Like many successful global trade professionals, I began my career in the domestic market, where I spent two decades honing my business skills.
I started in the sports facility and sporting goods industry, where I held management positions that led to a position in retail sports management and leading training initiatives.
From there I was recruited to work for the Canadian Cancer Society. Some people find it an unusual leap to go from the competitive retail world to the not-for-profit sector.
However, I often find myself reminding folks that the methods and best practises are the same, and I enjoyed the challenge of working in a new sector.
Recruited into the global trade world
While at the Canadian Cancer Society, I was approached to join a company that was expanding in North America.
My career in international trade then began in inside sales at Cobham Tracking & Locating, a subsidiary of the larger Cobham group, which is a global player in aerospace, defence, and electronics.
I worked my way up to an account manager position for marine, aerospace and defence systems, serving over 900 clients and distributors worldwide. Many of these distributors, particularly those located in England, Germany, Japan, Singapore and India, have become lifelong friends.
The sectors I serviced during this time ranged from oceanographic and marine technology, to oil and gas, aerospace, and defence.
This meant I worked with military and academic research facilities worldwide managing high-level logistics processes, including International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Controlled Goods Regulations, Global Affairs Canada, and the U.S. Department of State.
This position required an in-depth knowledge of contract law and government regulations as they relate to commercial and contract functions. I gained experience in drafting and negotiating long-term supply and purchase agreements, as well as distribution agreements, collaboration/teaming agreements and non-disclosure agreements.
One of my biggest responsibilities was identifying key areas in contract terms supplied by other parties that would represent a significant risk to the company.
Getting hooked on FITTskills
During this time, I became aware of the FITTskills program. Although I had learned a great deal in my position at Cobham, I felt there was still much more to learn about managing a global supply chain.
At that time, the first course available through FITT’s delivery partner Nova Scotia Business Inc. was Legal Aspects of International Trade. After completing the first course, I was hooked! From there, I was determined to complete the remaining modules and become certified in international trade.
Taking FITTskills courses was such a rich learning opportunity.
The practical FITTskills content, knowledge and first-hand experiences of the instructor, and the interaction and sharing between my fellow participants was, and continues to be, beneficial.
The connections I made in the global trade community have been extremely valuable and I have stayed in touch with many of them over the years.
Striking out on my own with the help of some brilliant business leaders
Eventually my role changed, as some of the products were sold to another company. After following through and establishing the product line with the new ownership, I realized it was time for a change.
I decided to pursue a career in consulting.
I recognized that many companies had a great deal to offer in the export market, yet there was a reticence to move past the perceived safe and comfortable borders because of a gap in knowledge on how to access foreign markets and the very real fear of the unknown.
I began my new business as a sole proprietor, building my company and reputation through subcontracting services to Kisserup International Trade Roots Inc. The founder of Kisserup, Pernille Fischer Boulter, CITP|FIBP, has many years of experience in international business development.
She has assisted thousands of small, micro and medium-sized private sector companies, trade and industry associations, and government agencies in their pursuit of export development worldwide.
Pernille generously assists those who are new to business, particularly in international trade, and she also has been a FITTskills instructor for many years. Working with Pernille and her team solidified both my knowledge and reputation, while building my experience assisting entrepreneurs from a variety sectors and geographic locations.
I connected with Bonnie O’Toole, President of Market Pursuits Inc., during my time in the FITTskills program, when we partnered up on our international business plan project.
In 2013, I joined her at Market Pursuits, once again subcontracting services to help businesses select target markets, access funding, and cut costs. We specialized in business development, marketing and business plans, government and community relations, funding proposals, and productivity optimization.
She has an amazing reputation in the Atlantic business community, known for her wealth of knowledge and quick grasp of business process improvements. Bonnie’s mentorship was crucial in developing my ability to create and deliver quality training to my clients.
Both Pernille and Bonnie have been extremely generous and influential, as both colleagues and mentors.
