As Thomas Friedman detailed in his bestseller “The World is Flat”, the playing field has changed for businesses today as global trade has increased dramatically. While this means increased competition for products and services, it also means increased opportunities for those with a global mindset. I have personally seen an increasing number of my clients having an international focus for their growth. Mississippi is fortunate to have the Mississippi World Trade Center, which is a non-profit focused on assisting Mississippi businesses with all aspects of international trade. The Mississippi WTC is a great asset for companies seeking to expand their business in the global marketplace.
I recently interviewed Barbara Travis, the executive director of the Mississippi WTC, a seasoned economic developer who has been leading this organization since 2001. Travis is a native of Greenville. Travis earned her undergraduate degree in English from Mississippi University for Women, a master’s degree at Mississippi State University, and she is working on a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her extensive resume includes serving as marketing director for Northpark Mall and Metrocenter Mall, executive director for the Rankin First Economic Development Authority and president of Market Lynx Consulting, an economic development consulting company.
Travis who has over 20 years’ experience in economic development and community development shared that, “It’s my belief that training others to be leaders in any field is a combination of equipping them with basic, intrinsic knowledge, providing them with pertinent resources then challenging them to use those tools and work together to rise to the occasion at hand.” She believes that open communication, inclusiveness and collaboration are the cornerstones of leadership as well as pillars for building personal and professional success. Her leadership philosophy is that leaders need to focus on “being good, being kind and being careful. With that philosophy and an ethical approach, everything else pretty much falls in place.”
One for Travis’s particular passions is helping community leadership programs across the state facilitate vision and goal-setting retreats as well as speaking to university groups about leadership style and development. She said, “These are some my favorite things to do because I, too, get motivated when I see and hear people exchanging challenging thoughts and creative ideas with each other.” Through the Mississippi WTC, Travis is able to able to help business grow through “educational seminars, conferences, workshops and briefings on opportunities and how to do business with other countries; assistance with international business plan development; customized market research; consulting and matchmaking; trade leads and partner referrals.” In 2009, the Mississippi WTC received the WTCA certification status from the New York World Trade Centers Association indicating the superior level of service provided by the organization to its members and clients.
Travis and her team partner with public and private organizations as well as other trade center organization to “promote business development and to offer international arts and cultural activities that enhance understanding and appreciation of other cultures.” I hope that Mississippi companies will continue to have a “big picture” view of their opportunities and consider all of the ways to grow their business including internationally. While it can be intimidating to grow outside of the United States because of the many unknowns, the Mississippi WTC is one of the organizations that can remove the mystery and equip Mississippi companies for success. I appreciate the expertise that Travis brings to this job and the work of this important organization in our state.
Up Close With Barbara Travis
Title: Executive director, Mississippi World Trade Center
Favorite Books: The Magnificent Obsession: Embracing the God-Filled Life by Anne Graham Lotz; On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King; and, A Passion for Excellence: The Leadership Difference by Tom Peters and Nancy Austin.
First Job: “In high school, I worked in customer service in a department store wrapping gifts during the holiday season. I never knew there was so much to learn about gift-wrap methods, ribbon-tying techniques and ways to smile at and soothe disgruntled, harried shoppers. It really prepared me for my future public service.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I was honored a number of years ago to emcee a pre-inaugural gala for the in-coming president of Mississippi University for Women. Part of my assignment was to read a passage from one of Eudora Welty’s books, introduce her to the audience and assist the wonderful but very elderly lady on my arm to the podium for comments. As we walked across the stage, she whispered in my ear “My dear, you read so well.” I melted at her words and have never quite recovered from the internal glow she gave me that day not only to be in her presence but by her kindness.”