Transcription of Episode

Intro/Outro 0:04
Welcome to Investing Across Borders with Lauren Cohen. Every week she will share valuable information that you need to know in order to successfully invest in real estate and other business endeavors in North America. We believe in helping clients invest, live, work, and play across borders. And now, your host, Lauren Cohen.

Lauren Cohen 0:27
Good morning, everybody. I’m Lauren Cohen, international legal and real estate investment expert, and the host of this podcast Investing Across Borders, where we teach you how to invest live, work, and play across borders, because after all, what’s work without play. And we are really proud to be sponsored by Lendai this amazing company that helps foreign investors from, at the moment, Canada, the UK, Israel and Australia to invest in US real estate. And they are an Israeli based artificial intelligence company, and they’ve been helping tons of my clients that can’t find money elsewhere. And they also love refinancing and giving you cash out. So thank you Lendai for sponsoring this podcast. I’m here today with my good friend really, truly a good friend. I met him four years ago, almost to the day, we met at CEO space organization, which I’ve spoken of funnily many, many times. And Hugh is one of really the true gems within the CEO space world. He’s been with CEO space for a long time, he’ll share that with you. And we met and instantly connected at the time I was building my nonprofit. He has since helped many of my clients expand their nonprofits, build up their boards, he teaches people how to build a nonprofit as a business, which is huge. And he doesn’t just do this for US based nonprofits, but also for nonprofits all over the world. And he applies amazing tools and techniques. And he is just a wonderful person, and nice. Just a very kind, gentle man. So thank you for joining us Hugh, it’s great to have you here, welcome.

Hugh Ballou 2:06
Well, thank you. I’m honored to be here Lauren.

Lauren Cohen 2:09
Always an honor to be in your presence, whether by zoom or in person. Hugh, why don’t you give us a little bit of a background on you, rather than me speaking your bio. I’d rather you to share what you think is the most salient.

Hugh Ballou 2:22
Well, I was born a long time ago.

Lauren Cohen 2:24
At least somebody’s older than me. Thank God.

Hugh Ballou 2:28
That’s right. But I’m in my third career. So a merchant, one career, a music director, one career and now, I work in the area, you might call capacity building. It’s a buzzword in the nonprofit world, which ought to work in that business world as well. But it’s leadership and organizational development is how we get things done. And so I spent a career as a music conductor, but 10% of my job was music. 90% was all the infrastructure that allowed me to do the music. So when I stepped on the podium, picked up the baton 90% of the work had been done. And that was the part that sparkles. Most of us whether we’re running a tax exempt business, a for purpose business or a for profit business, we still have to have the roadmap, like the music that the conductor has, we still need to build high performance teams like the orchestra choir. And we’ll still need to have a clear vision. And we need to direct the process. So it boils down to us as a leader, and then having the right people in the right seats on the right pathway. So it’s our duty and delight to define what that pathway is and then lead it.

Lauren Cohen 3:39
Right, absolutely. It’s so true. Because you know, in what I do and what anybody does, if you don’t have a path, I pave a path to invest live, work and play across borders, I pave a path to getting a visa if you don’t have a path. And so many nonprofits, unfortunately, are guilty of this is that they set up and they’re like, oh, I can raise money, tax free and blah, blah, blah. And that’s all they think about and they don’t think about running it as a business and you still need a plan. And it’s that strategic plan that is so critical to your success. And you know, one of the beautiful things that he brings to the table is the knowledge about how to deal with multiple different personalities. Because he is you know, he’s very involved in his church, and he is a conductor, and he is a musician. And all of these things play a role in his ability to deliver messages and opportunities to the nonprofit world. And, you know, it’s just been really a pleasure to know Hugh. Hugh, can you give us a few examples of some of the challenges that you’ve had when dealing with people from outside of the country?

