Canadian firms can bank on national reputation

Open Text believes Canadian companies have a powerful weapon when taking on world markets.

“The world trusts Canada,” says Tom Jenkins, executive chairman and chief strategy officer of Open Text Corp. “We find that wherever we go, we are a trusted partner right from the moment we walk in the door. Canadian business should recognize that we have a tremendous international reputation.”

Founded in 1991, Open Text’s billion dollar business creates and distributes software for corporate content management, described by Mr. Jenkins as “Facebook for inside a corporation with full security access.” The company, based in Waterloo, Ont., is Canada’s largest independent software firm.

With only 4 per cent of its business actually in Canada, Open Text’s clientele reflects the global GDP in every industry of the global economy from energy to transport to the financial sector, says Mr. Jenkins. The company’s largest market is the United States, followed closely by Germany, Japan and China.

The biggest issue for Open Text now is how its best customers – about 100 million people in corporations throughout the world, says Mr. Jenkins – make use of the Internet to be more productive while complying with ever increasing government regulations. Open Text specializes in helping companies balance the two.

“Early on, Open Text tried to do too many things at once,” says Mr. Jenkins. “We quickly realized that we were too small to be the public search engine or the IBM or Microsoft of the Internet, so we concentrated on corporations and organizations inside the firewall. As an MBA, I was always taught to diversify risk, but there really is a moment when you have to put most of your eggs in one basket.”

Mr. Jenkins’ top advice to Canadian companies going international is to take advantage of one of the great wealths that Canada has to offer – our multicultural diaspora.

“There is no one culture or country or market region that you can go into in the world where you can’t find a Canadian who can open doors for you and who is very comfortable in that culture,” says Mr. Jenkins. “That is an enormous asset that Canada has and an asset other countries can’t easily get because we got that over decades of immigration policy. Far and away, I would recommend that Canadian companies seeking to go outside first look inside.”