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As the chief executive officer of a Canadian-based global organization, I travel extensively – and I proudly wave my Canadian flag everywhere I go. Why? Because in my experience, Canadians are well-respected around the world and that gives us an advantage in business.
Here are some things I often hear about Canadians when I’m abroad – perceptions that can help open doors to deals, opportunities and success internationally:
1. Canadians are diplomatic
The world has changed since Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957, but we still have a reputation as a peace-making country, and in most global forums – the UN, the European Union, the Group of Seven, and so forth – we are well-respected. This, in my opinion, is largely because we don’t try to force our values on others. We have a small voice on the global stage but we’re okay with that; grandstanding isn’t the Canadian way. In business, we are more open to trying things differently instead of expecting our global partners to follow our lead, which can be a huge benefit. Listen, pay attention, and let diplomacy guide your actions.
2. Canadians are diverse
I’ve been told many times that Canadians seem to have an innate ability to understand and adapt to different cultural situations and I believe that is because our nation embraces multiculturalism. We encourage immigrants to celebrate their cultures, foods, religions and ways of life. This rich diversity means we are known to be open-minded and welcoming – a wonderful reputation to precede you whether you are entering into a negotiation with an organization on the other side of the world.
3. Canadians are financially savvy
I’ve been hearing this more recently, since we came through the financial crisis relatively unscathed. It’s an excellent reputation to have if you’re planning to do business on the global stage. Our banking system is known to be one of the most stable in the world, and we operate within a sound regulatory framework. It may not be perfect – Canada, like any other country, is not immune to threats of low inflation or high consumer debt for instance – but comparatively speaking, our financial foundation is strong and you can use that to help you open doors to international business.
4. Canadians are team players
Just look at our national sport of hockey. We know how to collaborate. And win gold. Team work and collaboration, of course, are critical in any business, and Canadians’ reputation as team players translates into an understanding of how important it is to work in multifunctional or multinational teams, bringing together a range of ideas to reach consensus. I know from my own international experience how valued, and valuable, this is.
5. Canada has a Type B personality
In contrast to the hypercompetitive, driven Type A personality, Type B is patient, creative, wise and far more collaborative. Without question, it takes both kinds to achieve success, especially in a world that is so complex and interconnected. But Canada’s Type B reputation comes from our history as a stable, co-operative, peaceful nation and means we are known for bringing a solid, long-term, analytical perspective to the table. Sometimes this means we can be a bit complacent and miss opportunities to accelerate growth in the global context. Don’t let that happen to you. Emphasize Canada’s reputation for respect, collaboration, knowledge and wisdom in your international dealings, and show that you have what it takes.
6. Canadians are respectful
Manners go a long way in any business situation. This goes beyond just knowing when to say please and thank-you; it means learning about and respecting other people and other cultures, which Canadians by and large do very well. And because Canadians are known for our courtesy, we’re often welcomed readily by international colleagues who anticipate that dealing with us will be a positive experience. Use this to your advantage. Learn about proper international etiquette and practice it – it can be a powerful tool.
7. Canada is young
This year we mark 150 years since the Charlottetown Conference, the precursor to Confederation. This means we are still a new country, especially when you compare us with other nations that are hundreds, or even thousands, of years old. Yet look how quickly we have become one of the best – if not the best, when it comes to safety, quality of life, health care and standard of living.
No, these perceptions don’t apply to each and every Canadian, in all situations, but there is a grain of truth in each. And I truly believe that by reflecting on these observations and using them to your advantage, they can help to grow your business or your career.
Ash Sahi is the president and chief executive officer of CSA Group (@CSA_Standards), an independent, not-for-profit member-based association that is a standards development, testing and certification organization.