When asked for a “30 second elevator pitch” on why I should be elected to the CFESA board I responded (partially) with “to bring a Canadian perspective to CFESA”. In one sentence – elect me because I’m Canadian. Not a strong reason on its own. However, there are enough differences between Canada and the U.S. that create the need for distinctive business models in each country. Understanding these reasons for differences and learning from both business models may be helpful in growing our service industry. First the facts:
- Canada has the population of California spread over a land mass slightly larger than the U.S.
- Canadians spend 30% of their food dollars in restaurants verses 50% in the US.
- Canada exports 400 Billion to the US annually (75%) of total trade. While 67% of our imports come from the US.
- As of today the Canadian dollar is 78% lower than the U.S. dollar. We spend $1.28 Canadian to purchase 1 U.S. dollar.
The spread of population means more service work is done through subagents. For example, Key works with 42 subagents to provide service in small towns over 4 provinces. Travel time is longer due to the distance between service centers and smaller towns. Parts travel time and expense are also impacted by distance and lack of scale.
When comparing with U.S., the lesser restaurant spend by Canadian consumers is reflected in fewer restaurant brands (chains). Lower growth opportunity on the one hand. Stronger concentration of chains on the other yields high 1st time fix rates.
Most manufacturers and, thus our parts vendors, are in the U.S. and sell in U.S. dollars. We must contend with exchange rates, higher shipping costs and brokerage fees to get those parts into the Canadian space. Air orders can be held at customs. We pay higher shipping rates for parts returns.
All Canadian provinces require technical training and certification to work on commercial gas and refrigeration equipment. Canadian techs are well trained and enter the market at a higher rate of pay. The need for certification lowers the number of DIY customers, therefore more work is done by trained servicers. This is good for our service divisions but provides fewer opportunities for our parts business. The outcome is a closer relationship between parts and service.
There are many ways we are similar. Similarities strengthen our (CFESA) collective voice. To strengthen our North American credibility the Canadian contingent needs to bring the Canadian perspective to each committee at conference. In short, we need to speak up. And you, our not so shy neighbours to the south (not mentioning any names, Joe Birchhill), need to encourage us to do so.
Let me conclude with a popular Molson’s Canadian ad – spoken by a Canadian:
“I’m not a lumberjack or a fur trader. I don’t live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dog sled. And I don’t know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada, although I’m certain they’re really, really nice. I have a Prime Minister, not a President. I speak English and French, not American. And I pronounce it about, not aboot. I can proudly sew my country’s flag on my backpack. I believe in peacekeeping, not policing. Diversity, not assimilation. And that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal. A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch. And it is pronounced zed, not zee. Canada is the second largest landmass, the first nation of hockey and the best part of North America. My name is Joe, and I am Canadian!”
“I am Canadian” and President, Key Food Equipment Service’s Ltd.