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!

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!

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: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (April, 2018)

The Winnipeg Whiteout made an appearance on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel this past Saturday.  It was great to be alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott to discuss the week in business.  We chatted about:

  • Millennials Delay Home Purchases, While Budgets Shrink and Rates Rise:  Research reports and surveys are finding that, although millennials have an interest in purchasing a home, the majority lack the financial resources to do so.  Mortgage stress test rules and income levels that have been slow to increase haven’t helped matters.
  • Canadian Markets Close Early Due to Technical Problems:  All markets operated by the TMX Group closed early on Friday due to a technical glitch; the TSX, TSX Venture Exchange, TSX Alpha Exchange, and Montreal Exchange all stopped functioning around 1:37 PM Eastern time.  What are the implications for our financial and other systems, given their significant reliance on technology?

The topic of housing and millennials is one that could be discussed at length.  Although Canada’s housing market has generally seen significant price and inventory increases over the past several years, the path to ownership for millennials is impacted by a number of issues.  Rising prices and new mortgage stress test requirements represent challenges, however, so do the relatively slow increases in wage levels, impacted by a number of factors, including changes in workforce requirements and the potential for lagging career advancement rates, as Baby Boomers continue to hold onto senior roles and remain in the companies that they own.  Millennials also have a high level of interest in areas such as travel, lifestyle experiences, and luxury goods and services, making home ownership less of a priority for some.

Technology risk in large systems, such as finance, utilities, security, and information, is an area of increasing importance.  As we discussed on the Business Panel in December, 2017, concerns around the protection of information systems, including hacking, is a significant issue that is not yet fully addressed by many organizations.  Although the TMX situation has been reported as not being related to a hack, the concern relates to how integral these systems have become to our everyday lives.  Companies need to ensure that there are sufficient resources, checks, and balances in place to manage risk, and the urgency to do so is immediate.

A video link of the Weekend Business Panel is available here, including an appearance of the Winnipeg Whiteout.  As a lifelong Winnipeg Jets fan, I’m pleased to encourage everyone to join the legendary Winnipeg Whiteout, wherever you might be.  I would also invite you to check out Project 11, an important wellness initiative that means a lot to us here in Winnipeg.

Go Jets Go, and see you again soon, CBC!

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

Great to be back in the studio this past weekend alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott to discuss what was a hectic week in business.  We chatted about:

We also discussed a late breaking tweet from Donald Trump, taking aim at Amazon for creating alleged losses at the US Post Office (more on that later).  Let’s talk about the business stories first.

It’s no secret that the workplace has changed, driven by evolving requirements.  Where the focus has traditionally been on jobs, remaining globally competitive also requires “human skills”, well beyond that of technical ability.  Businesses have a need for employees who can fulfill a range of important areas, including collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, all of which seem to have fallen by the wayside in a world where technical skills have been so important.  Staff members who have the ability to “bridge technology and humanity” will be of considerable value, as not everyone has the capacity (or desire) to do so.  Regardless of how this trend is considered, there is a shortfall of people who have the ability to meet the needs of a workplace in demand of digital literacy, as well as “digital thinkers”, a skill set that is so different from programming and coding.

In many respects, this skills shortfall is a reflection of leadership, in that senior teams in companies and organizations are not just responsible for present day requirements, but also for future needs.  Too many business leaders spend their time consumed by operational activities and internal matters, as compared to understanding industry and market trends and developments.  It is critical that future needs be fully understood so that strategies can be identified and put in place to ensure survival into the long term.  This situation is one that business leaders and boards of directors need to be addressing immediately.

The current situation at Tesla is an example of both sides of the entrepreneurial mindset.  Entrepreneurs are successful due to their creativity, vision, optimism, and relentless belief in their product or service.  The difficulty occurs when lofty objectives do not come to pass, given that the implementation process can significantly differ from the vision of what is possible over the long term.  Many entrepreneurs don’t excel at managing expectations, which can be particularly damaging to their companies in the investor world and public markets.  In the case of Tesla, the story could have been a lot different had progress and targets been conveyed more strategically, in addition to how building capacity was approached (much more could be said about this!).

 

And finally, it wasn’t a quiet Saturday morning in the Twitterverse, as Donald Trump took aim at Amazon, claiming that “…the US Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon…”, among other things.  In continuing to target parties (and people) based on alleged information, personal views, unsubstantiated claims, and/or media beefs, Trump’s comments have already moved markets, resulting in billions of dollars being lost, at least in the short term.  This ongoing behavior does little to raise the credibility of the messenger, who seems more interested in demonstrating that his comments have market impact, rather than the underlying implications of doing so.

