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Presentation, communication, drive Crosbie’s business


Rowena Crosbie essentially started her life over when she moved to Iowa in 1990. She left behind a finance job at a seed company in her native Canada to start on a new career path in Garst Seed Co.’s training department. Crosbie’s interest in training and presentation skills began with a part-time job in Canada teaching models how to walk the runway. Later, during her three years with Garst’s training department, she saw that even talented employees needed to work on their communications skills. In 1993, she started her own training company, Tero International Inc., out of a spare bedroom in her home. Her list of clients has grown steadily, and international business is increasing with help from new relationships through the U.S. embassies in Canada and Mexico.

How did the company’s name originate?

I didn’t know what to name the company, so I hired this consultant to work with me on trying to come up with something clever. But I found that when you try to register it in 50 states, all the good names are taken. My husband’s name is Ted and mine is Ro, so that’s where Tero comes from. We register the names of our classes, which actually say what we do.

What approach does Tero take to training?

We divide training into two camps. One is awareness-based training, where you kind of clunk people in the head and wake them up and they say, “Oh yeah, that’s good information.” The other is what I call behavioral-based, or skill building, and that’s what we focus on. We’re trying to help people change their habits of mind, and that’s hard stuff. Our classes are small and span from a half-day to several months, depending on what the objectives are.

How important are the “soft skills” in business?

We know that most people who have career crashes, it’s because of their failure to relate well to other people. It’s not because they don’t have the technical ability. We specialize in doing research and development around the training programs that help people development those interpersonal skills and we also do delivery.

What’s a common mistake you’ve seen in interpersonal communications?

We know that people form an impression of you in the first 8 seconds, so a confident stance, good eye contact and a professional handshake are critical.

What effect has technology had on interpersonal skills?

We have all these different technological advances in communications, and that makes face-to-face communications seem harder for people because they aren’t doing it as much, and yet we know that it’s still really important to be able to relate to people.

As businesses also begin to do more and more internationally and you add that dynamic of culture, it really gets complicated.

How do you account for different cultural differences and address those accurately when working with international companies?

We describe ourselves as a training company, but it’s probably more accurate to say that we are really a research company. A good part of our efforts and resources go to researching the intercultural competence that’s required to do business internationally. Deb (Rinner, executive training specialist) studies the international cultures, and we translate all that information into interactive, interesting, educational and fun training programs.

Is intercultural communications leading Tero’s growth right now?

In the last couple of years, we have poured an enormous amount of resources into what we believe is going to be a huge, emerging thing, and that’s the business etiquette and international protocol and intercultural competence. That’s really our big focus these days. The course I started the company with – the presentation skills – still represents about 30 to 40 percent of our business. That’s always going to be a staple.

Can you share some advice with our readers?

The one piece of advice that I’d love to give people is to remember that people do business with you for their own reasons, not for your reasons. If people can step outside themselves and show more interest in the people they’re relating to, then they’re going to be more successful. The real strength comes from your ability to listen well and ask great questions.

What do you enjoy the most about your business?

For me, it’s hard to imagine anything more important that helping people realize their full potential. These business people we work with are all smart and very capable, and we give them this little edge that helps them to be that much more successful. That’s pretty exciting, and that’s what turns us all on here.

What do you do outside work?

I live on a farm about 30 miles west of town with three horses, three dogs, 17 cats and one mule. A lot of it is forest, and we ride horses on these paths through the woods, which is great fun. [My husband has] converted most of the growing ground to natural prairie. I feel like I’m camping every day. We have this great long driveway with all these trees that cover it. It’s fabulous.

Does it surprise big businesses that you are coming in from a farm to talk to them about some of these finer things such as protocol and etiquette?

I think people are surprised. Even my family when I moved to Iowa said, “We could see you in Chicago or New York, but what in the world are you doing in Iowa, never mind what are you doing on a farm?” But that’s what I love about Iowa. How many places can you be 25 minutes from your office and still have the peace of an acreage?

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