our brand up there, have a website, maybe there's a shopping cart, some communication. There needs to be a whole strategy behind that, that you need to make sure that you can position, so that people that are finding you and going online understand exactly what it is that you're offering or wanting to convey. So your online presence and solutions, they need to provide either the same or in some cases, an increased value proposition, then maybe what your in-store experience has been. And I've talked to a lot of small businesses that are doing that, where they've recognized that they had to move because of COVID online and their experience and their value prop had to improve in order to entice customers more.
Then they had to, with those that were in store, that they can touch, talk to and help with those in store experiences. Now, although all of these have similarities between physical locations and online, we need to make sure that we're catering to the customers slightly differently. And the way you're going to do, understand that is through research in your industry. So understand what your customers expect, do some web analytics, check social media trends. So you have to do all of that work to understand not just your existing customers, but who your potential customers might be and what they expect from you and the experience that they come to you. So basically research, research, research, is what we try to drive. And the good news to all of that, is there's help is available.
So don't be afraid to ask. TAP is a great resource for that. So attending the TAP workshop, you get access to so many different experts, that can help you with each one of their expert areas, to ensure that not just your business in store, but as you go global, that you've got that online presence to make sure that you're attracting the type of customers or partners that you're specifically looking for. Another key thing is what is my online presence going to be like? Are you developing your own type of solution? Or do you want to take advantage of many of the marketplaces that are out there like at eBay. Or maybe it's both, having a marketplace as well as your own website. You have to ensure your supply chain is ready and it's set up for the online experience.
So that could mean that you're managing that yourself, your fulfillment, or maybe you're looking for a solution like a UPS eFulfillment. So you have all of that being managed by somebody. So you can do what you do best, which is work on your business. And then shipping notifications. A lot of people don't recognize that during the logistics portion of your business, there are opportunities to talk to existing and new customers, that a lot of businesses tap into and do, but a lot they'll recognize that. A good example I can share with you is we typically order something online to get that email with your tracking number. What a lot of businesses do is you click on that tracking number and they send it right back to the courier company, to UPS. Which you can do, and we'll give them the tracking information, but there's tools that you can use to have that exact same information on your website.
So you're bringing them back to you. You're telling them where the package is. But on that same screen, you're saying, "Hey, Paul, that great item you just bought for me, guess what? I can sell it to you at 20% if you buy another one, or I have it in a different color or a different style." So there are so many ways through your website to if you do it right, to not just communicate, to get people there, but to ensure that they're constantly coming back and that you're selling to them. So let me wrap up by giving to the people attending here three pieces of homework that I always share during the TAP session. And the three pieces of homework that I would definitely always ask small businesses to work on is number one, get family and friends to visit your website and to buy from you. And not mom and dad, because mom and dad are going to say, "Great job. It looks great."
Get your family and friends, people you know who are going to be critical and people who don't have experience buying online, and make sure that they're honest with you. Tell them what they liked, what they didn't like, where they were expecting something they didn't have. So make sure that you get that truth from there so you can improve that. Then, visit your favorite websites that you buy from. But not just to buy their greatest item that they had available, but really to take note of your entire experience. You really want to understand what is it that I like about this website that I always come back to and the experience that I get from our website, so that you can see where you can improve yours.
And the last thing which sometimes is hard to do, but you definitely need to do that, if possible, buy from your competitors. Not just visit their website, but buy, so you can understand what that entire experience is like, so that you know where you need to improve or better yet, where you've already got an advantage that you can exploit, so that you can do better when you're competing with them online.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Paul, for that very important advice related to your online presence and moving forward into export markets. I just want to remind all our participants, please do forward your questions to the question tab. We will get to those at the bottom of the hour. We've gotten a couple already. We're just going to hold on those and we'll get to you very shortly. But please do take a moment to consider your questions for the panelists. I want to continue on the theme that Paul has brought up here and move to Karen and ask Karen, how have you leveraged technology to find new customers during COVID when things like traditional trade shows and sales meetings, where you're face to face, are not on the table or they just not practical? What's been your approach in investing in digital marketing as a new company?
