The Ivany Report

There were few surprises in the recently released Report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy “Now or Never: an Urgent call to ACTION for Nova Scotians” commonly referred to as the Ivany Report, named after the commission chairperson, Ray Ivany, president of Acadia University. In my mind this report was not a “How To” but rather a “Why To”. It is not up to government to grow our businesses, it is the job of the owners and managers of businesses to do that.

A significant theme of the Report is the need for major growth in exports and organizations that do export. There are a number of global oriented businesses in Nova Scotia and you may be one of them or could be one of them. We certainly need many more.

The purpose of this piece is to present an action item for companies to follow in order to propel global growth. The Ivany Report has 19 Goals and this article addresses:

No. 2 – International Immigration;

No. 3 – Retention of International Students;

No. 5 – Value of Exports; and

No. 6 – Firms Participating in Export Trade.

What we must do

If you have an interest in global trade, I would suggest the following two steps:

Step 1 – Determine your strategy for entering or growing your global revenues. This should be a separate, but linked, strategy from your existing domestic oriented strategies. This step would include identifying countries or regions of prime interest.

Step 2 – Hire people here who come from the targeted areas. Options include:

  • Participate in the Co-op programs offered by local post-secondary institutions, by offering co-op positions to international students.;
  • Employ international students through student internships/part time jobs or summer jobs;
  • Hire an international student upon their graduation; and
  • Contact ISIS (Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services) for leads on immigrants from the target countries.

Some of the benefits of hiring these part-time or permanent global citizens:

  1. Acclimatize your staff to your target markets. They can get a sense of language, culture and history, how to do business in their home countries, and so on. This can take place in business meetings and social environments including lunches. My partner, Chris Hornberger, and I recently went to my favourite Chinese restaurant with Yuqian Zheng, a Chinese student from the Sobey School of Business. I was surprised when the waitress brought the regular menus but also gave Yuqian a different menu with traditional Chinese dishes. Just reading the menu items was an eye opener as Yuqian explained the various dishes and we all ordered from this menu and enjoyed dishes that we never heard of before.
  2. Who better to research the foreign marketplaces than someone who is from there and who can access and analyse material in their native languages.
  3. Your workplace will benefit from cultural diversity and from receiving the opinions and input from those you come from very different backgrounds.
  4. The retention of bright, business oriented professionals here in Nova Scotia.

Large companies

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the topic and theme of this article to Bob Wight, CFO at Clearwater Seafoods, and he said that this is exactly what they have been doing and he put me in touch with Linda Hutchinson, their Director of Human Resources. They have been very proactive in engaging with our post-secondary institutions and hiring international students while they are studying and upon graduation. They have brought Co-op students on board and sent them to China for their work term with the plan to hire the student upon graduation and employ them in China. In addition, they have hired immigrants through ISIS.

Clearwater has been growing their Far East markets at a great pace and the aforementioned hiring practices are helping to fuel that growth.

Small companies

You don’t have to be a large company to engage in the hiring of international students and immigrants and a prime example is our firm. Over our eleven year history we have always had fewer than ten dedicated resources. A number of years ago we brought on an African student from Saint Mary’s on a Co-op assignment. More recently we hired an Australian lawyer who was here with a temporary work visa. She was an outstanding contributor to our management consulting practice.

Sometimes you have to broaden your views relating to the contributions people can make to your business even though they just might not fit into the parameters of a “job description”.

It’s up to us – the private sector

We have to do this ourselves, folks. Nobody is going to take our hand and gently walk us down the path to the global workplace. And we must be cognizant of the fact that even if we don’t export we are part of the global workplace. Look at who your competitors are or could be. Look at the companies up and down your supply/customer chain.

I challenge you to make an international hire this year – in 2014, whether a short term or permanent position. Yes this will help Nova Scotia achieve its goals as outlined by the Ivany Report but this action should help you attain your goals!

Next blog

I will be following this article with another also addressing the attraction of global citizens to Nova Scotia. It will feature my own globe-trotting son and how he has personally arranged for visitors from the United States, Norway, Finland, Germany, Austria and The Czech Republic to visit Nova Scotia as tourists or as temporary foreign workers.

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