A Decade of Building Bonds

November 29, 2023

Ten years is a long time for any relationship. For professional relationships, that same timeframe can span different CEOs, managers, even primary product offerings. But that’s how long President Ryan Polakoff and supply chain optimization company Nexterus have been involved with the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI), and there’s no sign of slowing down.

Back in 2014, Ryan was running the local sales office and aggressively pursuing business development opportunities in Baltimore. He was looking for new partners and to expand Nexterus’ network, so the World Trade Center Institute was a perfect fit, even if it was just one of several opportunities he was exploring at the time. But WTCI membership started paying dividends almost immediately.

“I made it my mission to just go to everything downtown that I could,” Ryan said. “So directly and indirectly within the first six months, we forged a lot of really great relationships. Some that resulted in just pure friendships, some that resulted in direct business, and others that resulted in great referral partners. We viewed it as a pretty immediate success in both tangible and non-tangible ROI.”

Ryan became further enmeshed in the WTCI network when he joined the Bowe Fellowship class of 2019. This ten-month intensive fellowship connects seasoned leaders from around the mid-Atlantic to make connections, compare leadership styles, and most of all learn. At the time, Ryan was the VP of Sales and Marketing, and the fellowship allowed him to flex those leadership muscles. One memorable session included asking fellows to role play from different perspectives and then take the ideas that were generated, and place them on a whiteboard. Then come back in a few days and ask what can be brought into reality.

It's a practice that Ryan took back to Nexterus and is still in active use. And it’s part of the open culture that’s encouraged at the company today.A Decade of Building Bonds There’s an open meeting space with a whiteboard that employees are encouraged to use regardless of their tenure.

“We’ve worked really hard to take practices like this and say, ‘you’re unshackled, there are no bad ideas,” said Ryan. “It’s lined up with me personally, as well as opened people’s imaginations.”

And while the lessons learned during the Bowe Fellowship are significant, fellows are always quick to mention the relationships they built during the program. Ryan’s time in the program was no different, as he connected with Colin Clark, now the Chief Marketing Officer at Dunlop Protective Footwear. At the time, they had conversations about their companies working together. But as with all relationships, being in the right place at the right time isn’t always easy. Nothing developed for years, but they kept running into one another, joking that it would happen someday.

That day arrived in early October 2023, when Nexterus announced it was going to partner with Dunlop to automate its supply chain processes.

“That all started when we initially connected through the Bowe Fellowship and built a relationship from there,” said Ryan. “I think it would’ve happened a lot sooner, but there were different timing and personnel components on both sides. I can’t say enough good things about Colin and the work that he’s done there.”

Both Ryan and Colin will be reuniting at an upcoming WTCI event, the 2023 State of the Ports and Embassy Wine Tasting. Ryan will be moderating the breakout session “Navigating the Complexities of Global Supply Chains” featuring Colin along with the President and CEO of C-Care Gaurav Ajwani, and the Director of Supply Chain at Paul Reed Smith Guitars Meghan Efland.

“We’ll be going through a really good conversation on different volatile things that have happened in the market over the last six months,” said Ryan. “From big transportation carriers shutting down, potential strikes within the parcel industry, we’re in an inflationary period, we have geopolitical conflicts. All of these things touch the supply chain externally.”

This is Ryan’s third appearance serving as a moderator at a State of the Ports event, and it promises to be one of the most interesting and engaging conversations yet.

A decade later, the Nexterus team still prioritizes attending WTCI events and connecting with its members. The connections made have led to a greater sense of community, friendships, and business partnerships, and shows no signs of slowing down.

“WTCI is still the only group we have here locally that we really put a preeminent focus on saying ‘we have to be at these events and be involved.’”

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