For many American business owners, expanding into Canada is a great first step toward international expansion. The Canadian market is often seen as a good target for companies beginning to expand, because Canada and the US share some cultural similarities.
The Canadian market is also much smaller than the US market, although it’s segmented into regional cultures. The vastness of the country’s geography is also similar to the US and presents logistical challenges American companies are often familiar with.
That said, there are quite a few pitfalls that can cause challenges when expanding into the Great White North. These tips can help you avoid them and ensure success when you expand into Canada.
Conduct Market Research
The first thing you should do when you plan to expand to Canada is conduct market research. The Canadian market may exhibit some similarities to the American market, but there are also many unique aspects.
You’ll want to take a look at your competition.
Also look at the different regions of Canada. The job market in Montreal and Toronto is very different from what you’ll find in Calgary or Yellowknife.
Review the Law
The next thing you should do when you’re expanding into Canada is make sure you know the law. You may need to revise some of your policies in light of different Canadian labour laws. For example, at-will employment doesn’t exist in Canada.
Another area you’ll want to read up on is payroll regulations. The Canada Revenue Agency can penalize your company for remittance errors. The CRA can even bring criminal charges in some cases, although this isn’t common.
You’ll also want to look at differences in paid holidays, vacation, and more. Canada’s labour law, on the whole, offers more paid leaves than its American counterpart. There are differences among provincial law, however, so you’ll want to be sure you’re aware of the law where you operate.
Consider Differences in Culture
Despite seeming similar on the surface, Canadian and American business cultures are quite different. You’ll want to take extra caution when approaching both Canadian job seekers and clients.
An example is communication. Canadians may seem long-winded or indecisive to you, but Canadians prefer softer speech and consensus-building.
Think about Logistics
Canada is spread over a large geographical territory, with many remote areas. If you need to get workers from Calgary to oil sands operations in northern Alberta, you need to think about how you’ll do this.
You’ll also want to consider how you service your clients. Can you offer services in Alberta from an office in Ontario? You may decide to operate from branch offices closer to your clients and the markets you’re servicing.
This could mean multiple sites, or you may want to limit your service offerings to one geographical area to start.
Work with the Experts
Another thing you can do to ensure the success of your expansion into Canada is make sure you’re working with the experts. This might include a professional employer organization in Canada.
A PEO can provide assistance with payroll, HR, legal, and compliance. They can also offer great advice. Better yet, a provider already operating in Canada has the expertise you need as you expand your business over the border.
You’ll likely want to bring on more experts as well, but working with a PEO is one sure-fire way to set up your business for success.