NovaScotian Crystal

Do opposites attract? Meet Denis Ryan and Rod McCulloch—partners in NovaScotian Crystal, a small company situated on the quaint waterfront of Halifax. NovaScotian Crystal makes fine crystal the traditional, old-fashioned, expensive way, with trained craftspeople. It is the only company in Canada that produces mouth-blown, hand-cut crystal. Ryan started the company in the late 1990s on an impulse. He had already had successful careers in the entertainment and the financial services sectors.

With a vision, intrigue, creativity, an impulsive nature, and a contagious enthusiasm for making crystal the traditional way, Ryan set up his glassworks. He even convinced craftspeople to come from Ireland to work for him. After a few years of making crystal, but not many sales, Ryan found himself facing a serious financial crisis and possible bankruptcy. He needed someone who could focus on the financial side of the business. On another impulse, Ryan hired Rod McCulloch and a new partnership was born.

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Ryan took on the role of chair, figurehead, and liaison, while McCulloch became president. McCulloch—a details, numbers, cost-conscious, organized kind of guy—looked for ways to turn the company around. Using his years of experience as an accountant, he thought about how to manage the company better, make it more efficient, and iron out production. He then began searching for more ways to cut costs and increase sales. With each taking on different roles, Ryan and McCulloch worked well together.

While McCulloch presented tough cost-cutting measures, Ryan brought impulsive ideas about new markets and, often, much-needed personal and emotional support. Even in the face of continuous failures and disappointments, the team never gave up. Out on the waterfront, over a mug of tea, Ryan could often be found giving McCulloch encouragement, a moment of peace, inspiration, and yet more creative, impulsive ideas for meeting their challenges. Take, for instance, how Ryan encouraged McCulloch to call investors for more money, or the suggestion to market their product to a high-end retail store in Toronto.

At long last, after a spring trade show, creative selling strategies, an expanded product line, and a Christmas craft show, NovaScotian Crystal finally turned a profit in the fall of 2001. Ryan and McCulloch celebrated their success over something stronger than tea. And wouldn’t you know it: They didn’t drink the same brand of beer. Today, after years of operating near bankruptcy, NovaScotian Crystal has expanded its product lines, launched a series of online catalogues, and markets its products worldwide.

Questions 1. How would you describe the personalities of Denis Ryan and Rod McCulloch? Describe the extent to which personality plays a role in how Ryan and McCulloch run NovaScotian Crystal. 2. Evaluate the emotional side of running the business. How do Ryan and McCulloch each deal with the stress of running the business? 3. Explain the perceptions of each of these men. What role do these perceptions play in how each runs the company? Sources: “NovaScotian Crystal,” CBC Venture, April, 2002, 822; and NovaScotian Crystal, “About Us,” http://www. novascotiancrystal. com (accessed October 25, 2005).

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