This will probably come across as a sad commentary on my time management skills; nevertheless, it's time for me to 'fess up: I have been meaning to read Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molson by Andrea Mandel-Campbell for four years.
Truth be told, I've been putting it off because the book makes for very depressing reading. It points out that Canadians routinely use brand name products from other countries, but that other countries do not use Canadian brand name products. Or, as the book title suggests, Canadians happily drink Corona, but Mexicans do not drink Molson.
Why? Is there some international conspiracy against Canadian goods and services? No, it's worse than that. According to Mandel-Campbell, no one is consuming Canadian products because...Canadians (women entrepreneurs included) just haven't been exporting them. This is in spite of what you hear in the media about the importance of trade to the Canadian economy.
Read: Tips to exporting success from PROFIT's fastest growing companies.
According to a poll taken by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in 2004, and cited in Mandel-Campbell's book, some 51% of respondents didn't export because they felt that their products or services were not "exportable." (Er, what? Why not?) Less than one-fifth of small businesses, which at the time accounted for a whopping 99% of all Canadian companies, actually exported. Even fewer actually did so regularly—roughly 3%.
The numbers haven't improved since the book came out. According to Statscan's A Profile of Canadian Exporters, in 2009, the number of exporting establishments in Canada actually fell from 51,648 to 47,637. Some 76.1% of those exporting establishments had exports of less than $1 million. In other words, those exports were a teeny drop in the bucket compared with global trade flows.
A quick scan of the Interbrand's 2012 world's top 100 brands reveals no Canadian entries and a look at the most recent Global Fortune 500, a ranking of the world's largest corporations, shows just 11 Canadian contenders. What's that you say? That latter statistic isn't so bad for a country with fewer than 40 million souls? Maybe. But, consider that Switzerland has a population of just 7.8 million and it boasts 15 of the world's largest corporations. And, you don't want to know how many China and India, both not long out of "Third World" status, have between them.
Read: Could Your Business Be the Next Lululemon? to understand the importance of brand.
Why aren't Canadians, who have always claimed to be a trading nation, selling more abroad? According to Mandel-Campbell, apparently we can't be bothered. A choice quote from Thierry Vandal, president and CEO of Hydro-Quebec, typifies the attitude and approach of the companies discussed in the book: "You pick low-lying fruit first. We don't need to be chasing international at this stage. That'll come in maybe 20 or 30 years."