Karen Lai: Well, this is an interesting question because throughout the pandemic, really lockdown, I actually stopped chasing new customers. My focus was on servicing our existing customers the best that we could. And it was basically in March when we were not even sure if we were going to be kept open or our customers were kept open because of the lockdown, we are just trying to figure out how we can stay opened as an essential service. And we were classified as an essential service which was really great. And with that in mind, I was just happy to stay in business, was really the feeling. And our suppliers donated masks to us. And then I was like, "Let's just make sure our customers are up and they have masks." And this was a time when there was no masks available. And in this way of thinking, we had to figure out some way that we can support our customers better.
So instead of investing into digital marketing, we invested into our own platform, which allowed us to remotely service our customers. And we had just started entering the States at this time and in the States, was totally different mentality in terms of pandemic. They were still going, working like normal, as if it was normal. And in Toronto, Canada, we were locked at home. And I was like, "Oh, there's going to be delays." And they go, "How could there be delays?" They didn't understand the difference in terms of what we were going through. It was very different, how this US was working, versus us. So we just focused on our US customers and tried to work on this digital platform, that we can service our products, communicate with our product, let our products communicate with us, so we didn't actually have to travel. And because we spent this time on that, now a year later, we're able to service customers in Europe and expand our market by that method. That probably wouldn't have been able to do that a year ago.
Scott Rennie: Thank you, Karen. And just sticking with the topic of digital assets, I want to ask Elizabeth. When discussing an intellectual property strategy with an increasing amount of digital assets, what are some aspects and crucial principles to consider in your global expansion strategy?
Elizabeth Dipsh...: Back to the theme, Scott. Planning, planning, planning.
Scott Rennie: Back to the theme. Plan, plan, plan.
Elizabeth Dipsh...: You got it. And it's such an important aspect of your plan, that as Paul was speaking through that strategy, that you weave in the considerations of your intellectual property. So one of the funny parts about TAP is when I get to do the mentoring, how many times I ask a company? I said, "Okay, well give me a rundown on your IP." And they said, "Well, what IP?" I said, "Okay, wait a second. I know what you do. You're essentially a technology company." And they're giving me the usual suspects. "Well, I've got this trademark here and I've got this piece of software, but we can't really protect it. And maybe this aspect of what we do is patentable, but we've never gone down road." And so as you start dealing with clients and companies and through the TAP program, you tease out how much information and intellectual capital is there, that's not necessarily registrable.
So the registrable stuff are the usual patents, trademark, copyright, integrated circuit topography, and plant breeders rights. Those are the weird ones off to the side. But then there's so much information that's intangible, that's in the hands of companies that is critical to what they do. It's critical to how they do what they do. So it has to be captured and managed just in the same way as UPS makes sure they know exactly where every single truck is and where every single forklift is. And it's the management of those intangibles. So when we take a look about the framework of how to manage those intangibles, we want to really focus on a couple of different things. The first one is don't overlook them. Don't overlook your unregistrable intellectual capital. That speaks to how you build your brand, when you build your brand, your reputation, your knowhow.
The reputation is what other people think of you, and your knowhow is how you do what you do in the special way that you do. And all of that stuff is so critical, because it comes out of your head and it needs to be managed. And it allows you to provide value to your customer and bottom line. Second one, chain of title of and records. Recordkeeping is critical. Recordkeeping also keeps every buddy on the straight and narrow through things like contract and agreements, to ensure that people know what the deal is. And if the deal goes south, how the structure by which it goes south. And that's what I was speaking about in my first answer, when it comes to arbitration. So apportioning risk, figuring out a fight, because if you sort out some of these sticky items in advance when relationships are good, it makes the trouble times far more smoother, cost-effective and timely to address.
