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How to Build a Company Culture Across International Borders

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Teams that can knock down cultural and geographical barriers and work together to solve problems, deliver an unmatched level of service to their customers and true value to shareholders.

While a dispersed team can present a challenge in many ways, there’s no greater force than a united company culture. An international culture that thrives is one built upon foundations of communication and teamwork.

But an international company can’t succeed on communication and teamwork alone. Four key elements are vital in uniting teams that cross borders.

Balance Differences

In my experience, there’s a balance required to lead individuals of different cultures. Especially in international business, where you can’t assume everyone is living and working in the same way. Being aware of differences is key to understanding what drives people to perform at their potential. From this understanding, we can build a culture everyone can rely on and gain from. Yet, focusing too much on what differentiates each person can limit your view of what unites them.

Balancing the two is essential for merging teams, restructuring for new projects, and tapping into new markets.

Find a New Model of Management for Global Culture

Companies are shifting from traditional management styles, where leaders are the all-knowing controller of employees, to an autonomous way of working. This is especially valuable when managing employees across international borders.

While setting expectations and holding people accountable is a huge part of any successful business venture, management teams must posses a level of fluidity that allows them to adapt to changing circumstances and employee needs. This type of forward thinking is now paramount in for future innovation and profitability.

Even more important is providing support digitally to these internationally dispersed teams—and encouraging everyone within the organization to do the same. Instead of managing based on logic and reason, try incorporating creativity, connectivity, and empathy into your everyday role to allow for cultural needs that may differ from your own.

Use Collective Intelligence

For any business to perform at maximum potential, the value of collective intelligence must be understood at the most basic level. We’ve all heard it: teamwork makes the dream work. This is an absolute truth and must be at the core of your company to experience growth.

When your business spans the globe, you can no longer rely on one or two people to bring brilliant ideas to the table. You need a collective group of intelligent people in each region you can rely on to execute. The foundation and onboarding process set early on is key.

When your business spans the globe, you can no longer rely on one or two people to bring brilliant ideas to the table.

To assess how you’re doing with this right now, and how you can improve, ask yourself: Do potential team members see your vision and share your purpose? Are they willing to evolve with your culture? If the answer to either of these is no, it’s time to make a change. You can’t be united physically, so you must stay united within the mission and vision of the organization.

Be Authentic

Authenticity is the most important factor for building company culture across international borders. McKenna Dalby, VP of People and Culture at Valeo, says it best. “The most important aspect in creating a global corporate culture is the authentic approach we take to allow each member in our tribe to be individualistic. Yet, in all we do, we stay true to our core values: Work Hard, Have Fun, Help Others. We encourage our people to find their unique approach in each category to fulfill their desired purpose and drive toward a common goal: Happy Tribe, Happy Vibe!”

Ted W. Rollins, Co-Chairman and Founding Principal of Valeo Groupe, is a seasoned real estate entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in real estate investment banking, development, structured finance, start-up businesses and construction. He is focused on niche opportunity investing in both real estate and financial service sectors, particularly those that balance economic, environmental and social outcomes. Connect with Ted on LinkedIn and Twitter.

What To Do When You Realize Your Product-Market Fit Is Wrong

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By Michael Serbinis, Founder of League and former CEO of Kobo
Keynote Speaker at the 2017 Globe and Mail Small Business Summit
May 9, 2017, Delta Toronto Hotel
For tickets visit:
Boost your business with actionable insights from Canada’s top entrepreneurs.

Join us for a day of insightful sessions, proven business growth strategies, and innovative ideas from the country’s brightest business leaders. The day features two streams of content, as well as a cocktail mixer, where you will have the opportunity to network with top entrepreneurs, Globe and Mail journalists and business peers. Attendees will walk away with the resources, education, and relationships you need to take your business to the next level.

The scariest point for any company is when they realize their product isn’t working for the market. The next scariest thing is fixing it.

Getting product-market fit right is critical to the success of any small business. As business owners, we know this. That’s why it’s especially terrifying when you realize you’ve got it wrong.

So what is product-market fit exactly? It’s the intersection where the products or services that a company offers meet the needs of consumers by either solving a problem or adding value to their lives. And they are willing to pay for it. And their lives would be worse if they couldn’t have your product. There are all kinds of measures, but when you have it, you know it. All of a sudden the gears of your business are no longer grinding; they are flying.

Continue reading

Surviving the bad interview blues

how-to-kick-ass-in-a-bad-job-interviewImage of serious businessman from Shutterstock.

Most companies seem not to have updated their recruitment practices since the 1980s. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that job seekers need, well, a job. So how do you gracefully endure those painful interviews? Writer Melissa Ligertwood‘s got the scoop.

