This week’s business culture interview focuses on Canada. I interviewed Canadian resident and international IT project leader, Sue Adam, who  shares her insights on the Canadian business environment. Canadian entrepreneurship was one of my areas of graduate research and so I have added some additional notes on this subject. Canadian markets should be of particular interest to Americans since Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner. The American-Canadian trade relationship is the largest such relationship between two countries in the world. What do you see as unique cultural characteristics of Canadian people that is reflected in Canada’s business culture?
Canadians can be hard-driving and ambitious, but the style is still mostly collaborative, courteous, and community-minded.  People tend not to brag or talk about their accomplishments.  Canadians are extremely sensitive to Americans who come to do business without doing their homework, and who make the assumption that Canada is just like the States.  No matter how good your product or your deal, ignorance of Canadian business, government and culture will be a big turn-off. 

In your opinion, what are Canada’s most competitive industries in world markets?

Canada’s extensive resource industries have been much in the news lately, in particular forestry and mining; however, technology, manufacturing and financial service are also very strong. The Canadian government is encouraging innovative industry growth with grants and other resources in areas such as software development, alternative energy and biotechnology.

What’s the best way to find potential Canadian business contacts?

Unlike other areas of the world, Canadians do not require a personal introduction in order to start a busines relationship. You can approach a potential business contact directly. The Canadian government has extensive resources available for people wishing to do business in Canada.  The primary site is http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/cici/commerce_canada/index.aspx?view=d.  There are many cross-cultural chambers of commerce, such as the Canadian American Business Council, or the Danish-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, for example, which have active networking programs.  In addition, the foreign consulates in Canada provide many avenues to forge partnerships.

What do you wish people knew about doing business in Canada before they arrive in country?

Because so many Americans have traveled in Canada, or are familiar with Canadian sports, music, film, etc., they tend to assume Canada is just like the United States, and that they know it well.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In spite of a common British heritage, Canada has a different form of government, and different division of responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments.  Canada has also dealt differently with both immigration and its native populations.  It is very important to do thorough research and understand the business, social and cultural environment well.  If you wish to do business in Quebec, you should of course be prepared to function in French.

From your perspective, what’s the business climate like for entrepreneurs (supportive vs. unsupported, culturally accepted profession vs. not accepted, etc.)?

Canada provides a very dynamic and supportive environment for entrepreneurs, and partnerships with Canadian businesses have the potential to be very successful. If your product or service is in an industry which the Canadian government targets, you would be wise to investigate potential partnerships with Canadian companies in order to leverage Canadian grants, local financing and skilled Canadian employees. Corporate tax rates have been lowered for Canadian small businesses in recent years allowing operating businesses to be easier. And culturally, there is little stigma attached to business failure, so trying entrepreneurship as a career is accepted.

About Sue Adam

American international project leader, Sue Adam has spent the past thirty-five years traveling extensively between Canada the U.S. She has worked in Canada for over 20 years. Sue has extensive experience as a project manager and consultant in a wide variety of industries, including hospitality, performingarts, healthcare, software development, banking, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, telecommunications and insurance, in the U.S., Canada, France, Britain and Switzerland. She currently balances her time between mainly between British Columbia, Toronto and Denmark.

Becky DeStigter has researched the viability of Colorado high tech companies partnering with Canadian companies for mutual benefit. If you would like more information about Canadian high tech opportunities, please contact Becky through this blog.