Educating myself to empower others
I am a strong believer in lifelong education. I spent 24 years as a an elected school board member and have found myself naturally gravitating to leadership positions on a local, provincial and national basis in both my professional and volunteer activities.
I knew many individuals and businesses could expand the way mine had, and I knew I wanted to help enable others. This passion led me undertake training and skill-building to better deliver information to those of all generations and learning styles.
Subsequently, I have been able to grow through many professional development opportunities. I earned my CITP®|FIBP® accreditation in 2012, and completed my Masters of Project Management from St. Mary’s University in 2013.
I also have several workplace educator certificates through the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
I make a special effort to attend and promote events supporting new entrepreneurs. I am also a guest lecturer at universities and other post-secondary institutions and have been asked to serve as an expert panelist for national organizations.
I’ve been fortunate to help a great number of organizations with my leadership coaching, team facilitation, training, and business development expertise. One milestone I’m quite proud of is that I’ve now done business development in over 30 countries.
A large part of this is teaching the world-renowned FITTskills training and partnering to deliver Going Global workshops here in Canada and beyond.
I also provide personal training with Corporate Class Inc., mentoring leaders, key management and up-and-comers through customized training that aligns academic and technical expertise with individual, professional potential.
My training activities provide a great deal of satisfaction to me professionally and personally.
I love breaking down seemingly complex situations into manageable pieces or steps for participants. It is that moment, when they make the connection and identify their strategy, which I find most gratifying.
Taking on a new business challenge as I go BEYOND
In September 2015, I changed my business structure, incorporating as BEYOND Ventures Group Business & Trade Development Inc. For me, BEYOND poses a new direction, challenge, and to some degree, risk.
My goal with BEYOND is to partner with organizations globally to provide our clients with a competitive advantage. Our team is a diverse pool of enthusiastic local and international consultants, each of whom have a specialized area of expertise, enabling our clients and partners to succeed beyond their expectations and beyond borders.
We are committed to the growth and development of small and medium-sized (SME) enterprises from a wide range of economic and industry sectors, building capacity and increasing their global reach.
BEYOND has already proven to be a success, with targets exceeding plan in the first two quarters and committed work to carry us through until our year end. The growth has been organic and steady, leading to a shortage of what many business owners struggle to find as well – time.
Facing the demands of the business I love
International business is exciting, but never easy. Global business professionals are faced with the requirement for frequent travel, often hampered by inconsistent internet connectivity, and challenged by cultural differences, as well as the pressures of meeting deadlines in different time zones and schedules.
Fortunately, the world is getting smaller every day through technology such as teleconferencing, videoconferencing, email, and social media that allow us to interact daily on a global basis.
Even so, my work schedule can be challenging, since I am constantly working across time zones. That means I am often up at very early hours connecting to the EU, and working late nights for my clients in Australia.
A particular concern is navigating time zones during the switch to and from daylight savings, and being aware of holiday observances within my clients’ markets. Once, during a business trip to the EU, I forgot about the one-hour time difference between England and the Netherlands.
After leaving England, as I was about to land in the Netherlands, I realized my error. Thank goodness I booked a rental car with a Tom Tom, or I would never have made it on time to my meeting. As it was, I arrived with only five minutes to spare.
I have been fortunate to see so many of the beautiful people and places in the world.
Quite often, I will steal a few hours early in the morning after the final day of a trade mission to swim in the ocean, go for a walk, or find some way to build a memorable moment before heading home and on to the next challenge.
Most memorable to me are the people I have had the good fortune of working with. I am constantly in awe of their knowledge, skills and generosity.
I am looking to grow BEYOND, to partner with like-minded entrepreneurs and provide short and long-term employment to individuals, particularly recent graduates and student interns, to ensure we provide our talent with opportunities through experience.
My five year plan will have this solid foundation in place, enabling businesses in Canada and abroad reach their dreams….and beyond!