Interviews are stressful at the best of times. Besides finding the perfect outfit to simultaneously convey confidence and humility, there’s the mental preparation for infinite interview questions and scenarios.

And that’s not all. You are expected to do homework, too. Continue reading

Clarify what you want out of life

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Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels but not achieving your goals? Or are you aspiring to material things – yet still feeling empty? Are you focused on all that glitters – but not your goals? A few words from entrepreneur Evan Carmichael on how getting caught up in the wrong details can lead you away from what’s truly meaningful in life.

I think people focus on the wrong things in life – or just in general.

Yup, People focus on the wrong things.

Like, you’re attached to, let’s say…a Porsche, right. You want the Porsche. Why do you want the Porsche?

Is it because you want the excitement? Maybe you just want it as a status symbol. So many people have these goals – like, I want to make X amount of dollars, or I want to go on that vacation, or I want to buy that car, or get a house – because it’s a status symbol, because they feel it’s some kind of sign. Continue reading

If you brand it, they will come

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It doesn’t matter if you’re a single-owned small business, or multi-national conglomerate, your brand is your face to the world. And all good brands have a great style guide – or at least, they all should. A simple document that outlines everything from the specific colours and type to logos and taglines used by a brand and where.

Admittedly, not everyone cares about such detail (fewer still actually get excited about it). So how do you get people fired up over branding? Simple. You make an event of it. Josh McInerney, Manager of Design and Creative at Ryerson University and self-professed design nerd, explains.

I love brand guideline booklets. If you’re a design nerd like me you’ll know what I’m talking about. Continue reading

So…you totally suck at social media (but you don’t have to)

you-suck-social-mediaImage of woman using phone from Shutterstock.

Whether you’re a newcomer getting accustomed to the nuances of different social platforms or constantly active on multiple social platforms, it’s important to keep in mind your personal reputation and maintaining professional business etiquette as a brand. Guest Author Meira Khosla, Social Media Manager for Outsite The Box, explains.

As the manager of multiple social media accounts across various platforms, I’ve had the opportunity to witness various ways people present themselves through their online personas.

I could go on and on about the dos and don’ts of social branding, but so as not to bore you, I’ll just  Continue reading

Creative Cultures: Anomaly stands out from the crowd


In our Creative Cultures series, we spend a day inside companies to learn how hiring, onboarding, and company culture play a role in employee happiness. From start-ups to design firms and all in-between, we’re pulling back the curtain on what it’s like to work in inventive and productive environments. Today, writer Helen Bullingham is at Anomaly.

Anomaly is a new model creative agency that gets things right on so many levels. The agency functions like a smooth set of lungs, breathing in the local art, music and social scene and simultaneously exhaling a very significant contribution to the art, culture and start-up scene in Toronto.

My interest in Anomaly was piqued by their unique IP (Intellectual Property) investment structure; part of their business model is to trade marketing expertise for an equity stake in businesses with potential. Continue reading

Man against machine: is your career automation-proof?

man-vs-machineImage of man at ATM from Shutterstock.

As larger shares of our work processes and workforce are being handled by machines, writer Dayton English gives an examination of the consequences and impact of the systems that were once deployed to make our lives easier are now replacing us, and provides strategies to ensure a robot doesn’t steal your job.

Every day the boundaries of possibility with technology are pushed to new horizons. Advances offer exciting innovations – it’s truly a wonderful time to be alive!

You can summon a driverless car from your smart phone. After a day out you’re free to go home and immerse yourself in a world of virtual reality, and stretch out Continue reading

Bad romance: when co-workers copulate

office-romanceImage of co-workers kissing from Shutterstock.

Your eyes meet over the photocopier, otherwise, early morning dull rides in the elevator morph into an exercise in stomach churning anxiety. “Coffee?” becomes code for “quickie?” in all its flirty, eyelash-fluttering intensity.

Office romances: the last surviving relic of the Madmen era workplace, and a very, very bad idea.

Yet, they are still incredibly popular, Bridget Jones had her Daniel Cleaver, Jim from The Office had Pam and of course – and perhaps most infamously of all, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Continue reading

You’re lucky to have a mentor: 10 tips to keep in mind

freshgigs-lucky-you-have-mentor-tooimage of young woman and man from Shutterstock.

Whether it’s finding a mentor willing to take you on, or finding one who fits your needs, consider yourself lucky if it all works out. So, if you’ve got one, and you’d like to keep him or her, for the love of God, don’t piss them off. Writer Fiona Tapp is gonna tell you how to keep your nose clean.

When I started teaching, I was mentored by an amazingly creative and experienced educator, he taught me so much and made me cry a few times, but I will be forever grateful for his tutelage. Over the course of my career, I have been on the other side of the equation and have personally mentored 10 trainee teachers. Continue reading