Discover a Global Saskatchewan
through Bryan McCrea
Chief Executive Officer, 3Twenty Solutions
What are your responsibilities at 3twenty Solutions?
Well, that depends on the day. Being the co-founder of a startup means that one day you can be cleaning offices and the next day you could be meeting international business executives over a multi-million dollar deal. But overall I would say my responsibilities are to plan and execute strategic goals so that we can provide value to our shareholders and customers.
How long have you held your position there?
What does your company gain by being international?
It’s hard to be in business now without thinking internationally a little bit. By being international, we are gaining options to grow. Business is about choices, and if you’re unaware of your options, you can’t grow. So by being international, we’re growing opportunities which in turn help us to grow. Also, being international also helps us gain insight on new and innovative ways of doing business from other countries and cultures. This helps inspire and challenge us!
What other positions have you held that had an international focus?
Before founding 3twenty I worked at AREVA, who are the world’s largest uranium company. It was a great experience because it gave me insight on both international business opportunities, as well as how a multinational corporation actually does business. Prior to that, I was part of Junior Team Canada for Global Vision, where I represented my group and my country on international trips and trade missions.
What first interested you in international business and how did you first get involved?
It all started when my now-wife and I went backpacking through India, Nepal and South America. It was on those trips that I was inspired to combine business and travel. Because I love travel so much, I wanted to bring business to travel and travel to business! But at the same time, it’s always been one of those things that’s hard to ignore. Every business has an international component now. It’s hard to believe, but when you realize that international economics impact everyone down to a plumber in Saskatchewan, in terms of cost of materials and such, you realize how important international business is!
What kind of training or degree does your job require? Is there any training you wish you would have had?
I graduated from the Edwards School of Business with a BComm in Accounting and an interest in Finance, and after that I received my CMA designation. My degree may not be necessary for the CEO of a startup, but it’s been incredibly helpful. As for training I wish I would have had, I don’t think I’ve missed out on anything. However, I’m a lifelong learner and I feel the best learning experiences are the ones you have in the real world, where you can take time to reflect on them.
What skills have you picked up abroad that have been the most useful in your business career?
I think the most important skill I’ve acquired is the ability to think differently, which is something you can pick up by seeing people in different economic situations. When you travel, you learn to communicate and use your body language, which helps you navigate situations better. This all then helps you do business better at home. Additionally, this can also be helpful for doing business with new Canadians, as you’re sensitive to how they do business, which is a great advantage.
What countries have you travelled to for business?
Mexico, China, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, & Singapore (with Junior Team Canada), as well as an upcoming trip to India.
Who have been the most interesting people you've met abroad?
I think the most interesting people I’ve met abroad are actually other young people, like myself. I mean, at CEO summits I’ve met the CEO of Talisman Oil, the CEO of DHL, Jack Ma, the CEO of alibaba.com (the world’s largest b2b marketplace). But still, the most interesting people I’ve met are other young businesspeople and entrepreneurs. They’re the ones I stay in touch with. It’s really cool to learn from each other about doing business and raising capital in different parts of the world. Also, now I have a lot of friends all over the world! A great example would be when I represented Canada at the G20 summit in Mexico. Because of that, I now have business and personal contacts there. Also, there are a lot of influential people in the world, but it will be a different group of people in 15 years and my peer group may be among them!
What are the biggest communications barriers you’ve encountered while doing business abroad?
The biggest barrier to doing business abroad is communications itself, alongside being aware of things like culture, foreign exchange risk and changing time zones. However, the challenges of doing business abroad are some of the things that make it exciting! It makes it interesting, and gives you more reasons to try a career in international business.
What has been the most significant business trip you have been on?
I have two that come to mind. The first was the APEC CEO Summit in Lima, Peru, in 2009. Not only did I meet with Prime Minister Harper several times, but the experience was also memorable because I was able to express my opinion on several matters and was listened to. Also, while we were there, Canada and Columbia signed a Free Trade Agreement and I was able to be in the room while it happened. After the signing, I had the privilege of speaking with the (now former) President of Columbia and the First Lady, using conversational Spanish I’d picked up backpacking through South and Central America.
The second most significant trip would be the trip I took to China with Chang Li, 3twenty’s Manager of International Operations & Business Processes to meet with high-level executives of a very large company there. We were very effective in achieving our goals, and to be treated the way we were by the Chinese was very cool.
What has been the longest time you have spent abroad for business?
Two weeks, for trips to both China and Mexico.
When traveling for business, do you prefer to travel directly in-and-out, or do you take your time?
If I have a choice I prefer to take my time, but of course sometimes you have to get in and get out as quickly as possible. However I think it’s important that if I’m doing business in a country, that I’ve already travelled there for other purposes first. If you do that, not only will you have a better understanding of the country, but when someone you’re doing business with asks “Oh, have you been to such-and-such?” you can say “Yes, I have!” That’s great for building partnerships and relationships.
What can Saskatchewan businesses and businesspeople do to continue to make Saskatchewan an international business centre?
We need to continue to welcome newcomers to this province. It’s a huge part of what makes us international, and welcoming new people here is the second best thing to us going there ourselves. Also, newcomers to the province can have great business contacts back home, which can present other great opportunities. Other things Saskatchewan businesses and businesspeople can do is be supportive of fiscal and monetary policies that will encourage foreign direct investment in Saskatchewan, as well as always keeping our eyes and ears open for international business opportunities. Additionally, we need to avoid falling into a protectionist mindset. That being said, there also needs to be a balanced approach.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in international business?
