Global trade routes are opening across the top of North America. Homer, Alaska is one of Alaska’s Coastal communities and home of the Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC) which serves in an advisory capacity for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Here, we caught up with Bryan Zak, a Business Advisor for the Alaska SBDC, a local Mayor, a Pacific Northwest Quality Award examiner, a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), a retired Air Force officer, and the owner of an import/export tourism business.
Before landing at the Alaska SBDC, Bryan served as a Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) managing the largest community association in Alaska as well as an instructor on the Community Association Institutes national faculty. Prior to that, he spent 21 years as an Air Force officer and Emergency Exercise consultant. He served at Dyess and Maxwell Air Force Bases, in Texas and Alabama respectively, before moving to Washington DC and finishing his military career under the Air Force Chief of Staff, integrating “quality” throughout the Air Force.
“Quality” has been Bryan’s focus for over thirty years. He has served as a national and state examiner for the Baldrige Award multiple times. The Baldrige Award was created in 1984 to make American companies more competitive with their international partners by improving the quality of their products.
Bryan first became aware of the Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) program when the SBA offered training. He jumped at the opportunity to broaden his international trade knowledge. One of his instructors was James “Jim” Foley, recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from NASBITE, and considered to be “one of the best educators I’ve ever met.” He mentions that preparing for the exam was a “humbling experience”, but “the training and test ensure that there’s a common baseline of knowledge.”
Training and knowledge doesn’t end with the test. NASBITE is the credentialing body, and requires recertification annually to keep a CGBP in good standing. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are offered in a variety of formats each year. One such way to earn CEUs is by attending the NASBITE Annual Conference, where you will hear from trade professionals, network with fellow CGBPs, trade educators and learn from fellow practitioners.
In his advising position, Bryan assists local Alaskan companies on various business topics and is actively assisting Bering Sea Fishermen’s association to create a business incubator in Seward, Alaska focused on ocean technologies. Contacts with other incubator experts that Bryan met at the annual NASBITE conference are providing an incredible source of information and assistance. He typically sees a couple hundred clients annually who are mostly interested in marketing, financing or strategic planning assistance. International trade in not often an initial topic for most of his clients, but “something they say or a unique product or service will get us talking about it.” Being able to impart research and trade knowledge learned through the CGBP program aids Bryan in opening clients to the idea of international trade as a viable next step.
Bryan and his wife Karen are also the owners of an exporting tourism business: Alaska Adventure Cabins. “One true believer can become an ambassador for trade and do more for fostering our efforts than almost anything else we do,” says Bryan. “We have a terrific client whose products are in many countries across the world – that embraces international trade and is an innovative company providing eco-tourism shelters to customers around the world.”
Several times throughout the year Bryan is also called upon to share resources and network opportunities with organizations that would like to assist their members begin to export. International trade is an important part of national and local economies.
One of the most important lessons Bryan has been able to take away from his career in global business is the importance of attending the NASBITE national conference in order to build and maintain strong networking relationships with other CGBP experts. Bryan’s goal for the future is to continue assisting international exporters and importers by building greater networking opportunities in and from Alaska.