Hugh Ballou 4:41
Well, one of the biggest clients I served was a nonprofit in Germany, Pohlheim. And when I met them in 2007 they had produced for 20 years, really high quality competitions of choirs all over the world. Nobody in America even heard of them. And so they wrote 100 letters to 100 mayors and nobody answered. So they hired me. Why don’t we, why don’t we get attention. So Americans don’t really know what goes on outside of our country very much. So they hired me. So we identified 52 cities, and instead of going to the political side, we went to the business side. We went to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. And so we had all those responded. And then 11 said, they’d actually invest in a pendant event, and then narrow down to three, we did site visits. And then they started saying, well, we don’t pay for the social groups like the Shriners, we don’t pay them to come. So we talked about the economics of it, and they did pay up. And so in Cincinnati, Ohio, they hosted the event. So what happened in 10 days was it was the focus, the world focus on the art of music in Cincinnati, which is, by coincidence, the longest standing choir tradition in America. So bottom line was, they said nah, we don’t want to do it, we have to pay money, but they raised $10 million in sponsor money. And they got to keep all the ticket proceeds. And at the end of 10 days, this was a 10 day event, with twice as many participants as the Olympics. And 450 choirs from 100 countries. So at the end of 10 days, their press release said they had brought $83 million into the local economy. So everybody, everybody won. And what I noticed is what you deal with 100 countries, you have different traditions in singing, but you also have different traditions of making deals, having conversations and, you know, what is the policy and the procedure? It’s different in Egypt than it is in Mexico, than it is in France, than it is in China. So we had all these. Canada, Israel, you know, we had choirs from all these. South Africa. So not only did they sing differently, we had to talk to the entities in those countries, about the agreements, because there were lots of agreements, because there was lots of money changing hands, when you’re bringing a whole choir over to a place. And they booked 110,000 hotel room nights, that was a big deal. And so writing the contracts with all the venues and writing the contracts with all the entities. There’s a different perspective and just understanding how people approach. Like, I used to be in the business of running tours from you know, church leaders. And if you go to Egypt, want to talk to a hotel owner, you have to spend time with them before you earn the right to talk about business. And that’s very different in America, you sit in, you work the deal, and you’re done. And so it’s a different perspectives, and it’s not bad or good, it’s just how do we understand? In Asia, you know, you open a door for a woman, they’re embarrassed. Because that’s not what you do in Asia.

Lauren Cohen 7:52
No. And you don’t hand them cards. You present the card and you bow and it’s definitely challenging. People think it’s just like anything. One of the things I teach about investing cross borders is that it’s not one size fits all. And the rules of the game change, no matter which border you cross, sometimes even across state borders, for goodness sake. Right?

Hugh Ballou 8:14
Absolutely. And, you know, this was investing because everybody was investing in the result, and different currencies, different traditions, different performance styles. So they had to pull it all together and magnificently. So fortunately, they had by that time, 25 years of experience, but you know, you do an event in China, you do an event in South Africa, you do an event it in America, it’s very different.

Lauren Cohen 8:37
Very. The way that people do business, I don’t think people that don’t do business beyond borders understand. It’s only once you start investing and doing business across borders, that you start to realize how culture plays such an important role. And Americans are seen as tough. I mean, let’s talk about Israelis. Israelis, compared to Americans are tough. So Israelis have to adjust the way they do business, when they come to America, and most Israeli companies do come to America. The same goes for a Chinese company, which may be you know, there’s just such different ways of doing business in different regions of different countries. And the most important thing I think that we can learn as leaders is how to adjust and adapt to those changes as we are working with people in those countries. And certainly you have all people, you know, has that tact and finesse to be able to handle that. It’s a challenge!

Hugh Ballou 9:40
We’re focusing on my nonprofit work today, but I also do work with mid cap corporations. And what I see when there’s mergers or acquisitions or in entrepreneurs that take investments, no matter where they are. Even within the same state or the same country like America, people don’t think about the culture piece of it. You know, it’s important within our own borders, but once you go outside the borders, it’s magnified.

