MEDIA: Appearance on SET for Success (680 CJOB Radio)

Pleased to have appeared on SET for Success on 680 CJOB with Richard Lannon discussing my new book, Defusing the Family Business Time BombSince many business leaders expect that their company will be sold at some point in time, often to fund their retirement, it is critical to understand the many challenges that could stand in the way of this goal, some of which might be surprising.  Business leaders tend to not fully appreciate potential problem areas, failing to realize just how high the likelihood is that their company will be impacted, putting their future plans at significant risk in the process.  Some hold the view that they “have it all figured out” or “don’t need to address those issues”, bringing a false sense of security and trouble at the worst possible time.  These scenarios are, unfortunately, all too familiar in the case of family business.

While it is typical for many family businesses to experience the “aches and pains” that are associated with members of a company having longstanding, personal relationships with one another (think conflict, role uncertainty, and the strife that comes with life developments such as divorce, illness, and death), there are other challenges that are just as important.  The world in which we live includes a number of external factors that make these days like no other, including:

  • Demographic factors: aging Baby Boomer business owners have a limited number of potential successors.  Do they know it?
  • Disruption of key industries: new and complex business models and rapid digital/technological advancement could reduce expected valuations and make transition to new owners either irrelevant or much more costly.  Is the company of relevance to customers, now and in the future?
  • Dramatic change in the global economy: making strategic planning difficult, increasing competition, and escalating the cost of doing business, thereby shrinking profit margins.  Can the company compete on a profitable basis?
  • Uncertain tax rules: new and complex tax changes, restrictions to family income sprinkling, and a clawback of the small business deduction all impact profitability, investment opportunities, and access to capital. This challenge could be especially difficult for young entrepreneurs or successors who want to scale up the business for the future.  Is the company getting the right advice?

Take a moment and think about each of these significant developments.  Any of these areas is a lot to deal with on its own, but when combined, these factors have the potential to stop a company in its tracks, making succession or sale of the business unattainable.  Consider what the impact of this discovery could mean to a business leader, their retirement, the future of the company, and the family.

This book helps business leaders to understand the areas that need to be addressed, now, including practical guidelines for facilitating important conversations with key advisors.  Doing so not only helps to improve how a company operates today, but can also address the issues of tomorrow, including succession, sale of business, strategic partnerships, and seeking investment capital.  These areas are also of key relevance to entrepreneurs and potential successors, who face unique challenges of their own.

You can listen to our conversation hereContact us to learn more about how we can help; your company, family, and peace of mind will be better for it.

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (January, 2019)

Starting off the New Year in studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside John Northcott and Elmer Kim.


As our world continues to experience economic, political, and technological change, our discussion reflected just that:

  • Turmoil in Venezuela.  In the face of leadership uncertainty and devastating economic and social challenges, potential US sanctions could significantly impact Venezuela’s oil industry.  What could this mean for Canada?
  • Ontario enhances autonomous vehicle pilot program.   Changes to an existing program will now allow some automated vehicles on public roads with just a passenger on board or a remote operator monitoring the vehicle.  When could we expect to see these vehicles on the road?

The Venezuela story is a reminder that developments in far away countries can impact us here in Canada, including in terms of business and the economy.  In the event that Venezuelan oil exports are sanctioned by the US, refineries in that country will be seeking supply to meet the needs of their operations.  Canadian crude oil could fill this gap, however, meeting such opportunities successfully requires more than just identifying solutions at a high level.  Logistical challenges and limitations have been in the news for some time and relate to the need for Canada to continue to focus on developing a global trade strategy for oil.  This approach raises the likelihood that opportunities could be successfully met as they arise; it is also simply good business.

The advancement of riderless cars, one step closer to being approved for regular road use, reminds us that the future is now.  Although there is still additional work to do in terms of testing and refinement, the practical use of autonomous vehicles represents tremendous change for many, including car manufacturers, insurers, companies that utilize vehicles and drivers, and consumers.  Are they ready?  I expect that many are facing the need to work quickly to keep up with the pace of these exciting developments.

And so, 2019 begins, with what should be an interesting year.  Special thanks to CBC News Network for the on-air mention of my new book, Defusing the Family Business Time BombI sincerely appreciate it!