The third point is the materiality of the IP. You got to figure out what's actually valuable, just because you have some interesting bit of technology. How critical is that bit of technology to what you do and how you deliver services or goods to your client? So it's the materiality of really taking a look at, "Okay, this is a cross section of how we do what we do." But what matters? What matters to the bottom line? What matters to being able to develop and continue to move forward your services and your goods as time goes on? Because everyone's ever evolving. And the registration strategy. So just because you could potentially get a patent or potentially get a trademark doesn't mean you should. What then speaks to ... And that's the whole idea of the materiality, determining what's important, protect what's important.
In terms of the protection, it is a global strategy. Even if you don't think you're going into another jurisdiction, there are a lot of things that you can do well in advance of even the glimmer in your eye of export possibilities, to set yourself up in advance, to make sure that once you get there, the steps that you've taken won't hinder you and the steps that you've taken proactively will in fact facilitate that growth and that expansion into different jurisdictions. We have a lot of great things going on in Canada that the rest of the world needs to know about. So we're really excited to be a part of that in terms of being able to help companies with that IP strategy, because IP is critical to everything. And I'm going to take one last food for thought point, Scott. There was a study done by CIPO, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, in 2019. And I'm really hoping that they update it, because what they did was canvas small, medium businesses to determine their appetite and their literacy and IP.
And companies that were even remotely even thinking about their IP strategy, had a material level of expansion over a period of time. The companies that actually had registrable rights or the companies that had more than just the thought in their head, three to five times more growth than those who didn't. So IP is really a driver that you wouldn't necessarily think about until you step back and take a look at the stats because the stats are there.
Scott Rennie: Thank you, Elizabeth. And thank you for what you do to support small businesses, because I know in my experience, this can become an extremely overwhelming part of their business and it just becomes magnified a hundred times when you're talking about the export markets, when you're talking about intellectual property protections and concerns and the risks. So thank you very much. I'm going to take one more question for Karen and then I'm going to open it up for some questions. Karen, if you can share with us understanding that you completed TAP at an early stage and your company witnessed exponential growth, parallel to the pandemic, what's some advice you can share with companies listening, related to navigating trade and growing your company amidst a pandemic. Any takeaways?
Karen Lai: Yeah. Thank you. What I learned was there's always an opportunity. If you miss one today, there'll always be another one tomorrow that will pop up. Always stay genuine to your customers. If they grow, you will grow. Growth will happen over time. It's going to happen if you put that time and effort into it. And so the key thing that we faced was making sure when things were quiet, that we had the operation processes, to learn to automate things better, so that if we do have more customers, we can service them all better. I think ... So for during this period, our growth happened organically because we were working on that technology and we were able to service remotely. And it happened because we're focused on customer service. That's really what was the main focus for us versus chasing new customers. The third thing I said, what I have here, is just mentally has not been easy. Worrying about supply chain, customers, employees, my children, I often have to remind myself to take it one day at a time, breathe and pace yourself.
Scott Rennie: And Karen, were there any specific elements of the TAP program that you found particularly useful in growing your business into international markets?
Karen Lai: Oh yes definitely. The export plan, it was amazing because we were the last in person cohort before the lockdown. And we were able to finish our export plan, and that alone helped us leverage financing with the banks and working with different financial institutions. It was amazing.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Karen. So I'm going to to move to a couple of questions now, if I may. And just a quick reminder, we have a few minutes here, if any other participants wish to submit those on the questions tab. Paul, this is a question for you, if I may. We have coming in here on the telewire a broad question, but if you could take two minutes and maybe take a stab at it, that would be great. Paul, what are the dos and don'ts for shipping your exports. So I think it's a big huge question. Now, do you have the rest of the day Paul, to answer that question?
Paul Gaspar: Yeah.
