Why Nova Scotian Businesses Should Collaborate More Locally But Think More Globally
Michael DeVenney
October 4, 2021

I love Nova Scotians. I admire who we are – our energy, our creativity, and our spirit. Our humor! Yet, I wonder if we see it in ourselves. Do we have the confidence in what we bring to the world? There are times when I think we let our mindset limit the possibilities we need to make a broader impact, beyond our own borders. It feels like the further we look outside, the smaller we sense the door is to succeed and we hold ourselves back.

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When we move up the chain of potential scope of impact, it seems like we falter and look for someone that ‘comes from away’ to bolster us, as if we do not deserve the success. And we are being groomed as entrepreneurs to look for the ‘safety and credibility’ of outside investors to take our ideas forward, rather than taking it to the next level ourselves.

Do we appreciate the brilliance of what we have to offer, or do we hold ourselves back with self-imposed fences on our thinking?

Something I picked up over the pandemic is about boundaries, and not the physical distancing kind but rather the mental borders we have in place. I found that the lines I had drawn in the past were the result of limiting my thinking and headspace. The shifts from the coronavirus have thrown those limitations out and opened my perspective to a different space.

When we launched our product in February, I was focused on building a clientele in Halifax. That is where I am – apparently, body and mind. We developed a clear ideal target client and my business development efforts centered on our big city.

Brian and Tyler, who work with me and are younger and more open than me, broached the idea of looking at other markets and I felt strongly that we needed to get grounded in Halifax before venturing to the rest of Atlantic Canada. And they were talking about finding business outside of Canada – not just Atlantic Canada! It was crazy talk and I responded cautiously, dismissively, that maybe in time after we had a solid foundation here at home.

And then the pandemic happened. We moved everything online and provided a purely virtual product offering. It was not that difficult as we had an analytic software wrapped with consulting support so being in person was not a necessity. The ability to provide our work virtually enabled us to be more agile and nimble, customizing to a greater extent to fit what was needed, providing more value for our clients.

And then Brian hit me with the bigger thought.

In his role developing new clients, using his connections is an obvious opening for gaining access to people. The challenge was that his network was based in Dubai where he had worked in the past, and that was way outside my mental boundaries. Brian opened the discussion about working with clients in other parts of Canada, or even in Dubai and other countries where he had people who wanted to work with him and use our product. And I still hesitated. It was not the way we used to do things.

That thought stopped me in my tracks. I detest doing things the way we did and that closed approach to thinking. Done deal for me. If we were adding clients who fit the ideal target profile and they were in Edmonton or Vancouver, or even Brussels and Dubai, why not work with them. They want what we offer, we can deliver fully online, they appreciate our work - what is the problem?

I got it. It is working with the right client that matters most, not that they are necessarily six blocks away from me. These clients valued what we offered, and I needed to have the confidence that we had something world-class to bring to the table. And by opening relationships with clients in different parts of Canada and the world we also can diversify our revenue stream and provide greater financial stability for the business. Even better, we learn about the perspectives on doing business in many regions and that adds to what we can offer other clients.

I love Nova Scotia (I was born here and am eighth-generation Nova Scotian), but it can also be a small place. My boundaries needed to be much more flexible. And I need to keep learning and not get caught in the past – Brian and Tyler opened my eyes to the opportunity.

When I worked on The Mindset Project (www.themindsetproject.com), assessing entrepreneurs, mental health and decision-making, one insight that stayed with me was the limitation on export. In our research, only 22% of businesses in Nova Scotia exported their products and services. Yet the companies that did had higher revenues and profits on average. Still, there was a boundary we could not seem to cross. There has been much government support for encouraging export (www.exportdevelopmentcanada.ca) and, again, we hesitate to move.

Why are we so complacent? I think we are hesitant to try, wondering if we are good enough to compete in the global market. But we have brilliant offerings here and businesses and consumers outside of our own community, province, or region will see the value if we take a confident approach. Interestingly, in a time of uncertainly, our confidence to push beyond our boundaries strengthened.

Yes, you need to have a strategy and plan and we are putting that in place, supporting Brian to work with his network offering our product to companies who see the value that we bring. It just does not matter anymore that they are in Halifax.

It is ironic that only when the borders were physically closed that the boundaries for doing business outside of the province and country came down. Most businesses have found that we can shake up the chain and deliver our products and services online, broadening our overall market outside of our own hometown.

The product we have makes a meaningful difference for companies and we want to show the world what we can bring. By looking outside of our boundaries, physical and mental, we opened the potential growth of our business. The same is true for other companies. We have come a long way in the past three months, now there is nothing stopping us from going further without borders.

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