 

BOOK RELEASE: Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new book, Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb!  This isn’t just another family business book.  Why?  Because family businesses are facing the most explosive challenge in a generation.

The reason?  While it is quite normal for a typical family business to be inundated with challenge and change, seldom have so many potential threats been evident:

  • Demographic factors.  The majority of aging Baby Boomer business owners do not have a succession plan and don’t appreciate the reality that there are a limited number of potential successors.
  • Disruption of key industries.  New, complex business models and rapid digital/technological advancement have the potential to reduce valuations and make transition to new ownership either irrelevant or much more costly.
  • Dramatic change in the global economy.  Makes strategic planning difficult, increases competition, and could escalate the cost of doing business, thereby shrinking profit margins.
  • Uncertain financial times.  Complex tax changes, restrictions to family income sprinkling, and a new clawback of the small business deduction all impact profitability, investment opportunities, and access to capital. This challenge could be especially difficult for young entrepreneurs or successors.
  • Typical family business problems.  The conflict, apathy, sudden or emerging illness, or control issues can affect relationships, decision-making and, ultimately, the health of both entities: the family and the company.

Business leaders are under siege, but do they know it?  These issues are significant and very much present in the current business environment, with additional evolution and challenges occurring with each day that passes.

Whether you are a long-time business owner getting ready to transition out or a new entrant to the “gig economy”, poised to grow and expand, you will appreciate this book for its contemporary and practical advice. It brings a common-sense approach to the challenges associated with building a company that has the potential to be sold to someone else in the future. This from two experienced authors and business leaders who have helped the owners, executives, investors, and professional advisors with whom they work to prepare for the most explosive challenge in a generation: the retirement of the Baby Boomers and transition of their companies to a new guard, who face pitfalls and opportunities of their own.

Join me and Evelyn Jacks on this important journey for your business and your family.  Order your copy here!

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (December, 2018)

Closing out 2018 in studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott.  This week, we focused on the business implications of the ongoing Huawei saga, which became part of the news cycle earlier this month with the detaining of the company’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou.

China’s concern over Meng’s circumstances has been playing out through a range of potential threats to companies, such as Apple and Canada Goose.  Actions that could arise include boycotting iPhone purchases, while Canada Goose has already faced a falling share price and delays in opening its new store in China.

This situation could also bring complications to the current 90 day “quiet period” between China and the US, in an attempt to arrive at a trade agreement that could bring more favourable terms than the recent past of escalating tariffs and other troubles.  While the two largest economies in the world seem poised for an uncertain relationship, with Canada facing warring words of its own from China, the news isn’t all bad. In the event that China cannot come to a reasonable trade resolution with the US, it will have to continue to procure goods to support its own economy, with a need to look beyond its regular trading partners.

Here are some things that Canadian companies should think about, in terms of balancing the opportunity and risk associated with the Chinese (or any new) market:

  • Bring a balanced approach.  When seeking to do business in new markets, it is critical to fully understand the marketplace, in terms of potential opportunities, risks, regulations, and business practices.  Too often, the focus is primarily on the opportunity, which could result in significant challenges when inevitable difficulties surface.
  • Take a long term perspective.  Entering new markets should be viewed as an investment, not a whim.  Investments require the right research, strategy, and implementation plan, not only to generate success, but also to address challenges and mitigate risk.  Although this might sound obvious, companies tend to fall into the trap of focusing primarily on generating short term, positive results, an approach that puts an investment at risk once early days pass.
  • Conduct an integrity check.  Among the important issues of opportunity and risk is the manner in which business is done; call it values, basis of judgement, operating style.  The bottom line is that not everyone (or every place) has a style that is consistent with your own, which could lead to significant problems down the road.  Knowledge is key to determining whether or not the opportunity at hand is a place where you want to be, and finding this out after the fact could be too late.

Increase the likelihood of success by resisting the temptation to leap without looking, and instead, doing the necessary homework to make an informed decision and strategize accordingly.  There’s strength in recognizing that those who are first out of the gate aren’t always in the race for the long run; be sure to avoid this all too common pitfall.

Thanks for watching and see you in 2019!