Scott Rennie: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:37:18]-
Paul Gaspar: You know what? There's a lot. And in fact, we cover a lot of that during TAP, especially during the mentorship section as well. There's way too much for me to cover in a quick response. But what you need to do and we touched on this. Research, research, research. Do your planning and get help. That's the one thing I've unfortunately seen way too often, is businesses that once we get involved have done that leg work, they're off to the races. Those that haven't done that work are the ones that are struggling. They haven't been asking people for support or help and it could be because you're IP. It could be because of your logistics. It could be you need legal advice. There's so much that you need to do upfront, especially when you go global, because global you add that additional element that you're now dealing with other cultures. You're dealing with other ways of doing business, you're dealing with customer regulations.
So you really need to do all of that work upfront to make sure that you have success. The one thing I would say that you don't want to do is the opposite. I've seen businesses that just think, "Hey, you know what? I think going through this market's a great thing for us. Let's do that." And they don't prepare themselves. And when you go global, if you don't do that, you really can end up wasting time and money because you can kick yourself out of a market. I've seen brands go into markets with their branding strategy, that ends up being offensive in those markets. I've seen ones that are not prepared and they have customs issues. So there's a lot. We can dive into a lot more, but really prepare yourselves. If you do, you have success, if you don't, you're not.
Scott Rennie: Thank you, Paul. Karen, I have a ... Sorry. Was there a follow-up there or no? Karen, I have a question for you that came in and it actually speaks to your previous comment about strategic planning for exporting putting that together. Diving a little deeper. What are the key elements that you considered in your export plan? How did you go about it?
Karen Lai: In terms of supply chain or?
Scott Rennie: Well, no. Sorry, your export strategy. What were the key elements that went in into your export strategy? What were the components?
Karen Lai: Well, focusing on that location that we're going to, and that in this case, our export plan was mainly with dealing with the US and understanding as what Paul was saying, the customs, tariffs and all that, understanding that.Understanding the type of customers we're looking for, the target customers and the type of product that we had, to make sure that it could go across the border okay. Also, we really leveraged the made in Canada aspect of things, because at that time it was also the tariff wars happening, and everything coming in from China was a 30% increase in tariffs. So being made in Canada really helped with that, because it became duty free basically for our product. And that also helped with our export plan.
Scott Rennie: Thank you, Karen. A quick question then to take us towards the end here for both Elizabeth and Paul, if I might. I'll start with you, Elizabeth. Give us a little bit of a sneak peek into your individual mentorship sessions with TAP participants. What does that look like? Karen. Elizabeth, sorry.
Elizabeth Dipsh...: No worries. 30 minutes is a surprising amount of time to be able to get some stuff done. And that was one of the interesting pieces that I had learned, because the running joke was it's professional speed dating. And what kind of issues can you bang through in 30 minutes? And I got to tell you, a lot, because it's less about making sure you're solving problems and about ensuring that the companies are hip to things that they would not necessarily even know that they needed to ask a question on an issue. It's issue spotting. It's a quick checkup of, "Okay, give me the landscape of what you're currently doing. Let me show you where I think you might have to shore up. This is what you're doing, is what you can step up in terms of your strategy based on the goals that you have."
So it's a really nice check-in, almost like a quick doctor's visit to get the lay of the land. And look, I've been doing this for almost 20 years now. So getting to the heart of issues for clients, is something that we do very quickly and very well. And it's fun. I got to tell you, Scott. One of the things that I really enjoy about the TAP program is the amount of fun that I have in seeing people plan for success and go through that journey in their mind where this project, strategy, was just a sparkle in their eye at the beginning of the TAP program. And at the end, they've got something that's properly baked that actually can be actioned. So that kind of journey is exactly why I do what I do.
Scott Rennie: Elizabeth, thank you. And I could just imagine those 30 minute sessions being incredibly valuable to the participants in the TAP program. And to your point, and you've said it at the top of this, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there and the strategic planning and the planning, all of you have said this how incredibly important it is. Paul, you've also mentored some TAP sessions. Did you want to add anything to what Elizabeth just said?
