Expanding from domestic into international markets represents a major challenge for many growing businesses. However, bringing in key experienced personnel can assist in developing a path into new market sectors. For Cascade Aerospace, one of Canada’s leading military and commercial aerospace in-service support providers, that meant bringing Benjamin Boehm on board as its executive vice president and chief operating officer to lead a team of 650 skilled professionals into the international marketplace.
Prior to working with Cascade, Boehm worked with Bombardier Aerospace in various capacities including head of Bombardier Aerospace China and vice president of international business.
“Bombardier had established a successful partnership in China within its transport division,” Boehm says. “The corporation wanted to see if it could do the same on the aerospace side and selected me to reside in China and spend time figuring out who the strategic industrial players were—as well as establish a Bombardier presence in the region to develop stronger relationships within the Chinese industry.”
As the value of international presence became more apparent, Boehm’s team expanded Bombardier into Russia and other regions of Asia to develop new business opportunities. Although Cascade is a military in-service support provider in Canada, Cascade is restricted to commercial opportunities in China. But it’s Boehm’s experience working in foreign marketplaces that Cascade continues to leverage today.
“Working in Asia for two to three years makes you realize how important international relationships are,” Boehm says. “It teaches you that cultures, leadership styles, and business deal structures, can be considerably different, even with the same outcome.”
The Bombardier leadership team found the work Benjamin’s team accomplished in China to be so valuable, they made it part of the corporate leadership culture. “It became a bit of an executive development right-of-passage in the sense that the president insisted all executives within the leadership team had to make at least three trips into a developing nation throughout the year,” Boehm says. “I am trying to instill a similar culture here at Cascade.”
“My goal right now is to help Cascade realize that Canada is a limited market and there’s a lot of potential growth for us to promote our products and services into other parts of the world,” Boehm says. “Get some of the culture, live it for a while—either through local representatives or increased executive visits—whatever it takes to experience that one-on-one relationship that will develop more business.”
Developing close relationships with customers has always been important to Boehm, who says he accomplishes this through effective communication. “It’s not just true for aerospace,” he says. “Communication is one of those things that I believe is a key personal attribute to the complex world we work in. Aircraft modifications and overhauls are complex, so your ability to talk with the customer and interact with them will move you a long way.”
Boehm encourages that same spirit of communication amongst his employees. “What we’ve instilled at Cascade is a new company culture that encourages people to move away from thinking, ‘Ben said we have to do this,’ towards a culture of communication, buy-in, and ownership,” Boehm says. “So each employee can see where they’re taking it and that they have an influence on outcomes. We support this through a top-down communication process and close alignment with our company strategy and key performance indicators.”