Balancing the Grind with Trena Blair, Global Business Expansion Expert

Trena Blair, a seasoned expert in global business expansion, shares insights from her journey and the influential advice that shaped her career. In her discussion on Decoding Global Growth: How Successful Companies Scale Internationally, she highlights a pivotal tip from Anthony Bastic about the impact of a strong opening line in storytelling. This advice became a cornerstone in her writing process and approach to engaging audiences.

Beyond business strategies, Trena touches on personal wellness practices that have supported her through her international ventures, including the soothing effect of relaxation music. She discusses the balance between her demanding career and personal well-being, highlighting strategies like delegating responsibilities and ensuring family support to maintain equilibrium.

Trena, in Decoding Global Growth: How successful companies scale internationally, you weave together advice from top business leaders and your experiences. Was there a tip or story that really resonated with you personally? Why? 

Business leaders constantly seek inspiration and guidance to refine our storytelling techniques. While interviewing prominent figures for my latest book, one piece of advice stood out amidst the shared insights. It’s a tip that echoed in my mind throughout the entire writing process, courtesy of Anthony Bastic, the visionary CEO of AGB Events, internationally renowned for his captivating storytelling prowess. 

In Chapter 6, titled “Storytelling Techniques to Secure Funding,” Anthony shared a gem of wisdom that left a lasting impression on me. He emphasised the paramount importance of the opening line in any narrative. According to Anthony, crafting a compelling opening line is not just an art; it’s a strategic move that can make or break the engagement of your audience. 

In our conversation, Anthony elaborated on why the initial sentence of a story holds such significance. Without hesitation, he explained how this first impression sets the tone for the entire narrative, captivating the audience’s attention and leaving them eager to delve deeper into the story’s world. 

What struck me most about Anthony’s insight was his emphasis on infusing real meaning into that opening line. It’s not merely about grabbing attention with flashy words or dramatic statements; rather, it’s about connecting with your audience on a profound level from the beginning. Anthony’s approach underscores the importance of authenticity and resonance in storytelling, traits that resonate deeply with today’s discerning audience. 

Inspired by Anthony’s perspective, I found myself revisiting the opening line of my book repeatedly, each time striving to imbue it with more depth and intrigue. His advice served as a guiding light, reminding me of the power of storytelling to captivate hearts and minds, whether it’s to secure funding for a project or to inspire action within an organization. 

As business leaders, we’re tasked with driving results and inspiring and mobilising those around us. Anthony’s wisdom in storytelling reminds us that every word matters, especially the first ones. It’s a lesson worth heeding as we craft narratives that resonate, compel, and drive meaningful change in the world. 

Throughout your global business ventures, what’s one piece of advice you’ve encountered that truly changed your approach to international expansion? 

I’m compelled to provide two insights, not one, that have profoundly reshaped my approach to international expansion: the wisdom shared by thought leaders Richard Branson and Marianne Williamson. 

Richard Branson’s words, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” have become my guiding principle. When confronted with seemingly daunting opportunities for collaboration on a global scale, I embrace this mindset. Rather than letting uncertainty hold me back, I seize the opportunity, be brave and commit to learning and growing. 

Similarly, Marianne Williamson’s poignant reminder that “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is we are powerful beyond measure” resonates profoundly. It is a powerful reminder to confront and overcome self-doubt or hesitation in the face of ambitious endeavours. 

Embracing these perspectives has transformed my approach to international expansion and fostered a culture of resilience and empowerment within my business ventures. By acknowledging and leveraging our potential, we confidently and purposefully navigate the complexities of global markets. 

Adapting to local cultures is crucial for global expansion. Could you share an anecdote from the book where a brand creatively adjusted to a new market? 

The story of Casella Wines is one every leader should read. It is one of failure and then triumph, and I’m grateful to them for allowing me to share their journey in the book.  

With a history of outstanding success in delivering quality wines with a high-end price point in Australia, Casella Wines launched under the Carramar Estate brand in the United States. However, in 1999, this first attempt at launching its wines in the US market failed. The company neglected to research potential clients comprehensively, resulting in no differentiation from its US competitors. Casella Wines’ existing strategy had worked exceptionally well in Australia, a market it knew well.  

Casella Wines didn’t arrive in the US with an in-depth understanding of the US beverage industry, the wine category and the purchase preferences of its target consumer. In fact,  most of the US target audience were consumers who preferred beer, cocktails and other non-wine beverages.  

As a result of Casella Wines not investing in comprehensive research on the US market to specifically understand its target clients’ drinking preferences and price points, they withdrew from the US market. 

In 2000, the Casella Wines team regrouped. Their first step was to recruit a US industry expert to lead the research, develop their strategy and oversee implementation. They invested in developing their go-to-market strategy, which included a significant roadshow across the United States to obtain direct feedback from their target market. This research revealed important insights to inform their US market strategy, including the name of the wine needed to resonate immediately with the consumer. ‘Carramar Estate’ was not easy to recall, so they created a new product category. Doing this created a demand for its product and a future for its business. That new wine is called [yellow tail]. 

Many attributes set [yellow tail] wines apart from other wines in the US. Its category differentiators were easy to select and drink, and it had a different taste from all other wines on the market. Although [yellow tail] was slightly more expensive than other budget wines, that price added to its perceived value as a unique brand. Instead of opting for expensive marketing campaigns, [yellow tail] used simple and vibrant packaging and placed its products in retail stores for all to see. 

Casella Wines also leveraged the timing and brand messaging of the Sydney 2000 Olympics with its classic Australian label featuring an image of a nationally famous animal – the kangaroo. The result was that Carramar Estate sold 1 million cases (12 million bottles) of [yellowtail] in 2003, its first year, easily surpassing its projected sales of 25,000 units. 

