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!

NEWS: CMC-Global Institute Launches New Website

As Chair of the Marketing Committee of CMC-Global Institute, I am pleased to announce the launch of our new website, on behalf of the Board of Directors.  CMC-Global Institute (CMC-GI) was launched in 2013 and is affiliated with CMC-Global, formerly the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes.  Its purpose is to create a forum for management consultants in countries where CMC-Global does not yet have a local institute for potential members to join.

Consultants anywhere in the world where there is not a local member institute can apply for membership with CMC-GI, providing the opportunity to pursue the internationally recognized Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation, participate in professional development programming, and network with other members. When a sufficient number of CMC members is attained in a given country, a national institute can be established.

CMC-GI provides various services to its membership, including access to:

  • A professional association with other like-minded professionals;
  • The opportunity to apply for, earn, and maintain the CMC designation;
  • Virtual professional development activities to maintain the CMC designation; and
  • Publications and resources of interest to management consultants.

The image that is on our website and other branded materials conveys the diversity of our global membership, welcoming consultants in a variety of languages.  We are proud of the diversity of our organization and the opportunity it presents for consultants around the world; feel free to share the translation of “consultant” in your language with us!

Please contact us to learn more about how your management consulting practice could benefit from CMC-GI membership, providing an important differentiation in what can often be a crowded marketplace.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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

The fun aspects of live TV were evident on a very busy news morning this past Saturday for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel.  Our segment was delayed while we watched the Trump press conference on the monitor in studio as he left the G7 Summit.  Although he arrived late and left early, Trump’s presence at the G7 did little to generate progress; rather, the outcome could best be described as uniting the other six countries against the US, as a result of the difficult stance they’ve been taking on a number of issues.

As someone who watches a lot of US political news, Trump’s remarks (and subsequent tweets) are more of the same, including blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being “very dishonest and weak”.  In a previous tweet, Trump indicated that Trudeau’s “false statements” resulted in his decision to not endorse the G7 communique, an obvious snub to longstanding US allies.  Although attacking Canada might not be the norm, finding a “villain” and taking shots from afar are typical Trump behaviors.  My guess: he’s annoyed that the G7 countries didn’t go along with his demands and had the wherewithal (i.e., “nerve”) to fight back against the recent US tariffs and request exemptions.  In the absence of achieving any success on this front, it’s game on.

This situation represents an uncertain time for companies globally, many of which rely on a range of partners to operate, be it suppliers, distributors, and financiers.  Business (and markets) do not like uncertainty, as it can represent risk for companies, and as Trump continues making unforced errors, problems that do not need to happen appear in abundance.  As Prime Minister Trudeau continues to support Canadian interests, opportunities for companies in Canada are evident, as businesses globally continue to consider the implications of uncertainty associated with US partners.

Canada is home to many companies that have the ability to rise to meet international challenges, however, they should do so only after completing the necessary research and putting the right systems, processes, and strategies in place.  Growth has a way of requiring capital, and companies shouldn’t approach opportunities before fully understanding the neecessary funding and ensuring that it is in place.  Sound like a lot to do?  Advisors can help.

See you next time, CBC!

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

Always fun to be in the studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (so proud to be wearing a Winnipeg Jets pin on my lapel!).  This past weekend, Elmer Kim, Natasha Fatah, and I debriefed a busy week in business, including:

  • La Presse Goes Non-Profit:  One of Canada’s longstanding publications will become a non-profit entity, setting the stage for receipt of donations, and perhaps, federal funding.  What does this development mean for the future of newspaper-style media companies?
  • Canadian Tire Set to Acquire Helly Hansen:  This retailer has a long standing history in a range of sectors, including automotive, outdoor, and sporting goods.  Will acquisition of this Norway-based sportswear company take Canadian Tire in a new direction?
  • Meet Google Duplex:  As AI continues to evolve, Google turned heads with a very human sounding voice making an appointment over the phone, engaging in a typical conversation with a human.  What issues and opportunities does this technology raise?