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (November, 2018)

Always enjoy my time on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, including this past Saturday, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott.  Here’s the topics we discussed, from the week that was in business:

  • Bombardier’s layoffs and selloffs:  The company has struggled in recent years and found itself in the news again this week; announcing 5,000 layoffs and a couple of selloffs as part of ongoing transition efforts.  With Canadian taxpayers having funded the company to the tune of over $1 billion, can any positive developments be expected?
  • Bowring and Bombay File for Creditor Protection:  Disruption in the retail space continues, this time, revisiting two longstanding Canadian brands.  Do they have a future?
  • Amazon’s Toy Catalogue:  Reminiscent of years past, Amazon has its own printed toy catalogue for the Holiday season; what’s behind this move?

Here’s a few thoughts:

Transition is never easy (or quick), but Canadian taxpayers have probably heard more than their share of less than stellar news about Bombardier.  The reality is that this large and diverse company didn’t find itself off the rails (pun intended) overnight, and unwinding a bad situation can take far more time, angst, and money than most would expect.  As is the case with any company, it’s critical to understand the core business, one where success can be generated on a competitive and financially favourable basis.  As manufacturing technology evolves, companies are challenged to be increasingly efficient and that often involves shedding or re-positioning jobs.  If Bombardier is to find success, it must have a well-designed plan that focuses in the right product and service areas in an efficient and competitive manner; time will tell if this can be achieved, or if the outcome will be of a more somber nature.

In an intensely competitive retail marketplace that has evolved significantly, many companies have found themselves left behind; Bowring and Bombay are the latest, having faced similar circumstances only a few years ago.  Retailers must understand their target market well and take the necessary steps to connect and engage with them in an effective manner.  These companies have not kept up with the rapid pace of evolution, which might spell the end for these Canadian brands.  Retrenching to fewer stores or trying to play online “catch up” with a customer that might not be receptive could be the age old story of finding and implementing a new strategy too late.

And, finally, Amazon’s printed toy catalogue is all about the memories and nostalgia of many childhoods, as well as reaching out to those who shop online less frequently.  Using an approach that makes online engagement easy just might be the most timely “pull” strategy we’ve seen in a while; kids just need to put down their tablets and iPhones long enough to flip through the pages!

Thanks for watching and see you again soon, CBC!

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (October, 2018)

Interesting Business Panel on CBC News Network this past weekend, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott, talking cannabis and the workplace, as well as the week in markets.  Here’s some insight:

As Canada is set to legally permit recreational use of cannabis on October 17th, many employers are facing challenges as to how to address the issue.  With some organizations banning use entirely for “safety sensitive” jobs, others are taking a less restrictive approach, requiring employees to ensure that they are “ready to work” and leaving it at that.  Many of Canada’s small enterprises (representing 98% of employer businesses) lack the resources and expertise to address this complex issue, while some large organizations have indicated that their cannabis related policies are still being developed.  This represents a significant problem.

In general terms, employers must adequately manage risk in order to ensure the safety and viability of their company, the welfare of staff members, and that customers receive the products, services, and care that should be associated with their purchase.  This includes establishing standards for how work is done, of which the human resource aspect is a critical component.

It is recognized that substances that cause impairment could impact a person’s ability to perform a job; this is the first part of the challenge, with the second being related to measurement.  Although monitoring compliance with some standards is relatively easy, such as in the case of an employee being required to wear safety equipment, measuring impairment is much more difficult.  Those with expertise in this area have indicated that obtaining reliable and relevant results when measuring cannabis consumption and impairment is problematic, with the appropriate technology not currently available.

For business leaders who have not yet addressed this area, given the level of urgency of putting appropriate policies in place, an efficient path to answers is to contact a qualified human resources advisor or your legal counsel.  Since policies should typically be researched, drafted, vetted, approved, and communicated in advance of when they are needed, it is critical to take action now.  Failing to do so could result in uncertainty, poor decision making, and what could be costly mistakes.

In terms of the markets, some of last week’s volatility relates to global trade uncertainty and conflict, such as in the case of the US and China.  Economies, however, have many components, including the potential impact of tariff, purchasing, investment, and employment levels, among others (current factor of interest at the White House: interest rates).  With some considering this sell off as one that has been in the works for a while, it’s important to keep these fluctuations in perspective and recognize that performance is still positive over the past year.  Lots to think about and monitor over the coming months.

