United Safety CEO Lee Whittaker

In its CEO Insights series, Export Development Canada (EDC) talks to United Safety’s CEO Lee Whittaker to find out how the company started exporting services to the oil and gas industry and the lessons they learned along the way.

EDC is bringing the spotlight to Canadian oil and gas companies, which have demonstrated value by bringing value-added services to international markets.

“Canadian companies are renowned internationally for excellence in a number of areas in the oil and gas industry, including E&P methods; heavy oil and sour gas; the construction, operation, monitoring of pipelines; optimization software and other computer applications; and a variety of services and equipment,” says Robert Hodges, Export Development Canada’s sector adviser for oil and gas sector.

EDC explains that international buyers are interested in Canadian companies because they bring innovations that have a trickle-down effect on environmental technologies, geomatics, information technology and communications (the digital oilfield), and health and safety equipment.

In his interview, Whittaker talks about the beginnings of the company in Alberta and how they started their first international venture in Vietnam in 1992 at the request of a large multinational customer who sought the company as its subject matter expert on safety.

When asked what new SMEs need to know about export and trade, Whittaker had this to say, “Plan, plan, plan and when you’re finished planning, plan some more.” He also talked about the importance of knowing the target market’s customs, work permit procedures, taxes, and foreign exchange rules.

“You have to consult with your peer group and have an open dialogue with your customers. Also, English is not always the first language when you’re exporting and investing in a translator makes a lot of sense,” concludes Whittaker.

If you are a Canadian business interested in exporting and investing in emerging markets, this interview is packed with nuggets of wisdom about global trade, export, and investment issues. Read the interview in full here.

Learn more about United Safety’s project experiences and other safety innovations and processes in the United Safety library of technical papers and case studies by visiting www.unitedsafety.net.