Angel investor and fellow Canadian, Sherry Coutu, has estimated that unlocking the UK’s scale-up potential could boost the UK economy by £225 billion and create 150,000 jobs by 2034. “Competitive advantage,” she writes, “doesn’t go to nations that focus on creating companies, it goes to nations that focus on scaling companies.”
Governments or nations can and should create systems and supports to help companies scale, but ultimately the hard work of scaling sits with entrepreneurs and their teams. I know this from both sides. Prior to becoming a diplomat, I was hired and sent by a Canadian organisation to first open their office in India and then another 21 offices across the globe. As with many of today’s entrepreneurs, I faced many risks: reputational, financial, personnel and operational. At the same time, I was confronted with several other issues including: an avalanche of information to sort through about going international, a lack of awareness of the largely free support available to me, and the absence of clear steps to success.
As highlighted in Sherry’s excellent ‘Scale-Up Report on UK Economic Growth’, governments can help identify and diagnose companies that are likely to be suffering from ‘growing pains’, which can then be ‘treated’ by stakeholders so that the system may benefit as a whole. When they do succeed, governments should also actively report on the services they source from scale-up companies. There are plenty of businesses who’ve benefited from government services; so why not let them be the poster child for the scale up economy?
Building on my own very personal experience of being an international entrepreneur, and following Sherry’s lead, I’m using the tools of my office to help companies scale up. One part of my work is to help Ontario companies scale into the UK for success in Europe. The other part is to help UK companies scale into Ontario for success in North America.
One of my personal philosophies is “all that one needs is in front of oneself” and I have taken that to heart in helping companies in my diplomatic role. I’ve created a ‘Pathway to Scaling Internationally’, a series of steps designed to help companies scale in Ontario for success in North America. It’s not rocket-science, nor is it a creating a new program. ‘Pathways’ is simply the result of doing what governments should do, organising all the supports and programs available to companies scaling internationally, in a series of clear steps. Some of the support my office is able to provide includes:
Cost comparison study
One of the biggest challenges is being able to make a decision with all the information available. So, we provide a complimentary, third party cost comparison study of multiple global cities, which includes comparable information about salaries, operating costs and office space prices.
Market research reports
Rather than engaging valuable in-house personnel resources, clients are connected to subsidised market research which can be done by consulting agencies housed in universities and run by top business students as part of their coursework.
Test market assistance
With a population of 13.6 million, 52% of which were born outside of Canada, Ontario is one of the most diverse cities in the world. As a result, it provides an excellent microcosm for testing out North American client preferences. To help companies take full advantage of this, there are numerous incubators that provide help with market insights, analytics and scaling up, like www.foodstarter.ca.
Connection to incubators and researchers
The Ontario Centres of Excellence actively connects incoming companies with incubators, communities, mentors and programs around Ontario to help fast track research and development projects, find partners and access cash.
Concierge service for Ontario office set-up
Canada is ranked 3rd globally by the World Bank for starting a business. This is because the process is clear and organised. Clients receive introductions to partners and service providers who will help with incorporation, finding office space, connecting to employees, achieving statutory and regulatory compliance and general guidance on establishing a new corporate entity.
Easy entry into the U.S. market
Ontario is a great place to do business, because of the ease of access to the USA. Clients are given access to a multitude of programs to encourage export including: a two day program providing the fundamentals for exporting to the U.S.; funding to participate in trade missions, develop promotional materials, and conduct market research; and funding to hire an export manager.
UK businesses that choose to do business in Ontario have access to this pathway and all these benefits. This has led over 200 British companies to invest in and do business in North America from Ontario. These companies employ more than 40,000 people and, in 2014 alone, UK companies invested $48 billion in Ontario.
In her report, Sherry Coutu said that “Competitive advantage doesn’t go to the nations that focus on creating companies, it goes to nations that focus on scaling companies.” Ontario is keeping this front of mind as it continues to build a dynamic and welcoming economic environment, providing a ‘Pathway’ program that ambitious, globally-minded companies are finding hard to ignore.
By Aaron Rosland, Commercial Counsellor for the Government of Ontario, running the Next Big Idea (NBI) Contest in partnership with NatWest