Thanks, CBC, and see you again soon!

NEWS: Selected for the Women in Capital Markets Board-Ready Directory

Pleased to announce that I have been selected for inclusion in the Women in Capital Markets Board-Ready Directory.  This directory serves as a valuable resource for Board chairs, senior leaders, and recruiters to identify women who are eminently qualified to sit on public, crown, private, and not-for profit Boards of Directors.

The purpose of this initiative is to provide a pool of qualified female candidates to encourage greater gender diversity on corporate boards in Canada.  The latest CSA Staff Review of Women on Boards and in executive officer positions found that only 14% of major Canadian Board members are women, despite regulations that were established more than a year ago.  This roster of women has successfully completed a qualification process, meeting or exceeding established criteria and well positioned to make an impact.

Women in Capital Markets’ (WCM) mission is to accelerate gender diversity across the financial industry and corporate boardrooms of Canada.  WCM is the largest network of professional women in the Canadian financial sector and the voice of advocacy for women in the industry, including all segments of capital markets and related services.

On a personal level, I’m thrilled to be part of this important group that is working to ensure that women have a seat and voice at the Board table.  Speaking as a former venture capital executive with a significant amount of governance experience, this diversity imbalance needs to be resolved and I am proud to be in a position to help make gender inequity history.

Feel free to contact me to discuss how I can contribute to your corporate board.

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (September, 2018)

Fun to be back in the studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business panel, alongside Jeanhy Shim and John Northcott.  In a business week where stories ebbed and flowed, we landed on two stories that are well suited for looking forward and back:

  • The 10th Anniversary of the Global Financial Crisis.  Ten years after the stunning failure of Lehman Brothers, marking the start of the global financial crisis, what lessons have been learned?  Could another crisis be on the horizon?
  • NIKE’S New Ad Campaign.  Despite an initial backlash to NIKE’s new endorsement deal with Colin Kaepernick, online sales quickly re-bounded, tracking an increase in excess of 30%.  Is this trend here to stay?  What could this endorsement mean for other brands?

There is so much that could be said on each of these stories, but here’s my quick take:

I remember the start of the global financial crisis like it was yesterday, characterized by the stock market falling and bleak corporate stories rising for days on end.  As past crises have taught us, the business world is one where a relatively small segment of players find ways to make significant amounts of money on the fringe; residing out on the edge of acceptable conduct, finding gaps in the regulatory environment and acceptable norms.  Too often, these people make their money by putting their own position ahead of others, resulting in considerable detriment to many, such as in the case of failures in the housing and corporate markets.  This “rogue factor” makes the case for the importance of smart, focused regulation, enacted by those who have a good understanding of where the gaps are.  Well intentioned guidelines too often miss the mark, and it’s important to recognize that more is not always better.

Having said that, what could the challenges of the future look like?  As much as companies will continue to fail (a trend that isn’t going anywhere), expect the next crises to include some new factors, such as the impact of technology, demographics, trade issues, shifts in alliances, and uncertainties associated with areas such as cryptocurrency.  With technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, self-driving vehicles, and a greater level of control at the consumer level, what will the impact of inevitable job losses have on the economy?  What will be the first domino to fall and where will the chain of events that is triggered end?  Recognize that the crisis that comes next could look very different than what we have seen in the past, a mere 10 years ago, which, in reality, represents a much longer developmental timeframe.

In the case of NIKE, many of us can recall when a little known NFL quarterback made headlines when he “took a knee” in protest of racial injustice.  Whether in agreement or disagreement with Kaepernick’s actions, he clearly took a risk in expressing his point of view.  This concept of risk is consistent with what NIKE did when launching its newest campaign, an interesting parallel to what inspired it all.  Risk creates uncertainty, something that stock markets are known not to like; however, it also requires courage, faith, and knowing that much could be lost.  While Kaepernick remains an unsigned free agent, NIKE’s initial losses have been replaced with gains, at least in the short term, with the future yet to be seen.

