Stories

Find out how JA has influenced the lives of our Achievers and alumni across British Columbia.

Jeff Smith is a VP for CHC Helicopters providing a sales dynamic team. CHC Helicopters is the larger Helicopter charter company in the World. Providing flights to some of the most remote places in the world.

Jeff Smith

Senior Vice President, Commercial
Axine Water Technologies

Chemical technology industry

Vancouver, BC

Participated in JA in 1988-89 at St. Paul’s Elementary School (St. John’s, Newfoundland)

 

What did you do in the JA program?

We came up with an idea for a product and then had to make the product and actually sell it in the community. Our concept was a “Toaster Tong” which was a wooden kitchen tool used to safely remove toast from a toaster without having to unplug the toaster.

We spent a great deal of time cutting 6 foot long wooden dowlings into ¾” lengths, gluing two wooden tongue depressors on either side and then burning the letters for Toaster Tong onto one of the arms. We then sold them door to door, at various events and in shopping centres. I cannot remember the final tally, but remember selling a bunch of those things!

What did you learn and achieved in the JA program?

It would have been the first time that we took a business idea through to execution in that way. I’ll never forget how excited I was that we came up with a concept, made the product and then people actually bought enough of them that we made a profit! It was a very cool experience.

The team learned a great deal about working in a group. Despite the fact that it was 26 years ago I can still picture our meetings and how focused we were.

How has it helped you in your career path and/or your current job?

It was very helpful to get exposed to that process of business and group dynamics early. We all left the experience with a deeper understanding of how the small business process worked and had more confidence. Over the years I have learned that whether somebody buys a Toaster Tong for $5 or contracts for $500M in helicopter services, there needs to be perceived value for the price and trust that the value will be delivered. Complexity varies but the underlying principle remains.

Any insights or advice you can offer to future JA students?

“It’s a long hard road to overnight success.” That is one of my favourite business quotes. Too many young people in this day and age want to be masters without apprenticing. While incredible talent or good fortune can accelerate the learning process, even young music prodigies spend countless hours practicing. True mastery is only achieved once you also gain the wisdom that comes from being exposed to the right types of activities and situations.

I encourage people to continually seek new experiences during their career. Be curious. Young people should definitely push the envelope and try new things while remembering that breakthroughs typically build upon preceding business models or concepts. To make the biggest impact, seek the advice of people who have been there before as you develop your own ideas and innovate. Finding mentors and leveraging their wisdom and experience will accelerate your career.

Any feedback you can offer to JABC?

Keep doing what you do. You present our youth with tremendous opportunities for learning and development. This experience is invaluable.  Continue to be bold in asking for support, promoting your programs and teaching the timeless business fundamentals. It is also important to continue to evolve your program to ensure maximum relevance in our ever-changing business environment.

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