These days, as an international workplace becomes more common, management styles are adapting to follow suit. After all, the “my door is always open” school of thought doesn’t always apply if the door in question is thousands of miles away.
As foreign direct investment in the Canadian market grows, the manner in which a Canadian-based sales executive communicates with senior management abroad – whether elsewhere in North America or overseas – is a key factor of success.
When it comes to long-distance leadership, however, are Canadian companies making the grade? Andy Palmer, Canadian Sales Manager with The Valspar Corporation, has been faced with the challenge – and rewards – of answering to and working with foreign-based senior management. A global coatings manufacturer, Valspar has more than 9,500 employees in over 25 different countries.
As a Canadian sales manager based in a Toronto plant and telecommuting from home, Palmer answers to middle and senior management headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Thanks to telecommunications, Palmer says the actual act of communicating with company management is not much different than if management worked with him face-to-face. In fact, Palmer says communicating electronically – as long as you instill “excellent organizational and planning skills” into your daily routine – can actually be a more efficient way of getting the job done.
According to a recent global survey of 1,320 senior executives, almost 80 per cent felt that telecommuters were as productive, or more productive, than their colleagues working at desks in a traditional office setting.
Like Palmer, Leslie Oesen, President of Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) Canada, says dealing electronically with senior management abroad has its perks. Oesen and her husband, now operate the Canadian division of ASI, following the acquisition of Team TaskForce, formerly owned and operated by the husband and wife team.
According to Oesen, telecommuting is much more efficient, when it comes to communicating with a Pennsylvania-based management team. A large company like ASI offers implementation of the latest technology, and there are no lengthy meetings – both marks of efficiency.
For workers accustomed to face-to-face interaction, however, there can be a sense of disconnect. “I think there is a negative in that you lose sense of being part of a family,” says Oesen. “You can’t bounce an idea off someone in person.”
CanCon and the Global Economy
Dealing with a global economy can have definite caveats, especially Canadian sales and U.S.-based management. “Sometimes they don’t recognize the Canadian industry or its end users as much as the U.S. market,” says Palmer. “Everything we do up here requires a final conversion to the U.S. dollar. And they do, to a degree, give us a bottom line which we have to strive for. Sometimes we feel the pressure of having to reach a certain goal of dollars and gallons per year, and that can be challenging.”
Nonetheless, expertise in the local market is what foreign investment firms are looking for when buying Canadian firms. “We were already independent-minded,” says Oesen. “This is why they acquired a Canadian company. They have the understanding that the Canadian marketplace operates differently.”
So how do you ensure that you are simpatico with a boss that may be halfway around the world? A similar mindset is key. “One of the biggest challenges when you are acquired is understanding the perspective of your (foreign) bosses,” says Andrew Ford, a consultant and co-founder of consulting firm, CoPilot Group. “Recognize that communication is your responsibility. Take complete ownership of understanding what your boss wants, then relay what you need in order to deliver.”
As with most elements of business, it all comes down to presenting yourself in the best way possible, and a proven track record can go a long way. “Get some early wins, build credibility,” says Ford. “The more credibility you have, the more results you will have, and the more flexibility you will have in negotiations for the resources you need.”
This article was originally published in CPSA’s Contact Magazine.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.