What could be fueling this response?  Over the last couple of years, numerous people and groups have been standing up (or, perhaps, taking a knee) for causes they believe in, such as gender inequality, gun control, abuse, and yes, racial injustice.  With what seems to be no end to the distasteful rhetoric coming from a range of extremist groups and even the White House, many people seem to have found their own voice, recognizing that this type of world isn’t what they want for themselves, their children, or their community.  As it has been said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”, it seems that many have been displaying this sentiment through their actions.  Perhaps, this is what is fueling both understanding and support for those who are willing to go out on a limb for their beliefs and risk it all, in response to what is wrong, unjust, or unseemly.

Personally, I couldn’t agree more.  If we are not willing to speak up when the chips are down, what are we left with as a society?  Thanks for watching and see you next time!

HAPPENING NOW: Book News

The summer months are a great time for writing and I’m pleased to announce that I have a new book project in development.  As I celebrate 10 years as an independent business advisor, it’s important to continue sharing knowledge with the goal of helping leaders to identify strategies to build stronger companies and is consistent with my previous books, courses, and the many articles that I have published over the years.

In my travels, I see various “leadership” resources; however, many lack practical tools that could be readily implemented to generate meaningful results, while others bring little in the way of direct business experience.  To each their own, however, I prefer to focus on fundamental actions that business leaders could take to build value in their companies, while filtering out areas that detract from doing so.  As an executive, I’ve had a direct role in launching, growing, and transitioning companies, which is a very different type of experience than the norm (if you’ve done it, you will know what I mean).  Focusing on strategies that get results and having a resource who has been in the trench is an approach that can move companies forward more effectively and this has never been more important than in today’s new economy.

I have a theory that companies find reasons to opt out of what is in their own best interest.  Take a moment and think about what that means.  Those who resist this temptation, and instead, face the challenge of building a better business head on, represent the relative few who are positioned for market leadership.  This is a powerful mindset and ability, representing the companies that are the choice of strategic partners, investors, successors, and of course, customers.  With the right strategies and assistance, this could be your company.

I hope that everyone has an enjoyable and successful summer.  Stay tuned for book publication and release details coming soon.

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (July, 2018)

We were fortunate to have a long segment to discuss the week’s business news this past Saturday on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (on live TV, you never know what the news morning might hold!).

Elmer Kim, Natasha Fatah, and I chatted about the following stories:

  • Trade Tensions Between the US and China Heat Up.  With the world’s two biggest economies enforcing $34 billion in tariffs on one another, where is the global economy heading?  What’s next for Canada and companies in our country?
  • Bombardier’s Latest Competitive Threat.  As Boeing and Embraer announce a $4.75 billion joint venture to enhance production in the small jetliner market, what does this mean for Bombardier?  Can the marketplace support both the C Series and E-Jet family?

With the newly enforced US/China tariffs expected to be only the beginning, it’s important for Canada to continue to stay the course on developing its global trade strategy.  NAFTA talks have quietly continued, and with US and Chinese goods becoming less attractive cost-wise, Canadian companies have an opportunity to provide an alternate source of supply in some areas, particularly in terms of doing business with China.  Canadian companies that seek to do so must ensure that they conduct targeted research to understand the opportunity, determine how to approach the market, and ensure that there is an appropriate implementation plan in place.  Assuming that there are not any differences from a company’s current customers and line of business is usually a mistake.  Advisors can be helpful, in terms of assisting companies with strategies to approach new markets efficiently and successfully.

In terms of the ongoing Bombardier and Boeing story, well managed companies understand who their current and potential competitors are, as well as with whom they might partner.  Strategic partnerships position companies to achieve more than could be accomplished on their own, and both joint ventures (Bombardier/Airbus and Boeing/Embraer) are examples of that.  Bombardier has the benefit of already being active in the marketplace with Airbus, providing an opportunity to maximize sales before the Boeing/Embraer deal is closed.  What’s more, if both jets are truly what customers want, two providers could have the impact of building a bigger marketplace for their product.

As always, it’s great to be in the studio and to be able to share our thoughts on the week’s business news with CBC viewers.  As I reach almost a year of having the privilege to do so, a special mention to the talented men and women who ensure that we are camera-ready; thank you!