The benefits of businesses engaging in exports are many, but in a word, it comes down to growth. Export activity can catalyze the growth of Nova Scotia’s economy, as well as its individual businesses, global profile, international relationships, labour market and ability to attract and retain youth.
“My motivation as CEO is similar to my motivation as a mom . . . I want Nova Scotia to be a place where our children have opportunity,” said Laurel Broten, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI).
“It is a great place to live, but it’s critically important for people to have fulfilling jobs that allow them to have the quality of life that they want. We need to expand this economy to ensure our children and grandchildren can call Nova Scotia home if they want to.”
As the business development agency for the province, NSBI plays an acute role in creating that possibility. By working with small businesses to build their capacity to export, as well as attracting companies who have the potential to invest, grow or hire here, they would like to see Nova Scotia’s economy grow significantly larger than its geographic footprint.
It goes without saying that technology enables people and companies to expand beyond their physical reach — but for many, the idea of serving a market outside the one you know best is intimidating. Especially if your business wasn’t designed with international connectivity in mind — the logistics can feel too complicated to tackle.
NSBI is launching a program this fall that will help to dissolve the mental barriers to exporting and further shift Nova Scotians’ mindset toward “thinking exports first.”
Called the ConnectNS Global Advisor Program, it will connect successful, seasoned professionals from around the world to executives and entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia who are looking for advice and insights about serving international markets.
“Exporting is something many, many companies do and it’s not something we should be scared of,” said Broten. “Of course there are things you have to figure out, but answering those questions are things we can help with.”
Members of the NSBI team will recruit, vet and match program participants, and Nova Scotia’s well-established coffee culture will do the rest. Newly connected contacts will meet for a coffee by Skype or phone. The comfort Nova Scotians have with “talking shop” in this way will undoubtedly help to alleviate some exporting jitters and bring ease to what could otherwise be a daunting conversation.
“When I first moved to Nova Scotia, I saw it first hand,” said Broten. “Nova Scotians are very generous with their time. They’ll meet you, give you advice and introduce you to somebody else. We did a pilot test of this idea in 2014 and since that time, we’ve been working to develop a methodology that would allow us to run this not as a pilot, but as a permanent program.”
So far, NSBI has confirmed 80 global advisers to participate in the program and offer seasoned advice to new or aspiring exporters. That experience of feeling bridged and connected all around the world can be transformative.
“It really lets us pave the way for a globally connected province with globally connected businesses,” said Broten.
But what about the advisers themselves — what’s in it for them to help companies in Nova Scotia grow?
“It’s an opportunity to give back,” said Broten. “The individuals that we’ve spoken to really want to see Nova Scotia succeed and they’re willing to put their hand up to be part of that. Whether they have a connection as a visitor, former resident, through family roots, or as alumni of one of our universities, this is a group of individuals who have a strong affinity for Nova Scotia.”
The long-term impact of harnessing those emotional ties will help to position Nova Scotia for achieving the bold targets set out in the One Nova Scotia report, which calls for increasing both the total value of our experts and the number of firms participating in export trade by 50 per cent.
“We want to see our economy be as globally connected as our kids, so we’re ready when they are,” said Broten. “We need to work together to raise the culture of exports in this province and make sure businesses large and small receive the message that you can offer products or services that are in global demand.”