In your journey through different cultures, have you encountered any wellness practices that you’ve incorporated into your daily routine? 

As I experience various cultures, I’ve encountered many wellness practices, including incorporating relaxation music into my daily routine. 

Whether I’m exploring bustling city streets or serene natural landscapes, on a domestic or long-haul flight, relaxation music is a grounding force amidst the whirlwind of experiences. Its gentle melodies and rhythmic patterns allow me to unwind and find solace in the present moment. 

What’s remarkable about relaxation music is its ability to evoke emotions and memories, irrespective of cultural differences. Whether it’s the soft strumming of a guitar in Spanish flamenco music or the ethereal sounds of a Japanese koto, each musical tradition offers a unique tapestry of relaxation that enriches every aspect of my life – personal or professional. 

Incorporating relaxation music into my daily routine has become a cherished ritual, providing moments of respite and rejuvenation amidst the demands of modern life. Whether I’m starting my day with a peaceful melody or winding down in the evening with soothing tunes, it serves as a constant companion on my journey towards holistic well-being.

Balancing a high-stakes career with personal well-being can be challenging. How do you manage work-life balance, and are there any self-care tips you’ve found particularly effective during your global business ventures? 

As an international corporate executive and now a global CEO, I have earned my share of frequent flyer points and learned to navigate travel’s mental and physical challenges. Taking a business abroad takes ambition and drive. In addition to the familiar advice of exercising outdoors when you land, eating well and hydrating, the following are some strategies I have adopted to manage these demands: 

  1. Caring for your physical and mental health must be your priority: 

When I first started travelling for clients, I scheduled meetings from the moment I arrived at my hotel. This was detrimental to my health and performance. I now know how jetlag impacts me, so my schedule is aligned to this.

  1. Ensure your family is supported while you are travelling:  

The ideal situation is if your family can travel with you. However, this isn’t always possible, so give them a copy of your itinerary, organise video calls and send regular text messages. Depending on the time zone, I schedule at least two video calls per day and always ensure my family wakes to an email. 

  1. Arrange for one of your team to have full delegated responsibility while you are travelling:  

They become the primary contact for my team and manage issues that arise, freeing me to focus on meetings and networks. A daily call with your delegate should suffice to receive an update and discuss critical issues. Failing to establish a delegate can have devastating consequences. As one example, I had a terrifying incident with a client who tried to manage his Australian HQ team while travelling with me to meet investors and prospects on the East Coast of the United States. Despite my counsel during our trip, he continued to work across both time zones. This ended poorly, requiring medical intervention. 

  1. Use a travel agent: Searching and booking flights and accommodation wastes valuable time. Use a travel agent, or if your business has the required travel spend, use a travel management company. 
  1. Get into a routine: Since 2014, I have stayed at the exact location in Manhattan and flown the same airline. Not only does familiarisation with their services minimise stress, but as a regular traveller, those all-important loyalty benefits add up. I have found that routine allows me to focus on clients. 
  1. Provide input into your itinerary: When you’re travelling offshore, ensure you have visibility of your itinerary and provide feedback. I recall several occasions during my corporate career when business meetings commenced the day after I arrived in New York City from Australia, after a 22-hour long-haul flight. Meetings or conferences were held for three to five consecutive days, plus client events most evenings. Not surprisingly, my productivity levels were not at my usual standard due to jetlag. I have learnt that after arriving at my destination I need to allow24 hours before my first meeting to acclimatise to the new time zone. 
  1. Prepare to return home to your family: I stay two additional days to finalise tasks from my trip before travelling home. This is important and allows me to be fully present with family when I arrive. 
  1. Extend for a holiday: As a frequent business traveller, aligning family schedules so we can enjoy valuable leisure time together is not always possible, but important to prioritise. 

Can you share a personal story of a time when balancing work and life presented a significant challenge? How did you navigate this, and what lesson did it teach you about self-care and resilience? 

Embarking on the journey of starting a small business introduced me to a whole new level of balancing between work and life. The memory of one instance during those early days still resonates strongly with me. 

It was a brisk autumn morning, and I sat at my makeshift office desk on my dining table with a never-ending to-do list. My dream of entrepreneurship was finally taking shape, but so were the demands on my time and energy. As the sole proprietor, I wore multiple hats – from CEO to meeting co-ordinator – and the weight of responsibility was palpable, each demanding a slice of my time and energy. 

Amidst this hustle and bustle, a call from a colleague at a Federal Government department brought both exhilaration and trepidation. Learning of my successful bid for a significant contract to develop and deliver a new international program was a thrilling moment, but it also ignited a realisation – the challenge of managing additional responsibilities while already stretched thin. 

Faced with this dilemma, I knew I needed to make changes to avoid burning out. My first step was to scrutinise how I allocated my time, meticulously documenting my tasks in 30-minute intervals. This audit revealed a startling revelation: considerable time was consumed by the tedious task of meeting coordination. Moreover, I discovered that this work often encroached upon the precious hours I could have spent with my family and friends. 

In response, I sought a solution, and in 2016, I found Clara – an Artificial Intelligence conversational bot – which I integrated into my operations to manage my calendar. Clara became a game-changer, liberating me from mundane tasks and allowing me to prioritise self-care and resilience in my entrepreneurial journey. 

With Clara’s assistance, I found a newfound equilibrium, allowing me to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions without sacrificing my well-being. I learned that success extended beyond financial achievements, encompassing the alignment of my endeavours with my core values and passions. 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.