October 18th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 42
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4 keys to success according to Hemphill
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Inspiration, coming from a place of quiet, is one of Hemphill’s four keys to success.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
With the recent closure of several prominent stores in the Pass within the past year, it is rather encouraging to hear a success story about a business that started from nothing, and has grown into a reputable and prosperous enterprise catering to all of North America, based right here in Blairmore.

AustriAlpin is a safety hardware supplier, selling equipment from carbineers to rock climbing axes, also working in a number of different specialized markets in fire protection, the Hollywood industry and military. Their patented COBRA buckle is their most famous piece of equipment.

The Austria-based company has a North American distributor in Blairmore, a business that has flourished so much over the years that they have outgrown their current space at the Compass Centre and are constructing a new warehouse and office center in Blairmore. They expect to move into their new locale next week.

Aaron Hemphill, director of operations at AustriAlpin North America, semi-retired from the company he started approximately three years ago on his 40th birthday to run a hospitality and ranching business.

“I was really feeling called to the change. I’ve worked in past years as a rancher in Australia and I really liked the idea of being on the land and working with land. I pitter and patter around the ranch now, doing anything from flushing toilets and fixing lights that tourists burn out, to you name it,” says Hemphill, who still comes in weekly to the AustriAlpin office to receive updates on the business. “It has become so successful that it really doesn’t need me anymore.”
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At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on October 11, Hemphill, a devout Christian, shared what he calls his four “unconventional” keys to success in business:

1. Follow your heart

Hemphill studied accounting at the University of Lethbridge, a field he discovered that he “absolutely hated.” After earning a little bit of money from working at his father’s accounting firm, he jumped on a plane and spent a year cycling around Australia with a friend, working odd jobs.

When it was time to come back home to Canada, he was broke, extremely in debt, and jobless.

“Like most 20-year-olds, I forgot that you actually have to pay debt back and my students loans were overrun,” he says. “I had no work, and I was in trouble. I felt like the whole world kind of fell on me.”

Desperate for work, he had a bunch of interviews lined up in Calgary to work in the oil patches. It was here, sitting on Stephen Avenue, that he reached a major crux in his life when he found his faith.

“I didn’t want to do what I was going to do. I was dressed in my nice black suit, my nice tie, my nice shirt, I was sitting on Stephen Avenue and I was watching every other kid who looked just like me walk by. It absolutely broke my heart,” he says. “It was the first time in my life where I had encountered God in a real way. I wasn’t in any way a believer, but I just cried out in my heart, ‘God, I really don’t want to do this,’ and as clear as day in my heart, I heard this question, ‘What do you want to do, Son?’ I said that I wanted to be a mountain guide because I love the mountains. The answer that came back was, ‘Go be a mountain guide.’”
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And that’s exactly what Hemphill did, dropping all his interviews and starting a guiding business in Crowsnest Pass. While it was a passion, he found it difficult to pay the bills during the slow season in the wintertime.

While visiting his wife in the Czech Republic, he had formed some partnerships with the owners of a sporting goods chain. Seeing opportunity there, Hemphill took out a $20,000 loan from Community Futures and formed a business and started importing Czech-made mountaineering goods that weren’t yet on the market in Canada.

“Lo and behold, I learned a very valuable lesson: that kids and adults don’t really like to buy really good stuff. They like to buy really good North Face stuff and unless it had a label that they recognized, it was a hard push,” he says.

With a lot of stock left over, Hemphill had followed his heart, but things were at a crutch at this point…

2. Generous giving

With all this stock that wasn’t selling, down to his last $400, with a pre-written cheque in that sum, Hemphill went up to Calgary to clear a shipment of climbing shoes. A friend he was staying with invited him to a Tehillah Monday service.
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“I was thinking, ‘Tehillah Monday’, it sounds like tequila. Can’t be that bad,’” says Hemphill.

Well, he was surprised to get there and find a group of people singing, dancing and praising Jesus. A guest speaker at the service talked about tiding, inspiring Hemphill to give back, donating his last $400 cheque to a fundraiser for an orphanage at the service.

It was when Hemphill started giving back that he credits his situation changing. A short while after, an institution purchased a large amount of his obsolete stock and sales started picking up on the e-commerce side of his business.

“When my heart put itself in a position of generosity and not in a position of ‘me first’, it unleashed something. I like to use the analogy that money is like shit. If you’ve got a pile of it, it starts to stink. But if you spread it around and you invest it here or you put it there, it makes things grow. And when you grow, you reap,” he says.

The company went from $5,000 in sales some 10 years ago, to about $10 million now. Last year, AustriAlpin gave away $900,000 to charities.

3. Hire the right people

“I’ve gone through good employees, okay employees and absolutely fantastic employees. I have now only fantastic employees,” says Hemphill, who has focused his hiring practices less on looks and style of an applicant to their personality.

“I look for someone who is a people lover and someone whose interests are beyond themselves,” he says, and credits a lot of his success to the dedicated, honest group of people working for him now. AustriAlpin employs five people from Crowsnest Pass and area.

4. Inspiration

Good ideas come from inspiration, and inspiration, says Hemphill, comes from a place of quiet.

“For me, work always starts from a place of rest,” he says. “I take that quiet time because if I’m not quiet, I don’t hear and if I don’t hear, I’m not inspired. I truly believe and have experienced in over 20 years of business that every good idea, every decision, all those things that people think are just genius or business-savvy, all those things come from inspiration.”

Now, at AustriAlpin, each employee’s day starts off with 15 minutes of quiet time, starting from a place of rest, a place of peace.

“It’s amazing what happens because they’re working out of rest and not exhaustion,” says Hemphill.
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October 18th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 42
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