At the very bottom of it, you should travel; the way to get into international business is to travel. Also, the standard way of getting a job in international business is to join a Canadian company that does business in other countries, but I’d recommend something different. Go work for a company in another country; just by being hired by the company you’ve already begun to become international, in a sense. Also, learning a language is extremely important. When I backpacked through South America, I picked up enough Spanish so that I was comfortable holding a conversation. This later allowed me to have a conversation with the former President of Columbia and the First Lady, as I mentioned. Also, the benefits of one language over another aren’t really important, as long as they’re related to the area you want to work in and focus on.
What opportunities are currently available to those who want to pursue a career in international business?
There are so many opportunities! Almost every industry has an international element now. However, people need to clarify what exactly international business is and what it involves. People think that international business is all about jetting all over the globe, and it’s not; that’s about 2% of the actual work that happens. Most of the work in international business is doing research in offices, behind computers, or on the ground at events like trade shows. However, the opportunities are out there, especially in other countries. For example, Nathan Flaman, who I graduated with, went to work at Cameco and was then approached by BHP Billiton. He now lives and works in Australia. I’d say give a guy like that a few years with BHP to learn how business is done over there and around the world, and then bring him back here, maybe even to run Cameco! The point is, you should gain experience and knowledge elsewhere first, and then it bring it back to Saskatchewan.
What's next for your company, internationally?
Our plan is to keep our company growing and open to new opportunities abroad. We’re also not oblivious to the fact that the number of opportunities abroad is always growing too.
Which countries are your favorites to do business in?
Well I love doing business in South America. I’ve travelled there extensively, and I love Spanish culture and the people. If I could find a way of doing business there, I would! However I also love to do business wherever I’m challenged, so North Africa, where I’m travelling to shortly, could be next!
What has been your best experience or adventure abroad?
There have been so many. The trip to Peru was definitely one. But I think the best was when my wife and I volunteered to teach English in Ecuador. It was wonderful just to see the students smile when they came to class or when we walked them home. They had hopeful smiles that, as a Western person accustomed to a certain lifestyle and level of comfort said, “What you have and where you come from, I want that too!” The young people I meet, I remember them more than the hands I shake.
What has been your best culinary experience overseas?
India has the best food in the world, for sure. I love real butter chicken and naan bread.
What do you miss most about Saskatchewan while abroad?
To be honest, I miss the gym, and my routine of going to the gym every morning. Also, I like to eat a ton of yoghurt, and sometimes I can’t get my yoghurt fix abroad! Lastly, I like to be connected, so I miss always having cell service.
What is your favorite souvenir from abroad?
My favorite souvenir would be my traditional Bhutanese outfit that I received in Bhutan, the (gho and kabney(?)). Everyone in Bhutan still wears them, and the outfits are so neat and colorful. Bhutan is also an amazing country; the capital city only has one traffic light!
What is your absolute favorite travel destination?
Well I haven’t travelled everywhere yet, so I don’t have a favorite yet. I won’t know until I’ve seen everything!
What is your favorite way to travel?
I really like travelling in the back of a truck. You really get to know local people that way.
Are you a window or aisle person?
I’m an aisle person. I like to get up and walk around.
On an airplane, do you chat with your neighbors or are you politely quiet?
If I’m flying international I like to talk to people, but if I’m flying domestically I prefer to be politely quiet.
What is your favorite pastime while travelling?
I like to catch up on emails and fill up my outbox so I can send them all as soon as I have internet access. I also enjoy in-flight movies, which my wife complains about. Whenever she wants to see a movie, I’ve already seen it on the plane!
What is your packing philosophy?
I like to pack light, so light that I could get by on just my carry-on alone if I had to. Also, I always bring Canadian flag pins with me.
If we opened up your carry-on luggage, what might we find?
My computer, the Lonely Planet guidebook for whatever country I’m travelling to, my business cards, my toothbrush, deodorant, my iPad, and my cell phone and its charger.
What is one item you never travel without?
My camera, and I always have my passport, even if I’m flying domestically. You never know when a call will come in and you’ll have to be on a plane somewhere right then and there.
In a few words, how would you describe Saskatchewan's international trade success?
Saskatchewan’s international trade success is not yet fully attained. Yes, we’ve been successful in international marketplaces, but there’s still a lot more that we can do. We have what it takes to be a global supplier, a global competitor, and a global player.
Although it appears to be a recent development, most people are unaware that Saskatchewan has been a significant global exporter for decades. Why do you think this has been largely unknown?
We’ve had a change in the business environment and also in our mindset that has made us realize that we’re an international province, and we celebrate it now. Travel has also changed things. A few decades ago, travel was a relative luxury, where now it’s much more common. Not only has this created new opportunities, but it’s also helped us be aware of our international status. Lastly, both immigration and technology have brought people from all over the world closer together, and helped us understand just how important we are. However, I’d like to add that due to my age, we’ve never been un-international in my mind.
How important is getting your name out there and building a professional network globally to a career in international business?
I think building a global network is the most important thing to thinking about, acting on and sustaining an international business career. The names you know and the friends you make are more important than the hands you shake. As I said before, there are a ton of global leaders and in influencers, but in 15 years my friends may be among them!