Canadian Manufacturing

The four essential qualities of successful global leaders

by HSBC Bank Canada   

Canadian Manufacturing
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Report identifies critical factors that enable firms to thrive in international markets

—Sponsored article by HSBC Bank Canada

Is your business seeking out new markets overseas? If not, you should be. Canada’s aging population and slower economic growth limit your expansion options at home, but Canada’s weak dollar is making your goods and services more competitive internationally.

A new report conducted by The Conference Board of Canada, Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success, identified the critical factors that enable firms to succeed in global markets. These keys to success are skilled executives, foreign market knowledge, innovation capabilities, and international networks. These factors influence one another and can be combined to increase a company’s Global Competitive Advantage (GCA).

This article takes a closer look at the first key, skilled executives who can lead their organizations as they pursue opportunities beyond Canada’s borders.


The report found that successful global leaders have four essential traits in common: an entrepreneurial bent, a vision and commitment to international expansion, prior international experience, and the ability to build a management team with others who can execute the leader’s vision.

Vision and entrepreneurship

Committing to international expansion requires vision and an entrepreneurial bent. Some firms’ commitment to international growth is so entrenched in corporate culture that it is directly integrated into the company’s mission. For example, British Columbia-based Global Relay’s mission is to be the number one global provider of compliance messaging solutions to the financial services sector. At Distech Controls in Quebec, the management team has always aimed to become a global player in the energy management solutions segment.

The quality of entrepreneurship is vital at management level for a company to succeed when expanding internationally. Leaders must not be afraid to experiment and try something new. They must be innovative, proactive, and willing to take risks.

Having started off as an exhibitor at EXPO ’67 in Montreal, IMAX was bought in the 1990s by Richard Gelfond, the current CEO, with a partner. He saw the potential for commercial success beyond the original IMAX business of nature documentaries. To bring IMAX to where it is today—with technology in more than 800 theatres worldwide and blockbuster movie successes such as Interstellar – countless risks were taken, including convincing Hollywood producers and distributors of the commercial potential of IMAX technology. This was a process of trial and error that lasted nearly 15 years. A particularly successful gamble was the decision to seize on growing affluence in China and the increasing popularity of Hollywood-produced movies.

Go international, but go prepared

Prior international experience is a major bonus for a global leader. For Ontario-based Redknee, which provides billing software to global wireless companies, the founders had previously worked for Nortel – a Canadian based global telecoms company. They had traveled extensively across the United States and Europe, were comfortable with foreign cultures, and had many useful contacts. The company had an international focus from the start, as Redknee’s first customers were European. The founders’ international experience also helped with the integration of foreign acquisitions and Redknee’s expansion into 90 countries in a decade.

Finally, building a management team that blends appropriate experience and drive is critical. Not all companies have the chance to count on entrepreneurial executives, or on those who have had the opportunity to acquire international experience. However, firms looking to expand their reach in global markets can search externally and hire executives with these skills and characteristics.

While doing business in Canada has provided a solid foundation for your business, the time may be right to leverage that footing and harness the appropriate traits of your management team so that your organization can grow on a global scale. With our experience and knowledge, HSBC as a trusted partner, can help your executive team gain the international experience you need to be successful. With Relationship Managers in over 70 countries and 150 years of experience helping international businesses succeed we have the prior international experience required to help you execute on your vision.

Want to learn more and download a new report by HSBC and The Conference Board of Canada about the key to winning in international markets? Click here.

Source: Selling to the World: The Keys to International Business Success Report, June 2015

Issued by HSBC Bank Canada
© Copyright HSBC Bank Canada 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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