Lauren Cohen 10:07
It’s 100% magnified. And you’re right. Like, when one company takes over another company, let’s talk about even Amazon and Whole Foods, right? They’re different. I mean, that’s a totally high level of a takeover, a merger, whatever you want to call it. But you see the transition happening, it starts gradually, and it moves and moves and moves and moves. And now they’re all integrated. That’s not always seamless. Because culture, when you have a larger business, especially, or smaller business, culture is the name of the game. You know, one company could be very laissez faire, and very generous, and offer a lot of like educational stipends, and so on. And the other company might be like, come to work, work these hours, go home, you’re done. Very, you know, staunchy and hardcore. And pulling those two together is not for the weak of heart. And somebody like yourself, would know how to navigate through those waters. And I think that whether you’re in the nonprofit world, or the small cap world, or the mid cap world, or even the large cap world, because these mergers are happening every single day. And these days, certainly, especially over COVID, we’ve seen mergers of very unexpected partners, right?

Hugh Ballou 11:26
Yeah. And many of them are train wrecks. Even the big companies, GE acquired a company next town over here and completely changed everything. And all the the integrity of the company was in employees that had the tracking and they left. It got changed to a different total different model than what the founder, they paid a bunch of money to get that business in almost a billion dollars. And it was a high tech, very focused enterprise, which they move to some other segment, which made no sense. And why wouldn’t they want to keep all of the intellectual property that the employees had that knew how to do this stuff, and they were there from the beginning?

Lauren Cohen 12:03
That’s mind blowing. It’s almost like you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face there. Because why would you do that?

Hugh Ballou 12:10
I think from what I’ve observed, it happens more often than it doesn’t happen. People think about leadership as soft skills. But when you hit the wall, it’s pretty hard.

Lauren Cohen 12:19
Yeah, that’s for sure. But those soft skills, not everybody has them. And, you know, I deal with people from different cultures, like, for example, French Canadians and Anglo Canadians and Canadians from the western Canada versus Canadians, from the big cities, like my hometown of Toronto. Or the border, Vancouver, or Montreal or whatever. It’s so different from the Maritimes. It’s not like, again, one size fits all. And the same goes here, you’ve got somebody in California, that’s going to have a totally different approach than somebody in New York or Florida. Except in Florida we have so many New York transplants that now it’s almost similar. But it’s every single person in every single company needs to be approached independently. And the nonprofit world is no exception to that.

Hugh Ballou 13:06
No, it’s a lot harder in the nonprofit. You’ve got the volunteer and you got this scarcity mentality. When you use the word nonprofit people go into the scarcity thinking. Even in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where I live, over in the beltway, that’s a whole different protocol than in Appalachia where I am in the other side of the state, you know, prices are different from what I do. And the protocol is very different. There’s five different regions within Virginia with different customs. And so even the microcosm of within the borders of Virginia, we have that and it’s compounded once you go out of that, and then when you go out of the country, and we don’t even think about what’s essential to making this work. When I hire an orchestra as a conductor, everybody understands the protocol. So there is already a culture, I don’t care if you’re in Israel, I don’t care if you’re in South Africa, or in Virginia, there’s a protocol, you come together, there’s an established protocol. And the conductor is in charge. They’re not the boss. They’re not the bully. They’re not the dictator. They have a little white stick. You can’t make people do things, but you can influence people. They’re not just going to check, they’re there to perform at a higher level. And that’s what corporate leaders and nonprofit leaders and clergy don’t get. They kind of dumb down what they think is the lowest common denominator, when we should actually raise the bar and let people access the fullness of their passion. And people show up in a business for the money, but they perform at a higher level because of the personal fulfillment. In the nonprofit in their church and synagogue world. People function as volunteers, but they function to the level their passion, but we leaders don’t allow them to do that.

Lauren Cohen 14:52
So you mentioned a word. And there’s actually there’s two words that are kind of interrelated influence and impact right? And I think that one of the reasons that people are very drawn to you is because almost everything you do is impact driven. And because of that, you have a lot of influence, not just over your choir members or your you know, your church attendees, or the people that are coming to listen to you, but because you care. And when you care about your subjects, no matter who they are your clients, or your people or your nonprofit volunteers or your stakeholders. It makes a big difference. Now, recently, imagine this Hugh, I was called pushy. Imagine that, okay, I knew you would laugh. So I am pushy, okay, but to accomplish what I need to accomplish from my people and get them through the finish line, they need somebody pushy in their corner. So if I was a guy, nobody would have called me pushy. No offense, it’s just a fact. Because I’m a woman. It’s like, oh, you’re pushy, you’re aggressive. You’re this, you know this. But the reality is that when I’m dealing with somebody in the nonprofit world, or somebody that’s working on a huge merger, it’s a completely different conversation, I’m not going to be pushy with somebody who’s trying to figure out how to deal with their volunteer issues and their board issues.