Paul Gaspar: Well, just to give I guess maybe those are watching this a sneak peek as to what you get, at least from a UPS perspective, and Elizabeth's bang on with how it's fun and how I think us as mentors, we open up questions and doors that they haven't even thought of, which is important for them to explore. But just to give everyone a quick sneak peek, what I typically do when we're doing the presentation sessions, I quickly cover several things. FTAs and how that reduces red tape and costs by eliminating tariffs as well. We talk about the importance of customs and regulations when you're exporting, importing. And you heard Karen talk about that as well and the importance behind that. We review packaging and the importance about that. People always think about packaging their product for the shelf.
Well, if you're going global and you got to ship your product, it's critical. You really need to understand how you might be able to reduce the weight and size of your package, to keep the logistics cost down, because it's not cheap to move product around the world. We all know that. How to improve customers experience online? I touched on that a little bit, because it's all about reducing shopping cart abandonment. You want people that you're driving to your website to go, "Wow, this is great." Put something in that shopping cart and finish that transaction and hopefully come back as well.
Building a robust supply chain, and then of course we like to also share more tips and tricks on how they can generate more sales through the whole shipping steps that they follow, through their logistics as well too. So all that gets covered at a very high level. But then one of my colleagues, Felipe, who actually sits down and does the mentoring sessions one on one, he dives into these elements more and we really review what the export plan is in each business and focus specifically on the supply chain and logistics side that we're experts in, to really try to poke holes and try to as best as we can to help the business make sure that it's rock tight and they're ready to go.
Scott Rennie: Okay. We're getting tight on time. Thank you very much, Paul. I'm going to ask maybe a quick response from both perhaps Elizabeth and Karen on a question, and then we're going to wrap up if we can keep it a little bit short, if I may. So Elizabeth and Karen, we have a question. How can you conduct due diligence on counterparties, for example, customers, suppliers, et cetera, when you may be relying on a website or virtual engagement? Karen, Elizabeth, any thoughts on that? Ring a bell?
Elizabeth Dipsh...: Karen, do you want to go? I definitely have some thoughts on this one.
Karen Lai: I'm trying to understand the question. So how do we, I guess-
Scott Rennie: When you're not seeing the customer face to face, you're relying on a digital connection, websites, et cetera, or a virtual engagement.
Karen Lai: [inaudible 00:45:55].
Scott Rennie: How are you doing your due diligence on these customers?
Karen Lai: Yes. Oh yeah, for sure. Like-
Scott Rennie: Or suppliers.
Karen Lai: Or suppliers. Both. Yeah. I think the way I've done it is in this period, didn't take any new suppliers, unless we really had the time to go there to, and check their processes. In terms of customers, had to be really vetted with video conferences and just looking on their website, LinkedIn profile, history of where that company's been. There's a lot of people that can just turn on a website in a day and just create that presence. So it is very important to vet customers to protect yourself, for sure. And just to see, understand what their background is. And I do that actually fairly often on a daily basis, we get quite a bit of those type inquiries.
Scott Rennie: And Karen I'm going to be at pain, but 30 seconds. Any thoughts.
Elizabeth Dipsh...: Oh yeah, sorry. Elizabeth. Yeah.
Scott Rennie: Elizabeth, I'm sorry. Apologies.
Elizabeth Dipsh...: No worries.
Scott Rennie: No, I'm getting confused.
Elizabeth Dipsh...: Searches. There are often available litigation searches and debt searches in different jurisdictions. So spending some time and a little bit of effort to do some due diligence searches is a really great way to do it. You can fake presence, you can't fake relationships. So often, you're looking at referrals. Who are you doing business with? Who have you done business with? And if they are reticent in giving you names of people that they've done business with, that should be a red flag to you. So ask the questions, dive deep. Don't get in over your head and don't do anything on handshakes. Handshakes don't work. And that's a really hard thing for a lot of people to come to terms with. But the fact of the matter is that if it's worth a relationship to move forward, it's worth some paper to be around that relationship.
