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March 01, 2010

Working Smart

Your Passport to International Growth

by Curt Waisath

DSN March Issue; Your Passport to International Growth Every year, on the first day of our annual Gold Canyon Convention, I walk onto the stage to welcome the thousands of loyal and amazingly motivated demonstrators from all over the world. This year, as the blinding lights hit me and I squinted to see into the audience, my attention was immediately directed to a huge section of red-and-white flags, T-shirts and banners. It’s hard to miss Canada. They were some of the loudest and proudest sellers on the convention floor that night. There’s nothing more fulfilling than looking out into a sea of supporters and knowing that the motivated effort crosses many borders and that the energy and entrepreneurial spirit know no cultural barrier.

At Gold Canyon, Canada was the perfect jumping off point for global expansion. In 2006, we came to the strong realization that we were missing out on an enormous opportunity in the Canadian market. We knew we had many customers in Canada and that demonstrators were traveling there to sell our products. Simple demand was the driving force for tapping this market first. We knew candles and candle-related products sell well in colder climates and that our products would be successful. We also knew the entrepreneurial spirit would flourish there. Canada simply made sense, and the more we got involved in the process, the more confident we became in attempting to undertake further expansion opportunities.

Looking Ahead

So, your company has tapped the United States, from Minnesota to Texas and from California to New York. Your salesforce is just that—a force—penetrating the American market. As your company develops, you most likely will look for the next growth opportunity. Where and how can we expand? What is the next step? Inevitably, you will begin—as most direct selling companies do—talking about international expansion.

As we all know, the keys to success include reaching for the seemingly unreachable, thinking outside the box and being willing to take risks. While expanding internationally seems like an extremely challenging and tedious process, getting your feet wet with our neighbors to the north may be just the experience you need to begin capitalizing on the growing direct selling opportunities around the world.

Canada, Eh?

So why Canada as a steppingstone? You need not look past the obvious reasons. Because of its proximity to the United States, the lack of a language barrier and trade agreements, it doesn’t get any easier than Canada. It’s a great way to get your feet wet before taking on expansion in other parts of the world. Plotting a course through the complexities of the various other unfamiliar environments can be much easier once you’ve navigated your way through a country whose culture is a bit more familiar. In addition, it’s important for the salesforce to know that they are a part of an international organization. Selling for an international company is obviously more appealing than selling for a company whose products are limited to the United States. The United States represents just 5 percent of the world’s population; therefore, your best potential customers may not even live in this country!

Expect Challenges (and Rewards!)

The biggest challenges Gold Canyon experienced were an increased workload brought on by expansion and the patience required to wait out some approvals and certifications. Of course, legal concerns and different tax regulations were challenges we dealt with, but nothing we considered too difficult, just an increased workload. We also had to get certain products certified because of regulations in Canada. For example, all of our products on our Emerge line of bath and body care were required to pass Canadian regulations, which are different than U.S. regulations, causing us to modify our products slightly. This took time.

Expansion not only requires an increased workload, but also patience. In addition, we took the time to provide French on our product labels. Many companies do not take the time to ensure their products are fully compliant with government regulations, and many certainly don’t provide French labeling, which, I believe, is a mistake. It may require extra work, but it’s a very small price to pay to eliminate having to deal with problems later. Providing French labels and meeting regulations convey a higher level of service to the country, the country’s government and its residents. Always follow the guidelines, and be patient. It will pay off. The amount of work and regulations we’ve come to know are overshadowed by the enormous success we’ve experienced. Canada is continuing to grow every day, and at the end of 2009, Canadian demonstrators had the biggest sales month in history, despite the global economic recession.

Getting Started in 4 Easy Steps

Join the Direct Selling Association (DSA) and the Direct Sellers Association of Canada

If you aren’t already a member of the DSA, joining before considering international expansion is strongly recommended. Both the DSA and the Direct Sellers Association of Canada offer a wide array of information and invaluable connections, where you can learn about other companies’ expansion efforts, steps to take and the many resources available to you. No other organization shares information better than the DSA. They are very open and helpful, and they’re priceless to your company’s success.

Research and Analyze

Research, research, research. Hire legal representation to help you become familiar with the regulations of the country and ensure your company is compliant in all areas. Spend the time to research and analyze that country. Encourage your team to visit and explore the environment. Through the DSA, you can reach out to other companies that have expanded there and take the time to visit their facilities. Have a list of questions about how things run in the country, and don’t forget to weigh the economic factors. Is your company financially ready?

Take a Trip

Visit the environment you are considering. Take a good look at what your product has to offer that particular culture. Will it sell there? Is there a need and demand for the product? Is the culture familiar with your products already? How much of your expansion will require educating the market? Do some well-thought-out market research. Try to develop a working knowledge of the country and culture. The differences in cultures can be extreme or not that different at all. The best way to find out and get a true sense of these factors is to take a trip.

Provide Local Support

Hire a person (or several people) in that country to be a part of your team. Have them help with the international launch. These are your experts. They know their country, and they will most likely know what strategies will be successful. Ultimately, you will have to rely on the citizens themselves to grow your business. They must be committed to your brand, and, therefore, you must be committed to providing them with readily available local leaders and assistance, if needed.

As a direct selling company, when considering international expansion, the obvious opportunities include, of course, Canada, Australia and the UK. The lack of language barriers and fewer cultural differences than other parts of the world make these your best options. However, the close proximity of Canada is especially appealing, considering logistics, product distribution and warehousing—shipping costs are lower than shipping overseas. Our hope for Gold Canyon’s next big expansion—set to begin this year—includes understanding the Spanish-speaking and Hispanic markets in the hope that one day we can expand into Mexico. We are excited to begin to understand and analyze the many demographics within the cultures and take on the added challenge of a language barrier. We are already looking forward to Spanish training materials, catalogs and a Web site. From there, Mexico will be a natural progression for us.

Gold Canyon is a direct selling company that offers quality scents, decor, home and body care. Our tagline states that we make “the world’s finest” products. We know that statement will only continue to be true if we work to expand globally, challenge ourselves to new and exciting environments, and offer our products throughout the world. It’s an exciting time to explore where and how  your company can make a global impact.

Curt Waisath is President and CEO of Gold Canyon.