It’s that time of year again! The New Brunswick Export Awards will be presented Thursday in Moncton at Casino NB. Hosted by Opportunities NB (ONB), the Awards, now in their 52nd year, celebrate the business savvy, entrepreneurship, and innovation of businesses operating in New Brunswick and achieving local and global success.

Winners are selected by a judging panel consisting of business experts from academia and the private sector. Judges are chosen based on their knowledge of the New Brunswick business community and understanding of international trade.

This year’s panel includes Blair Hyslop, President and Co-Owner of Mrs. Dunster’s, winners of last year’s Exporter of the Year (under $5 million in export sales) Award. ONB spoke to Mr Hyslop for thoughts on the impact of the awards, why companies should apply for a nomination and takeaways from his judging experience.

ONB: There are some incredible businesses in this province that for whatever reason don’t submit themselves for a nomination. As one of last year’s winners, what would you say to those still on the fence about applying?

New Brunswick Export Awards Blair Hyslop Hyslop: The award really does establish a great amount of pride in your employees, partners, and customers. It’s good to be associated with an award-winning company. We know our employees took a great deal of pride in the fact that we won last year. It helps increase employee morale and attracts top talent; great people want to work for great companies. One way to establish yourself as a top employer in your region is to stand up and take credit for the fine work you and your team are doing.

An award win or nomination also gives your business and your products or services additional credentials. Simply put, it’s added credibility with your customers.

Finally, one of the known challenges we have in New Brunswick is retaining more of our young graduates. Some people here, unjustifiably, in my opinion, believe that you can’t stay in New Brunswick and have a great career. As entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to demonstrate to the next generation that yes, in fact, you can stay here, be successful, and work for award-winning businesses. If we keep our humble hats on, stay under the radar, and neglect to talk about successes we can’t then turn around and complain that people think you can’t be successful here.

Like every region, New Brunswick has challenges. We also have tons of incredible companies here doing great things. We too often let the loudest, most negative people suck all the oxygen out of the room. You likely won’t change those people’s minds, but those of us that see the positive stories first-hand need to speak up more. The best way to counter is to brag about our great businesses, of which we have many.

What have you learned from being on the other side of things as one of this year’s judges?

I really appreciate our own award win even more. I now better understand the depth of talent that makes up our competition. There are some truly great people and businesses in the running.

The stories our panel got to see this year were incredible, and they came from all across the province. Again, it makes our own win in 2017 pretty humbling. To know that last year people looked at all of these wonderful stories and decided to recognize our team, that’s awesome.

It also hammered home the importance of good storytelling in business. Going through the application process really forces you to fine-tune your company story. You end up spending a great deal of time and energy perfecting that story and how to tell it so that it really resonates.

The competition is fierce, and the companies that impressed me the most were those that clearly understood their business’ story and why it was appealing. Any company looking at applying next year should know that it’s a great opportunity to perfect their narrative and become the next award-winning New Brunswick business.

ONB would like to thank Blair Hyslop and the rest of this year’s judges; Egbert McGraw, Director at Université de Moncton; Andrew Lockhart, Program Officer with the University of New Brunswick; Kevin Kilbride, President of Therma-Ray Inc; and Nadine Duguay, CEO of Dialogue NB; for all of their hard work this year. We will see you all on Thursday night in Moncton!

Written by Jason Boies