Scott Rennie: Thank you very much, Karen. We're out of time, but I would like to take a moment to thank very much our panelists, Karen, Elizabeth, Paul. Thank you so much for your insights and the conversation and for taking some questions from our audience. A reminder that whether you are seeking to grow and diversify into export markets or new to exporting, you can go to World Trade Center at wtctoronto.com/tap. Again, that's wtctoronto.com/tap to sign up for an upcoming TAP session. And we have cohort sessions coming up right now in Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia and Sudbury.
And again, you can also register for these upcoming webcasts. Please visit supportbusiness.bot.com. I'm sure we'll be able to share that information with participants after the fact as well. That's all the time we have. Again, thanks to all our panelists. And before we sign off, we'd like to remind everyone that TAP will continue to support Canadian SMEs and their growth, in Canada and abroad. But don't just believe us. As we like to close out this session here, here's a very short video to prove what we're saying, and hear results directly from companies that have participated in the TAP sessions. So thanks everyone. And can we roll the video to end this session?
Speaker 7: What is the Trade Accelerator Program?
Ben Ames: An excellent mentor list.
James Hashimi: Contacts.
Andrew Brett: A new network.
Joanna Torrance: A targeted plan.
David Dickson: Different kinds of government resources.
Speaker 7: TAP sessions are designed to help get businesses to the next level, to prepare them for international expansion. We help set businesses up on the right foot.
Ben Ames: CORL is a FinTech company that provide funding to early stage technology companies. Prior to the TAP program, we were a lean team doing things mostly on an ad hoc basis.
Robert Harbauer: At the very beginning, the first four and a half years were really tough. Marketing something nobody knows about on the planet.
Shamira Jaffer: Signifi's a technology company. The early years were really tough. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy thing to do.
Speaker 7: We offer expert coaching and planning.
Robert Harbauer: TAP has been amazing. Every day, there was experts talking to you, giving you guidance of who to talk to, where to go and create relationships that were impossible before.
David Dickson: The Trade Accelerator Program put pen to paper on our export plan. I came out of there with a more enriched understanding of different kinds of government resources. I made great contacts as well.
Joanna Torrance: We didn't really realize until after we took TAP that this is a process that has provided a targeted plan to give yourself trajectory into five years down the road. It changed everything.
Andrew Brett: We graduated from TAP with a much more holistic understanding of the resources available to us as a Canadian small business exporting. There's a rapidly growing interest in curling, so it was perfect timing to think about our export plan. The TAP program forced us to really look at resources within our network and especially a new network that TAP brought us services that we weren't aware of.
James Hashimi: We had the opportunity to modernize final records. TAP sessions weren't just lectures. There's contacts, notes that I use even today.
Alex Desroches: TAP really helped us focus on scaling and predicting the future so that we could grow accordingly.
Speaker 7: We help businesses grow and expand internationally.
Peter Townshend: We saw 20% year over year growth, right out of the TAP program.
James Hashimi: Within the next 18 months thereafter, we had grown into 10 different countries across four different continents.
Ben Ames: Since graduating from TAP, our sales in the US markets have increased to account for roughly 80% of CORL's current annual revenue.
Robert Harbauer: We grew our export from 50% of our sales to 95% of our sales, in 18 months.
Dul Naushad: We've grown about 1500% and we continue to grow at 40% month to month.
Shamira Jaffer: As a company, we grew up a lot. And we're everywhere from Europe to Middle East to the Far East.
Speaker 7: In five years, the Trade Accelerator Program has grown from one location to over 25 Canadian cities, and we are now diversifying to niche sectors and are looking at the global stage.
Joanna Torrance: Having TAP in our corner now has opened up what the world has to offer.