Aaron Thomas
Vice-President Operations. Established 1978

"We manufacture the world's finest-quality, most energy efficient, longest-lasting hot tubs."

How did you start exporting?

The first country we exported to was the United States because of the proximity to our manufacturing headquarters, and the market size of the U.S. We now export to over 30 different countries across the globe, and are currently looking to expand further into Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and South America.

Did you experience any obstacles to exporting effectively?

When we first started, in the 1980s, there wasn't the same level of resources as today, with groups like Export Development Canada offering support and tools easily accessible online. We were primarily on our own to understand the requirements of international trade, customs and duties, and had to learn through experience.

Faced with that challenge, what's the most important thing you learned?

It was the amount of lead time needed to fulfill complete product shipments, as we rely on marine and rail services to ship to many destinations overseas. Aligning distributors' needs to shipping timelines requires extensive planning. We have also learned the importance of understanding the cultural values and local business practices in foreign markets in building successful, lasting partnerships.

Do enough B.C. companies consider exporting as an option?

Yes, but weighing the benefits versus challenges stands as a hurdle for most. You can't just start shipping into foreign markets. You need a strategic plan and dedicated resources, and have to be able to identify a reliable customer base and build relationships with distributors—or set up your own distribution channels—to succeed.

What's your immediate target for export expansion?

Asia, particularly China, represents a massive growing market with a high level of affluence and culture of consumerism that is looking for the luxury home health products that we manufacture. The perspective on Canadian product quality is very high there, and it’s definitely a market we will build a greater focus on in the future.

What advice would you give to companies considering exporting?

Educate yourselves and engage with government resources such as Economic Development Canada and Export Development Canada that exist to support your success as an exporter. As well, build strong relationships with experienced customs and freight brokers who can help you navigate international trade rules and requirements.