Hugh Ballou 16:20
It’s not really any different. And I would choose to define you as assertive.

Lauren Cohen 16:26
Thank you, that’s a much kinder word.

Hugh Ballou 16:28
Well, you know, pushy would be aggressive, which has got a meaning thats negative. So the culture responds to who we are, as we show up. In the orchestra responds, if they like the conductor, they respond within the intent of the conductor, if they don’t, they just mimic what you do, which isn’t very good. And the same thing happens in any situation, the leader influences and so we lead from a position of influence. Now, if I’m standing on the podium, which is podium, foot POTUS, you stand on a podium, I’m standing there, and I’m in charge, I’ve got the power position. However, I’ve seen very famous conductors, start with a new orchestra, beat em up in rehearsal. And then in concert, they get even they make you look bad. Now you’ve got full authority, but they can show you up. And in the military, there’s this thing called friendly fire. If you’re not respected, you might get shot in the back in combat. In business, nonprofit, church leaders get shot in the back every day, they don’t even know it. And so how do we show up as a position of influence in the lead from that influence rather than authority. We’re in an age where people respond very differently. So if we can be in command of the space, but it’s because we know where we’re going. And we’re very good at telling people, we’re going to go there. And we don’t tell people how we tell them, here’s where we want to be. Let’s get there together. So we have to think in the terms of building ensemble. That’s what center vision is, it’s a synergy of a common vision. So we build a synergy by getting people on board, then they perform at a higher level. You’re familiar with the Gallup polls, I’m sure that every year it turns out that 70, around 70% of the workforce in corporate America, not the leadership, the workforce, are either disengaged or actively disengaged, which translates to $500 billion of lost profit. And on top of that, an unfriendly investor or investor without knowledge of the culture or merger and acquisition or a donor, a major donor to a nonprofit, you add on top of that it’s not a fit for the culture, then you’ve added another dynamic that really impacts the bottom line negatively.

Lauren Cohen 18:48
Yeah, I can definitely see where you’re coming from. Now, in the nonprofit world, you also need to engage the stakeholders because especially the volunteers, they don’t have necessarily a vested interest in the outcome. So that engagement becomes that much more critical. And it’s interesting because Hugh and I met as I said it CEO space. And what is the number one word that CEO space represents, collaboration. And if you don’t collaborate, you don’t participate. You’re out. And you know, Bernie was just, I mean, unfortunately, he passed last year, Bernie Dorman. But he was just so all about collaboration and helping each other and bringing each other up. And you know, connecting and if there’s somebody that I feel will benefit from Hugh’s input and advice and a lot of people do, I immediately connect the dots because he is going to bring value to them. And they are going to help impact more people as a result, because Hugh is all about engagement, and how do you engage that board? And how do you engage those volunteers? I mean, these are challenges having been in the nonprofit world and having my own nonprofit I know, I know that these are constant challenges that nonprofits deal with, especially the smaller ones that want to get out of being a tiny little 501 C3, just because they got a 501 C3 designation, right.

Hugh Ballou 20:15
And back to where we started here. It’s a business mindset to realize that you’re in a tax exempt for purpose business. Nonprofit isn’t used by IRS, it’s tax exempt C Corp, nonstock C Corp. So anybody investing, whether it’s for profit or nonprofit is ROI. In business, its return on your investment in nonprofit, its return on impact. So that’s the driver. In either segment, we generate revenue because we provide value. And so if we don’t have our act together in a nonprofit, if your board isn’t 100%, on on board, donating, and active, grant makers won’t even look at you, you’re off the charts, the first thing is your team active are they donating? Now we’ll look at your application and the outcomes if you haven’t done your strategy, and you don’t have specific measurable outcomes, you’re not going to track funding from any source. And so it’s a business principle, where are you going? How are you going to get there? And how will you measure the results? And those are all leadership pieces. We don’t think they are but that’s what they are. Oh, it’s the fru fru soft stuff. No, it’s how do we quantify what we’re doing? How do we create the pathway? And then how do we, we got this great asset in the nonprofit world, all the volunteers who want to show up and give their time, their talent and their money, because they have a passion for what you’re doing. So how do we activate those being clear about the value that we represent and the value that we give to the communities we serve?

