Canadian businesses are intensely proud of their roots, and brands often use their country’s heritage as a point of differentiation. When these companies begin to sell internationally, their Canadian legacy sticks with them and remains a competitive advantage. Our #GoGlobal series showcases Canadian businesses that have successfully expanded into international markets, even during challenging times. Learn how these businesses have shown the world Canadian creativity, innovation and imagination at work.
TEBO Group started in 1986 when three partners with backgrounds in forestry saw opportunities in the sawmill, plywood and general forestry sectors. Launching from one of the founder’s basements as TEBO Mill Installations, the company quickly found success, growing to over 220 employees within two years. Recognizing the cyclical nature of the forestry industry, the partners soon saw the need to diversify.
By the end of the 1980s the company was supplying services to the mining industry and by the end of the next decade opened its own fabrication shop, focusing on steel fabrication.
Today, TEBO Group of Industries is a leading global sustainable industrial developer. With four decades of experience on all seven continents, the group includes three companies: TEBO Mill Installation Inc., a leading industrial plant installer; TEBO Mill Construction Inc., an industrial and commercial construction company (acting as a general contractor and subcontractor); and Fraserview Fabrication and Machining Inc., a manufacturer of steel structures for industrial and commercial construction. The group has led some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world in sectors such as energy, civil infrastructure, forestry, mining, ports and airports, construction, oil and gas, manufacturing and chemicals, and environmental and recycling.
Evolution of international presence
Based in Western Canada, much of TEBO Group’s work has taken place in British Columbia and Alberta. But over the past 30 years, they have also completed a number of international projects, including a sawmill development in Ireland, and other parts of Europe, South America and the United States. In all of those instances, however, TEBO Group was a subcontractor, which meant they worked with a primary construction contractor or engineering company that would handle all the paperwork and registration requirements.
In a recent conversation with Alan Khara, Managing Director at TEBO Group, he explains the desire to shift the organization to become a prime contractor across global markets and shares the additional work and opportunities that come with that move.
“We value our work as subcontractors, but in that role, we don’t get the opportunity to put our name on a project for which we contribute a great deal,” says Khara. “The prime contractor can put their stamp on the project, which allows them to grow their brand and reputation.” Beyond exposure for their company, Khara explains that being a prime contractor in international markets also gives Canada a global presence.
“Right now, when the industry considers the leaders in baggage handling systems, for example, only three names come up, which are companies from New Zealand, France and the Netherlands. Even though we have been heavily involved in past projects, Canada gets no recognition.”
Leveraging RBC Global Connect for international expansion
As they embarked on their path to becoming a global prime contractor, TEBO Group began to leverage the RBC Global Connect portal. “As a prime contractor, you need to apply for all kinds of documentation, you need to register yourself in the European Union and become connected with local parties to bid for projects based in Europe,” Khara explains by way of example. “Through the RBC Global Connect portal, we registered ourselves so we can be in the running for new projects in Europe.”
To establish an international presence, companies need to have a local partner available that can handle extra certifications and other paperwork on the ground. RBC Global Connect has linked TEBO Group with consultants that can help guide them through the bidding process and help them get the certifications they need.
The other benefit to working through RBC Global Connect is that it has allowed TEBO Group to find international partners that can help them win jobs. Because RBC Global Connect helps companies find international partners, TEBO Group was able to identify a French company that complements their specialty. And thanks to an international baggage-handling system bid they found through Global Connect, TEBO formed relationships with other large players in the global construction industry.
Global opportunities ahead
As TEBO Group expands internationally, they see both global and local opportunities in the near future. “As most people are aware, there is a global supply chain issue right now,” says Khara. “The supply chain issue is so huge that there is a long ETA on a lot of the equipment and products companies need.” He tells a story of a pipeline project he came across while vacationing in Northern B.C. The workers hadn’t been able to work for 15 days while they waited for a pipeline part. Khara asked to see the part and realized it was in fact made in Canada — there wasn’t a need to wait for it to travel from an international supplier. “This story shows that local manufacturing and local industry can solve a lot of these supply chain issues. We see this as an opportunity for us – we can manufacture parts and supplies companies need here in Canada.”
On the international side, Khara feels that TEBO Group can fill global demand with products they develop in Canada. “There is also a huge demand for skilled labour in South America and Europe. So there is a two-pronged opportunity for us — one is to solve the supply chain locally and the other is to solve global demand for both the products and skilled labour we can provide.”
As far as becoming a prime contractor internationally, they are working through RBC Global Connect to find projects that match their specialty as they can use keyword searches to find tenders in the markets that interest them most.
“Right now, we are 50/50 in terms of doing business in Canada and internationally,” says Khara. “But we expect to develop new channels in South East Asia and South Asia because they are developing countries with new ports that don’t have bulk handling systems, storage facilities, silo systems or conveyors. We have that kind of a specialty here, so we see a lot of opportunity coming up.” They can further use the portal to find more local partners that can help them expand.
TEBO Group is well-positioned to act on opportunities within Canada and internationally, by leveraging the tools and services available to them, finding partners that can complement their expertise and local guides that can support their efforts on the ground. Their experience shows that going global is indeed a team effort.
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