Print and newspaper media have undergone massive changes over the past decade, leaving many struggling with questions around the next steps forward, as well as their future viability.  Movement to a non-profit structure might give the impression that the revenue challenge is no longer an issue, but this is problematic for at least two reasons: (i) all organizations need money to survive, and in the case of non-profits, they need to demonstrate that they are worthy of donations and funding; and (ii) in order to do so, non-profits must be able to generate successful outcomes, which requires the right strategy and plan.  In a nutshell, La Presse needs to have the right business model in place, including a clear plan around what it seeks to achieve and how it will do so, which boils down to cash inflows, outflows, and results.  Moving a problem “from here to there” won’t fix it; stay tuned to see if this important work has been done.

The huge consumer appeal of “life wear”, those resilient fabric technologies that allow us to comfortably wear what was once thought as only athletic wear, from dawn to dusk, wherever we go, is a difficult trend for retailers to miss.  Canadian Tire has long been a source of more durable items, and with the billion dollar acquisition of Helly Hansen, the opportunity exists to expand their offering into this popular area.  In addition, since Helly is an established brand globally, the opportunity for Canadian Tire to generate revenues in other markets and, perhaps, expand product offerings into these channels could be of interest.  What’s critical in the retail industry is to ensure that product is turning over, and that inventory isn’t so broad that it puts a drag on results.  With Canadian Tire’s many departments, are they in the process of streamlining their offering to better align with the marketplace?

And finally, in the category of “the future is now”, Google just keeps on moving forward, with its Duplex technology that sounds oh, so human.  With the ability to make phone appointments and interact with conversational ease, it’s not difficult to see many potential applications.  As with any business, it’s important to also see the downside, including risks of utilizing this technology in unintended ways, such as impersonation and security breaches.  Questions are also being raised around job loss, as a mass of relatively low value roles could be displaced; such has been the case over the last century or more.  With so many high value things to do, call it progress.

Thanks for tuning in and see you next time, CBC!

MEDIA FEATURE: Consultants Who Love Consulting

I’m pleased to be featured in the April issue of Consult, a publication of CMC-Canada in the Consultants Who Love Consulting section.

First things first, what is a CMC?  The Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is the profession’s only international certification mark, recognized in over 40 countries internationally.  It represents a commitment to the highest standards of consulting and adherence to the ethical standards of the profession.  I have held my CMC designation since 1997 and have found that it separates professional consultants from those who represent themselves as consultants or advisors, perhaps by way of having knowledge in a particular area, but without formal education in terms of the consulting process (yes, there is a consulting process, and utilizing this knowledge makes a significant difference to client engagements).  You can learn more about the CMC designation here.

So, now, here’s a bit more about my personal interest in consulting.

Early in my career, I knew that a “narrow” path of focus wasn’t for me, as I had (and continue to have) an innate curiosity about the holistic workings of a business, in terms of how all of its parts are interconnected.  Like a sports team on their field of play, success isn’t likely without the coordinated effort of all members, working in the same direction.  Too often, organizations seek “quick fixes” in a particular area, such as marketing, and wonder why their efforts are not successful and fail to achieve the desired results.  Simply put, marketing isn’t just about what goes on in the Marketing Department.

I also found myself much more interested in tangible outcomes; action that could be taken to make a company successful, as opposed to just wandering along an undefined path.  The ability to do this is tremendously powerful and separates an advisor such as myself from those who spend their time in more theoretical or long term oriented areas.  There is nothing wrong with these perspectives; they serve a different purpose.

Not surprisingly, I spent almost 10 years as an executive in the fast-paced venture capital industry, where getting things done and generating results were daily priorities.  I believe that bringing this type of experience to client companies can create a competitive edge in the marketplace, BUT, business leaders have to actually want to make it happen.  Doing so isn’t for the faint of heart, as real progress isn’t always easy and the commitment to persevere often takes much more than anticipated.   These leaders, however, know that there isn’t another option, as they are not the type to continue on their existing, less than ideal path, ignoring the obvious signs that charting a new course is needed.

Bottom line, I believe that being in business is all about opportunities, and it’s up to business leaders to make the most of them.  Those who are driven to do so wouldn’t take these steps without sound advice, from those who have “been there”, “done that”, and truly understand the tremendous opportunities and challenges that are at stake.

As a CMC, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Anything less is, well, less.