Canadian companies will be taking on new challenges in the coming years: new markets, new acquisitions, new market segments, new technologies and new customer demands will all create massive opportunities – and significant risk. Are Canadian CEOs ready?
According to our survey, Canadian CEOs will be busy over the next few years. As noted in our previous chapter, many will be wrapped up trying to integrate new acquisitions and deliver organic growth at home. But a significant number of them will also be looking to break into or expand in foreign markets in order to drive above-average growth.
Our survey shows that Canadian CEOs are particularly focused on the emerging markets – 72 percent of our respondents said they would prioritize expansion into emerging markets over developed markets – and Central and South America in particular. In fact, 56 percent of those CEOs who prioritized the emerging markets also said their top priority region would be Central and South America.
This is probably not surprising. Most of the big Canadian banks already have a strong presence in these markets which facilitates the flow of capital and revenues between the North and South and adds a level of confidence for investors. Canadian companies, particularly in the resources sector, are already fairly familiar with the Central and South American regions and have developed a reasonable network of contacts and contracts. While there is still much progress to be made – many of the traditionally riskier markets in the region have made great strides in creating personal and financial security for citizens and foreign investors. Particularly in some of the smaller markets, geopolitical stability has strengthened, thereby creating a much more attractive risk/reward equation. It only makes sense that Canadian companies make the most of their existing advantages in this region.
What is leveling the playing field is that it's not just the emerging markets that carry geopolitical risk these days; so, too, do many developed markets. Perhaps indicative of the trade saber-rattling around NAFTA, Canadian CEOs suggest they are also exploring plans for expansion into other developed markets. Interestingly, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australasia all drew an equal amount of attention from our CEOs.
The challenge with executing a market entry strategy in any new market, of course, is understanding the local context. And that has become much more difficult as geopolitical risk rises. Countries that were once loyal trading partners are raising new tariffs, almost overnight. Nationalistic parties are gaining popularity in developed and emerging markets. Tax regimes are changing (even here at home). The need for CEOs to have a global perspective – supported by rigorous due diligence, robust controls, tailored local entry strategies and exceptional risk management – has never been higher.
While it may not be every CEOs primary growth strategy, our survey suggests that Canadian companies will also be engaging in partnerships, strategic alliances and outsourcing agreements in order to drive their growth objectives. This, of course, raises the level of concern around a number of risks – cyber security and disruptive technology among them. In a digital, data-driven, customer-first business environment, no company can risk taking a relaxed approach to either of these two risks.
Are Canadian CEOs ready to manage the multiple opportunities and risks that growth will bring? They certainly think so. According to our survey, 84 percent of Canadian CEOs believe they are ready to lead their organization through a radical transformation of its operating model to maintain competitiveness.
The challenge is that you don't know what you don't know. So our advice is simple – continue to seek insights into your business, markets and capabilities – while considering all the different scenarios that may arise. And, if you think you are not yet fully ready, here are five tips to help you balance opportunity with risk:
Canadian CEOs have big plans for growth and there are many reasons to believe they will be successful in achieving it. Growth brings with it inherent risks and, ultimately, it is the CEO that must identify, manage and contain the risks associated with his or her growth plan. Bringing a balanced perspective to the growth and risk equation should be a top priority for any CEO as new markets and opportunities emerge.
*All statistics result from the 2018 Canadian CEO Survey.