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When in Rome, do as the Romans

But what happens when Rome comes to America?

Breaking into foreign markets is tricky and moving ahead without knowing your new market often leads to costly missteps. That’s why the Italian Trade Commission (ITC) approached Growth Path. They wanted to help Italy’s forward-thinking security systems companies expand into America, but they needed a navigator.

Every solution requires a research trip to Venice

When it comes to foreign expansion, forewarned is forearmed so step one is always research. First Growth Path headed to Milan & Venice to attend trade shows, meet manufacturers and learn about the technology (it’s a hard job dear readers, but somebody has to do it.) We reluctantly returned to Canada to organize a focus group with North American security systems gurus, to review Italian product lines and give feedback.

The results shocked the ITC. The great opportunity they imagined was wishful thinking; Italian electronic systems had almost no application in North America.

1. The Italian security systems market is geared to retro-fitting those beautiful old buildings common in Europe. Perfect for smaller locations, they focused on preventing intrusion – similar to home alarm systems. Unfortunately, the newer buildings in North America rely heavily on card-based access systems that control entry.

2. Those few European buildings with access systems tend to use biometrics like fingerprints to verify identity. But biometrics scare North Americans – we have a tendency to think we’re being checked for criminal records when asked for fingerprints, so we’ve been slow to adopt the technology.

A stylish, Italian-made silver lining

Although there was little market for Italian electronic security systems in North America, Growth Path uncovered an even better opportunity: North America was the perfect market for stylish Italian-made security hardware. North Americans tend to design for function alone and the hardware is often clunky. Think of ugly metal window bars on a bank vs. beautiful wrought iron bars on older European buildings. On the other hand, Italians don’t design anything unless it adds esthetic value. This was a hugely desirable niche that only the Italians could fill.

A lucrative outcome

The ITC followed Growth Path’s plan and spent the next 12 months promoting Italian-made security hardware via trade missions, trade shows and advertising. Their work paid off and Italian hardware is now widely available. Growth Path saved the Italian Trade Commission a ton of money by identifying the right products to invest in and the right way to promote them, and the ITC’s work in this area influenced the entire industry.