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Lawrence Barker who is currently an Acting President and CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) was in attendance to Ashton Abbotsford ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 26, 2017.
We took this opportunity to ask Lawrence a few questions about his work, the upcoming trends in the immigration industry and tips for students to get ahead in their career as Regulated Immigration Consultants.
Lawrence has been working with ICCRC since 2011. “Right now, I wear many hats,” he says, laughing. “I have started as the Registrar and Corporate Secretary: was hired in the sunrise of the organization in 2011, and I am still maintaining that position. In this role, I also oversee the Complaints, Discipline and Tribunal division. On top of that, for the last 9 months in the absence of a permanent CEO, I am also the Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council.”
When asked how he manages to coordinate between the different roles he has, Lawrence credits his team. “I definitely have good help. We have a very solid team of professionals, and I couldn’t do it without them doing such a great job in their respective areas. But of course, it is busy – a lot of good time management skills are required.”
Lawrence definitely possesses the necessary experiences and expertise, having worked in senior non-for-profit management for over 30 years. He brings professionalism and effective management to his work in ICCRC. But instead of emphasizing his own experiences, he gives credit to his team, saying this is where credits are due.
“Everyone on the Senior Management Team has been very supportive of my role. And so has been my wife, especially when work happens on the weekends.”
“The Board of Directors will be appointing the new permanent CEO, and at that time I will be going back to my role as a Registrar, which is where my passion for the Council lies.”
When talking about the immigration industry, Lawrence emphasizes continuous growth and development.
“My personal perception is that immigration is a very dynamic and growing field,” Lawrence points out. “Furthermore, with the number of baby boomers who are retired or will soon be retiring, it is very likely that the industry will experience a skill shortage. Besides being culturally enriching for Canada, immigration consulting industry will also experience an actual need for skilled workforce in all level of skill.”
According to Lawrence, it is a positive development for both the immigration consulting industry and Canadian immigration in general.
“I don’t see the growth in the immigration industry slowing down any time in the near future.”
“Right now, the Council is seeing a boom in the number of people entering and writing the ICCRC Full Skills exam, and I don’t see that dropping off either,” he adds.
Lawrence has shared his experiences talking with the Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs), expanding on what in his opinion were the key areas new Immigration Consultants needed to focus on.
“The biggest advice I can give is to find what your niche is when you graduate from the Immigration Consulting program,” says Lawrence. “I talked to many students and did interviews with the people who were contemplating leaving the [immigration] profession, and what I realized was the following: people often opened up a place of business, but did nothing to market their services.”
Lawrence therefore highly recommends the students who are thinking of starting their own business to take a marketing course, or even a Sales and Marketing Program to make sure that they know how to promote their brand and services.
“Whether you are taking the May or the August Full Skills Exam, I strongly recommend to prepare yourself for what the industry demands by learning more about marketing, especially if you are planning to start your own business.”
“You need to know what area of immigration you want to work on and learn how to let others know what you and your organization stand for. This is where your marketing knowledge comes it.”
He continues: “If you simply put the sign up that says “Regulated Immigration Consultant”, you are going to struggle. This business doesn’t work this way. Underestimating the amount of effort that it would take to start an immigration business seems to be the prevailing reason why people get disheartened and leave the industry. The loss of interest, you could say, is due to the fact that there was no proper groundwork in the beginning.”
Another piece of advice Lawrence gives is related to choosing the niche audience for immigration services. “As an immigration consultant, you are often dealing with people who are not yet in Canada, or with people who came here recently and are now looking to become Canadian citizens. So you have to decide how you are going to appeal to them. Maybe you would like to only do a particular type of immigration, and that’s how you would promote yourself as.”
“Maybe you are doing to only practice in the same cultural or ethnic community that your family is from. In this case, an example of your marketing activity could be putting advertisements in local ethnic papers. Then newcomers of that culture or Canadians whose relatives or friends want to come to Canada will know that you are fluent in the language, and also that you are aware of their cultural uniqueness – and that would be your niche market.”
Lawrence continues: “Maybe you would like to take on a unique immigration area. For instance, you are the kind of person who loves the idea of advocating for someone in detention, which some people won’t do. Whatever your area of choice, you really need to focus on promoting your services to your niche market once you graduate.”
Interestingly, Lawrence noted, there are people who do not treat Immigration Consulting practice as a priority. “A percentage of consultants actually have 2 careers,” shares Lawrence. “They could be, for instance, a chiropractor or an accountant, and that would be 70% of their focus. In this case, immigration is only considered a weekend hobby for them.”
“Unfortunately, when you treat Immigration Consulting this way, you are less likely to do the necessary groundwork to make sure your business becomes recognizable and profitable,” shares Lawrence. “You may not be marketing yourself and your services, or may not spend enough time to make sure you are up-to-date with the immigration industry – and this is after spending your money on tuition to be a professional in immigration industry.”
“I would recommend to take your industry and your business seriously. If you work hard and give it your all, it will turn out to be a very profitable and rewarding career for you.”