Lauren Cohen 21:49
Yeah, I mean, it’s so very true. And business mindset in a nonprofit and also international mindset. Raising money internationally and potentially taking your nonprofit across borders. These are big opportunities. I mean, once people start thinking about their nonprofit as a business, and changing their mindset from, oh, yeah, I have a nonprofit to this is a business where I can have a huge impact on people and help integrate them into society, involve them in something that they are, as you said, passionate about, and you can do this literally anywhere, and help them also to find a place to be philanthropic, make a difference have an impact. Everybody wants this to some degree. And it’s just a matter of pulling it out of them sometimes and getting to the core of what makes them tick.

Hugh Ballou 22:41
So I regularly interface right now with people in various African countries, Singapore, Philippines, Gold Coast of Australia. What unites us is, what do we have in common? I spoke about the choir competitions we have in common excellence in performance of choral music. It’s the choral art. World peace came together because people were celebrating what they had in common. So we forget to think about what is it we want in common? We want to drive value, we want to earn money, we want to create impact in people’s lives. So starting with what do we have in common? How do we align regardless of where we are? And even in America, I’m a boomer, we have the same values as millennials, we approach it very differently. So if I try to treat a millennial like, I want to be treated, well that’s where the Golden Rule breaks down, it doesn’t work. They need to be treated like they want to be treated. So that’s any culture. And so, what do we have in common? What do we have in common? And why is that important? So in any sector, especially this tax exempt business sector, it’s we work with our passion and we work for the benefit of humankind. That’s philanthropy, love of humankind.

Lauren Cohen 23:56
Love of humankind. I think that we’ve all been lacking in that a little bit for the past few years. Right? We’re attacking each other over this, that, I mean…

Hugh Ballou 24:08
This is a sweet spot for those of us in the private world, where you know, all the whatever you everybody in government points to everybody else’s being a guilty finding anybody that’s innocent. Come on. We have a track with nonprofits that we can unite people who are in that sector, we’re doing good. We’re boots on the ground. We raise independent money and we follow our vision. So we’ve got a track to unite people in the goodness that we represent.

Lauren Cohen 24:33
How can people reach you if they want to connect with you and learn about how to engage their nonprofit especially their boards, their stakeholders, their volunteers, literally anybody and everybody?

Hugh Ballou 24:46
Well, my name is Hugh Ballou. That’s my real name, and you can go to or you can book a time with me a and you can get on my calendar, we can chat about where you are. 15 minutes I can give you a lot of value. And I’m happy to talk to people in this space no matter where in the world they are. We are united in purpose in providing this philanthropy this good for humankind. We’re loving humankind. And we can do better together. That’s a southern thing. You know, in the south, we have our own language. None of us is as smart as all of us. So we come together.

Lauren Cohen 25:26
That is the truth. I thank you for being here today. Again, I’m Lauren Cohen, international legal and real estate expert here with my good friend Hugh Ballou, whom I met at CEO space and thank you to Bernie Dorman for creating that space for amazing people like us to connect. I thank Lendai for being the sponsor of this podcast where you can find ways to access investment for foreigners investing in US real estate, non-owner occupied and please do subscribe to the podcast, give it five stars and also please subscribe to my YouTube channel, surprisingly called Investing Across Borders. We would love to share all of our webinars and podcasts with you. Thank you again and have a wonderful holiday season everybody. Thank you bye for now.

Intro/Outro 26:17
Thanks for listening to Investing Across Borders with Lauren Cohen. Make sure to check the show notes for any links and for guests contact information. If you have questions for Lauren, please reach out to her at If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe, rate, review, and share the podcast with a friend.