Americans don’t understand Canadians – that’s a fact

Americans don’t understand Canadians – that’s a fact. We rudely think you are our 51st state and are surprised when you speak a foreign language. Not French, English. And Canadians are so nice! What’s up with that?

That sets the stage for taking a Canadian business to the U.S. – you are entering a foreign country.

Bringing a franchise to the U.S. seems relatively easy but it is still a foreign expansion just as launching in Brazil would be! So, before considering that expansion, you have to plan for this market and these are key items to consider.

1) We are big. Yes, you have greater landmass, but we populate almost every square inch of ours. Canada spans 3.855 million square miles to the U.S.’s 3.794 million square miles, but in population Canada averages 9.027 people per square mile while in the U.S. there are 82.74 people per square mile (according to 2012 records).

This requires substantially greater marketing budgets for franchise sales as well as brand awareness and consumer marketing. It also takes a much greater effort to make a dent in the market and be seen. All this must be considered, budgeted and staffed for.

2) We aren’t United. Don’t be fooled by our name – we are not a united nation until outsiders annoy us. Each state has it’s own laws, culture, foods and way of speaking. Our politics vary widely by state, and a different immigrant group settled each. We are very proud of our state’s uniqueness. That means that messaging needs to be changed slightly in each market and for food – it could require variations on your menus, recipes or expediting. The changes are subtle, but necessary for success.

We also have variations in disclosure laws and some states require a separate registration of your FDD and Franchise Agreements. Consider and budget for this as you plan your franchise sales campaigns and unit economics.

3) We don’t speak English. As one who writes manuals, I can tell you that we are not masters of the English language and it goes far beyond the “s vs.z” and “extra u” controversies. The American education system does not focus on vocabulary, spelling, grammar and syntax and encourages regional and cultural slang.

This means that your documents have to be written in plain and simple English. Sadly, most people in the U.S. read at an 8th grade level, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, so accommodate that in your marketing, correspondence, training and manuals.

Like Canada, we are a nation of immigrants and have countless languages spoken throughout the country. Consider this when you design your unit-level documentation and consider having key elements translated into languages of that state’s workers.

4) We are litigious. Canadians are renowned for their pleasant personalities and good manners. Americans are … not. We are generally good people, but we are a little “full” of ourselves and that can be obnoxious and can translate to a heightened level of litigation.

We might be friends over a meal but when crossed we are quick to sue. Anyone can and will sue for anything and the courts will make the decision. So, when you enter the U.S. market be clear in your agreements and contracts, have your system well designed and thought through, document it well and keep all the promises you make. We will appreciate the grace and warmth with which you do this, but if done wrong, it won’t stop us from going to court.

5) We are an economic powerhouse. We are not perfect and we don’t want to be. We are who we are and part of that is that at $16.2 trillion we are the largest economy in the world (China is right behind us at $9 trillion). Success in the United States can mean great gains to your company and can spell success the world over.

So, despite our quirks and bumps, the American market can be a great opportunity for any brand – just be prepared. Take your time and make a long-term plan to win in this market and your chances of success are greater.

This is the market you want to be in and we want you here. We may not be as nice as Canadians, but we welcome you. Heck, you are the 51st state, after all.