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New England Values New Brunswick: A Conversation with David Alward

The Opportunities NB (ONB) Export Development Team is in Massachusetts next week for the latest pan-Atlantic New Exporter Mission to Boston. Fifteen companies from Atlantic Canada are taking part in this mission, which gives businesses a chance to speak with potential buyers, members of the Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England (or CENE), and our partners at the New England-Canada Business Council and the Canadian Consulate.

The mission offers tremendous opportunities for any New Brunswick company just beginning to export and/or looking at the U.S. market for the first time.

Former New Brunswick Premier David Alward now serves as Canada’s Consul General to New England. As a lead-in to the Mission, ONB asked Mr. Alward for advice on doing business in the Boston region.

ONB: What value do you see New Brunswick companies, and the province itself, bringing to the Boston/New England market?

David Alward New Brunswick Alward: We often think of ourselves as New Brunswickers first, which is great, but Canada’s brand has real value across the globe right now. I see it every day in New England; our flag and our values mean something. Many people here don’t differentiate between cities or provinces, but they do know and love Canada. Companies should not be shy about leveraging that Canadian brand.

New Brunswick is small but nimble and has tremendously educated people. It is a great nearshore option for Boston region companies struggling to find talent. It’s also a bilingual and multicultural province; New Englanders value all of that.

Finally, there’s accessibility. Companies looking at doing business with New Brunswick will find access to key decision makers and influencers is excellent; that’s not the case everywhere. Senior leadership at organizations like ONB, for example, are very accessible.

Any specific advice for those 15 companies that are about to visit Boston?

One thing I learned as Premier was that the whole world is here, so you need to be here often. If you aren’t consistently revisiting the region you’re not building the relationships needed to succeed.

We have innovative companies in New Brunswick, but they need to be ready to differentiate themselves. Be prepared to zero in on exactly what you bring to the table for this market. Executives here are much more aggressive than what I see not just in New Brunswick but in Canada. American execs want to grasp your company’s value proposition quickly. You might have a minute or three to sell your story; if you don’t have it down pat it could be a missed opportunity. Don’t overinflate your proposition, however, or they’ll tear you up.

Take advantage of access to great people like David Ting, Former CTO of Imprivata and one of our senior startup mentors here with CENE. David is originally from New Brunswick and part of an incredible expat community here in New England. I know ONB already has a relationship with CENE, so leverage that connection too.

What should our companies be thinking about as it relates to NAFTA?

Regardless of industry, there are a few very important things to consider.

  1. Tariffs: in a hypothetical post-NAFTA world, what does a change in tariffs mean for your specific product or service? In some cases there may be minimal or no impact, other cases may see significant change.
  2. People: What does a post-NAFTA world mean to your business in terms of your people, their visas, etc.?
  3. Regulatory barriers. What could changes to NAFTA mean from a regulatory perspective?

Those are probably the three big areas companies should be thinking about.

What should our companies know about working with your team?

The Trade Commissioner Service [TCS], part of a global network, comprises about half of my office’s staff. These individuals have tremendous amounts of experience, knowledge in particular sector areas, and valuable professional networks. Connecting with those people here makes good sense but be aware that the TCS also has a presence in Atlantic Canada. Work with our regional services people back home before entering a foreign market, to make sure you are ready, and on things like preparation for U.S. travel.

Prepare to meet with Trade Commissioners just as you would for meeting with VCs and the business community. Be ready to give that same concise elevator pitch to our team. Just like the business people you’ll meet, Trade Commissioners (TCs) want to know your company’s value proposition, business strategy, ability to scale in-market, etc.

If you’re here looking to access venture capital, prepare to share your company’s financial situation with our team as well. That includes funds raised to date, how much money your company needs, what funds will be used for, and when they’re needed. For our TCs to help open doors for you they need to know and understand as much as possible. If you can’t effectively articulate all of this to TCs, then forget pitching to VCs or angel investors. Perhaps most importantly, be prepared to say why you’re targeting New England and what your value add is for this specific market.

ONB works to facilitate New Brunswick companies’ growth and market diversification efforts via a variety of services, including identification of market leads through trade missions and events. Find out where the ONB team is headed next by visiting our Events page.