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Being successful in business in Canada

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: July 24, 2018

Coming to Canada is a big decision and when the plan is to integrate into the business community as well, things can become increasingly difficult. For those looking to be successful in business in Canada, there are a number of ways to find your place within the business culture and grow meaningful business relationships.


It may be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be hard! After all, many others have successfully come to Canada and established themselves in business. Obviously, you can too. With a little bit of inside information, the transition and growth you experience will be easier than you think.

Let’s start with the basics:

You know from your personal or business immigration to Canada experience, there are some expectations the country has of you in order for you to come here. Those expectations broaden when it comes to a work and business environment. There are three main points to commit to whether looking for a job, looking to establish business contacts or looking to build a business and take advantage of investment opportunities:

  1. Know the local language. This means being able to speak English (or French depending upon the region) fluently. Canada is filled with multiple cultures and people from a wide range of countries, so accents are never an issue. What can be an issue is if you are unable to express detailed concepts in English and do so with local/regional dialect. (More on how to learn about dialect in a bit.) Get to know the language and the distinct aspects of it in your field and region.
  2. Be prepared to sell yourself. Every culture has a different point on the “selling pendulum”. Canada sits a little lower than middle – we are a humbly proud group of people, apologetic to a fault and strive to be polite. What this means is that you need to be prepared to talk about yourself, your skills and attributes, but do so politely and openly without overtaking others. Some cultures treat self-selling as a repetitive task – that messages need to be repeated again and again. This is not the case in Canada. Say what you need to say about yourself or your business, answer any questions that arise and leave it at that. It can be seen as rude to continue to talk about yourself.
  3. You may already have a Canada business visa or a Canada investor visa, but have you looked into transferring your credentials to their Canadian equivalent? Canada has different standards and courses for those in healthcare, legal and other professions. Get to know if you are legally able to apply your education and experience here. Whether you can or not, it will also benefit you to take a course (not necessarily a degree, unless that’s something you want/need to do – a course in anything that interests you can be wonderful) on a subject of interest and benefit to you. This will help you immerse yourself in the Canadian experience, get to know how typical Canadians talk and act and you’ll learn some of that important regional dialect from teachers and fellow students.

With the basics in place, you’ll be ready to start interacting with others on a professional basis. If Canada investment immigration was part of your immigration journey, you’ll want to begin finding groups of people in investment circles as well as those who are interested in the types of business you wish to be involved in.

When meeting others in a business environment, it can be tempting to say that you can do “everything” within your field. Canadian employers, partners and investors however, aren’t looking for a professional who can do everything. They want a specialist.

Consider the very narrow fields in healthcare. While some doctors specialize in cancer care (oncologists) there are numerous different kinds of oncologists. This is how you want to be in your field. You want to be a specialist and if other work comes along that is outside that niche you have the ability to consider it. By specializing, you tell someone that you can do the job they need done starting today.

Appreciating the “Canadian Experience”

Some of your new colleagues and partners will ask about your Canadian Experience before doing business with you. Simply put, they want to know that you’ve been in Canada long enough, and worked with others often enough, to understand the language, culture and nuances. Taking courses, as previously mentioned, is one great way to get ahead in the Canadian experience. There are also a number of regional programs through local community resource organizations that can offer opportunities to gain that Canadian experience. You may also want to consider volunteering or even taking a job either outside your field (doing something you love, like working at a garden centre, bookstore or coffee shop) or taking a lower-level job than your experience dictates.

Don’t think of this as a step back. It’s a stepping stone to understanding your new country and will pave the way for you to jump forward into the industry you will be working in, in the future. This is a brief point in time upon your arrival in Canada and while you’re ready to get your new life started, think of these activities as preparation work while you acclimatize.

During that acclimatization period, look to find a mentor. This need not be someone in your particular field or from your own culture although both of these can be beneficial. Someone who has been in Canada for a number of years can help you overcome the challenges they faced and work as a “sounding board” to help you with issues you come up against.

Partnering with someone local will help you better understand the unique Canadian aspects you need to know in order to do business. You’re better off to acknowledge up front that there are things you don’t know about the culture and approach your transition with the eyes of a student: watching and learning.

Reading Canadian publications (both online and in print) as well as watching Canadian television and listening to Canadian radio are also very valuable tools to getting to know the fine points of Canadian language and business.

You want to come to Canada because it’s different. You see a bright future for your business and personal life. Take some time to get to know the country and reap the rewards of showing others you understand Canadian culture.


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