Economic Development is a hot topic for many First Nations. It has certainly taken on political significance with more than $6 billion in Impact Benefit Agreements signed to date in British Columbia. However, many First Nations struggle to realize their Economic Development potential. In my experience, this is due to a low risk appetite on the First Nations’ part. This is compounded by the fact that most trusted advisors to First Nations are inherently risk-averse and look at business opportunities through mainly legal and accounting lenses. Below are five reasons why a First Nation, or any business, may want to consider specifically hiring a Business Advisor:
Broad Skillset: As someone who has graduated with a Bachelors of Business Administration, I can attest to the broad set of skills which are valuable to any business, and particularly to a First Nation with business and financial goals. Through various courses, I’ve had the opportunity to learn learn about all things business which include: technical writing, public presentations, statistics, accounting, decision-making, strategic planning, teamwork, human resources, supply chain management, and economics. Many business students have the opportunity to specialize in any one of these areas. I chose to specialize in Economics and had the opportunity to apply economic theory to develop business and economic policy solutions for First Nations.
Cultural Competency: As a consultant who has travelled to communities across Canada, I have seen many First Nations waste time and money trying to educate a revolving door of advisors on culture, community dynamics, and history. Not only do First Nations Business Advisors save you time and money, we often have a deep appreciation for culture and its importance to nation re-building. I am fluent in my language, Secwepemctsin, and it bothers me to see so many strategic documents sanitized of our language and culture. It’s time we utilize our own business people in our nation re-building efforts. As Aboriginal Business Advisors, we can skip the history lesson and get straight to business.
Values Alignment: As Aboriginal Business Advisors, our values are inherently linked to the First Nations’ whom we serve. After all, we were raised in our communities. We insist upon getting positive results because our reputations in the nascent Aboriginal business community depend on it. We are all here to stay and we have to do right by our communities. Many of us have friends and family throughout the province and when we attend community events, it’s probably because we want to catch up with them. It’s not just “business development” to us. And when we develop plans with First Nations, we recognize the importance of our indigenous values informing the plan going forward. I worked with Kanaka Bar Band on developing a Community Economic Development Plan that was as much an Economic Development strategy as it was a Sustainability strategy. Check it out here: http://www.kanakabarband.ca/downloads/community-economic-development-plan.pdf
Fresh Ideas: For 141 years First Nations have lived under the Indian Act. Not much has changed for our people living on reserves while the pace of business continues to rapidly evolve. As Aboriginal Business Advisors, we are deeply connected with both worlds. I personally have travelled to over 50 First Nation communities across Canada and have seen initiatives that work, and some that could use help. As a former business banker, I’ve had first hand insight into more than 100 businesses that were financially successful and the opportunity to interview each of the owners. With this type of insight, an Aboriginal Business Advisor can help you translate your Nation’s ancient knowledge into modern business innovation.
Networks: Relationships mean a lot to First Nations. They mean as much for business people. As Aboriginal Business Advisors, we have significant networks inside and outside of First Nations communities to assist you in everything you might require to achieve business success. The Ch’nook Scholars network alone has alumni who are experts in everything from real estate, personal finance, commercial finance, accounting, fisheries, forestry, technology, public service, human resources, project management, donuts, and so much more. As a former Board member on national organizations, and current Masters of Business Administration student, I can reach into a network that stretches from Membertou, Nova Scotia, to Kugluktuk, Nunavut, to Nuchatlaht, British Columbia – coast to coast to coast – for support in making things happen.
What are your Nations’ business aspirations? Hire an Aboriginal Business Advisor and experience first hand the value that can be created when we hire and trust our own people.
Learn more about the Ch'Nook Scholars network here: http://www.sauder.ubc.ca/Programs/Chnook/Students/Chnook_Scholars
Carl has been actively involved in re-imagining nation building. He has travelled extensively throughout Secwepemc territory and is fluent in Secwepemctsin.