Opportunities North Indeed

After a few days of reflection on the recent Opportunities North conference held by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, there are a few major takeaways from the event. Before delving into those, it should be recognized that the organizers all did a wonderful job of facilitating an excellent exchange of ideas. The keynotes and speakers were all very interesting and contributed some amazing ideas and delivered inspiring messages.

I think the first, and penorthern-lights-over-northern-canada-1155202rhaps most important, takeaway is the need for further collaboration between north and south, diverse cultural groups, and the private and public entities that serve these regions. There is an undeniable trend of growth underway, and the hidden treasure of the North will soon be revealed to the rest of the world, making now the time to make inroads to the region and connections with its people.

At the mayors’ panel discussion, the conversation was centred on respect and mutual benefit. Edmonton is already perceived as a gateway to the north, and with Royal Dutch Airlines flying direct from Europe to Edmonton (link), this perception is likely to grow even further. I was very pleased to learn of the excellent output from NAIT, which, according to one account, is training almost 95% of the skilled workers in the Yukon and NWT.

The need for truth and reconciliation between indigenous populations and the rest of Canada was also a theme for the conference. Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson’s understanding of the 94 recommendations is to be commended, and I have vowed to familiarize myself with the items outlined in the document (link). The acknowledgement of treaty lands, and the general degree of acknowledgement of an often overlooked past has become a great step ahead for the reparation of the fractured relationship at the core of Canada.

Another major takeaway is the growing appeal of tourism north of 60. The growing interest, spearheaded by an outstanding marketing campaign developed in the Northwest Territories (link), has increased tourism activity by over 300%. The development of this industry will lead to a lot of economic activity for both the North and Edmonton, as Edmonton will become a significant travel hub for those gearing up for their journey northwards.

Digital innovation and technological development are the defining elements of Edmonton’s new growth phase. From the support centres like Tec Edmonton and Start-up Edmonton, to the global leading Google DeepMind, Shopify and Aurora setting up base here, the region’s attractiveness is growing daily. This innovation is providing access to and from formerly isolated locations, and enabling new entrepreneurial ventures and e-commerce to take root and thrive.

All in all, the Opportunities North 2017 conference should go down as a 5-star success. Shortly after the conference wrapped up, the Alberta and NWT governments signed an MOU for further collaboration, placing an exclamation mark on the week’s activities.

As the needle of the compass faces north, so should we all. There is a lot of opportunity under all that ice.


Adapting to Outsourcing Partnerships

On paper, outsourcing makes a lot of sense. Paying less to accomplish a business objective and getting more of your time back both lead to a healthier mind and a healthier business. So the choice is obvious, right?

Once an outsourcing relationship has been properly established, the benefits are apparent, but there is a step in between that is often not given enough thought and attention: building a strong foundation for healthy partnerships.

Let’s use the example of an inbound call centre that provides telephone answering services and scheduling services. Pretend you are operating a health services clinic. You come across a call centre on a Google search and call in requesting information. What happens next?

This first step may seem obvious, just share your needs with the call centre and they should be able to match their service capabilities to fulfill your requirements. But is that enough? Are you aware of all of the services the call centre can offer to you? Are you fully aware of how you are currently meeting your requirements, and the “personality” that your company currently has? Most importantly, do you have the proper mindset to make the most of this new relationship?

puzzle pieces

When communicating, be prepared. Take ten minutes before you call in to identify your needs. Ask yourself, at what price point does it make sense for us to outsource? What are the most important aspects of service that need to be fulfilled? Why is this the right step for the growth and progress of my business? And how am I currently completing this business process.

Once you are aware of these details, you will be better prepared to hear what they have to say. Inform the call centre of what you are looking for and then listen. Are they offering a solution that meets your needs? Was the way they received your call how you would like your customers to be received? And keep an open mind; there may be services that you have not considered that may be able to add value to your business.

After establishing a general framework for your communications, get ready for implementation. In this stage, it is important to be patient and to pay attention to details. Understanding that relationship building is an organic process will lead to the best outcomes.

Do not make the mistake of expecting everything to be exactly as you want it immediately, losing your cool when things do not go according to plan. Instead, be proactive in identifying problems and communicating those concerns in a timely manner. Within a short period of time, the service will become tailored to your needs.

As time passes be diligent in maintaining and updating your service. Relationships are like gardens, the more attention you give them the more they will bloom and grow and produce for you.

So the four keys for local outsourcing are:

  1. Know your needs and situation clearly ahead of time
  2. Listen to your options with an open mind
  3. Be patient, pay attention to details, and be proactive in asking for changes
  4. Be persistent with maintaining communication and keeping things fresh

It can be hard to let go of control of parts of your business, but that stress and uncertainty can be alleviated by taking certain measures to ensure you are partnering with the right people for the right reasons and the right returns.