interviews with gurus

Interviews with Gurus: Clay Perry



clay-perry-150x150Our featured Guru this month is Clay Perry!

Clay Perry is the Senior Vice President of Global Markets at Integration Point where he currently leads global market expansion and business development. He has over 20 years of experience building trade compliance automation technologies and services. Early in his career, he was a technologist on the Arthur Andersen trade and customs team where he developed customized Foreign-Trade Zone solutions for large manufacturers. For the last 15 years, he has worked side by side with Tom Barnes to build and deploy the Integration Point global trade management platform to over 600 companies all over the world. Clay is considered an expert in both global trade compliance and the technologies used to automate it.

How did your International Trade Career begin?
I started with Arthur Andersen right out of college, and I worked in the Advanced Technology Group. One of our clients had a “trade compliance guru” leave their company in the middle of a Foreign-Trade Zone system development project (i.e., this happened ages ago before FTZ software even existed in the market). I was called in as part of a team to build and implement an FTZ system, and I worked hand-in- hand with Arthur Andersen’s international trade compliance leadership that advised our technology team throughout the project on the regulatory requirements that needed to be addressed by the system.

If you could time travel back to day one of your career and have 5 min with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heart ache, what is the one thing you would tell yourself?
That is a tough question. Things have turned out pretty well for me since trade compliance is a great sector to be involved with. It grows every year, and there is always high demand for people that know trade compliance well. I would not want to travel back in time and change something that would cause me to have gone off the course I traveled. If I really have to pick something, I would have told myself to learn Mandarin. The Asia market is so critical in the world of international trade, and having the ability to speak to my customers and counterparts in Chinese would be amazing.

What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life balance?
Force yourself to take a vacation. In my early days, I was 100% focused on work. I would not go home until everything was done. I would not take time off because I always had things to do. I had to come to the realization that there would always be work to do, and I would burn out if I stayed on the course I was following. The only way to fix it was to buy a non-refundable plane ticket and book a hotel for me and my family at a nice vacation destination. I felt a little guilty after my first trip, but then I realized no one was mad at me for taking time off and recharging my batteries. I also realized I was more productive before and after my vacation so my work did not suffer. Carpe Diem.
clay-perry-quote-1What is the best advice you received in your career?
Two things come to mind:
1. Find out what you enjoy doing, and then find a way to make money doing it.
2. Don’t look around you to see how well you are doing in your career. You will only see the things that you want to see, and you will not see the reality that everybody has their own struggles. In the long run, if you work hard and stay focused on your goals, then you will achieve them. You should only judge your career by whether or not you achieved the goals you set for yourself.

What is your favorite “career” memory?
Building a trade compliance software company from the ground up along with my best friend.

What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been?
Building a trade compliance software company from the ground up along with my best friend.

What were some of the biggest lessons that has impacted the way that you work?
Look for opportunities and not road blocks. Too many people look for reasons why they cannot get something down. However, if you look at that roadblock as an opportunity then it can be life changing. In other words, the opportunity you have is to find a way to remove the roadblock. It will not only benefit you, but it will benefit all of your coworkers and thus your company.
Story-time… A shoe company sends two (2) salesmen into the Australian Outback to sell shoes. The first salesman calls back to HQ and says “Sorry, the people here don’t where shoes.” (Roadblock) The second salesman calls back to HQ and says “We have an absolutely incredible opportunity here. Nobody here is wearing shoes.” (Opportunity)

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Literally, I would not change a thing. I am happy with my career and the way my life has turned out. I enjoy all of my customers and all of the people I work with on a daily basis.

What habits helped make you successful?
1. Work hard / Play hard. Hard work definitely pays off, but if you don’t find the time to have some fun, then you will burn out. Play just as hard as you work, and it will balance out.
2. Build relationships. Relationships are really the key to success. You must invest into a relationship to make it work, but when it works, then you reap the benefits throughout your career.

What mindsets do you feel helped make you successful?
Be honest and trustworthy no matter what situation you find yourself in. Telling the truth can be hard in certain situations, but if you are honest, then nobody can condemn you for it. They might be upset by the truth, but they respect you for being open about it. Then you solve the problem and move on together.

What was the biggest risk you took in your career?
Leaving a 9-to- 5 job with a high paying salary and taking a large pay cut to help Tom Barnes create Integration Point. If we were not successful, then he was out a lot of money, and I was out of a job. When I did this, I had a 6-year old daughter and an 11-year old son. I still had college to save up for, and I had a home mortgage to pay.

What do you think were the top three factors in contributing to your successful career?
1. Setting goals and then focusing on achieving those goals.
2. Strong work ethic combined with conviction to force a work-life balance
3. Most importantly… building long lasting relationships. I still work with people that I met early in my career. And through all the changes over time, those people have helped me advance, and I have done everything I can to help them advance.

This interview is part of a series from Pisani Recruiting. If there is a topic or guru that you’d like to see featured, email [email protected].

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