It’s a reasonable expectation that a country’s leader should be encouraging corporate growth and success, to the benefit of employees and the broader economy, however, what’s occurring in the US has strayed from this path.  Regardless of Trump’s claims, don’t expect the US to return to the traditional economy of the past anytime soon.

Thanks for watching!

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

Fun discussion this past weekend with Natasha Fatah and Elmer Kim on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel.  In a busy segment, we discussed the week that was, including:

Falcon Heavy, Spacex, and Tesla’s Wild Ride:  With the breathtaking launch of the largest rocket in history, what does this mean for the future of space exploration?  With a Tesla Roadster being launched into space, could the Company’s future reach similar heights?

The Cost of Raising the Next Generation of Olympic Athletes:  As the 2018 Winter Olympics commence, what are the financial implications of rising to this level of competition?  Can Olympians bank on endorsements after they have represented Canada at sport’s highest level?

As a life long space enthusiast, all aspects of the Falcon Heavy launch are not only exciting, but also fascinating from a business perspective.  Since humans are explorers at their core, traveling beyond our world and seeking to understand it are within our DNA.  Advancements such as more robust space exploration at a much lower cost, the ability to re-use components, and greater functionality are to be celebrated, not to mention the phenomenal release of that Tesla Roadster!  Expect far more in the future, including a variety of projects and the Mission to Mars, and hopefully further advancement of rockets and air travel right here on Planet Earth.

And speaking of Earth, Tesla has some definite work to do in resolving its operational issues and increasing its Model 3 production.  What’s important to remember is that the Company is moving from a niche manufacturer to “mass production”, which represents a very different business.  When this occurs, companies can face a host of growth related issues, many of which are not glamorous and require a lot of analysis and hard work to resolve.  Critical to doing so is having the right people in place to get the job done, and advisors can help to move the growth strategy forward.

For many athletes, the pinnacle of their careers is completing on the global stage, something with which the Olympics is synonymous, but getting there in financial terms can be just as challenging.  Although some funding is available, what’s often needed is taking a broader approach, including donations, sponsorships, scholarships, and even crowdfunding.  The earlier that high potential athletes and their families can start planning, the more resources that can be identified.

We had hoped to chat about the Dow’s wild ride of its own, but time was short on this busy news day.  As always, thanks so much, CBC, and see you next time!

 

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

Happy New Year!  Back in the studio this past weekend for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel with John Northcott and Elmer Kim.  We discussed the week in business, including:

  • NAFTA and Mixed Signals from the US.  First, Trump says the US might pull out of NAFTA; next, he says the talks are moving along well and he might extend the deadline.  What could be in store for Canadian businesses?
  • Tim Hortons and Minimum Wage.  Canada’s favourite coffee shop has faced a backlash over how some franchisees have responded to minimum wage increases in Ontario.  What are the implications for the brand and lessons learned?

Both of these stories have received a significant amount of public and media attention.  Here’s a quick take:

  • In terms of NAFTA, it’s no secret that Trump’s target of dissatisfaction has been Mexico, and that Canada and the US are significant trade partners.  Bringing an end to NAFTA isn’t as easy as some might think, and regardless, Canada and the US need a basis to do business together, whether it is under NAFTA or some other arrangement.  Canada should be focusing on its global trade strategy, as well as its options for trade with the US.  Canadian businesses, on the other hand, should be focusing on the significant work that needs to be done in order to approach global opportunities.  Talking to a business advisor is a great first step!
  • The Tim Hortons saga is a good example of what can happen when important business and implementation planning are not managed well.  This type of situation can also be impacted by a lack of communication: between a company and its franchisees (or locations), employees, and customers.  And as for the public sector, we can all agree that providing a fair wage is a good thing, but leaving it up to companies to implement a large increase simply isn’t a wise strategy, given that a business’ payroll is typically its largest expense.  A more gradual approach that starts sooner rather than later would have been a better idea.

Thanks for watching and see you soon, CBC!

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (December, 2017)

Great to be back in the studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott.  We discussed a busy week in business, including:

Our world has changed so much in recent years and an area of increasing concern is security over financial systems.  Hackers always seem to be one step ahead of business and public sector systems, and although many breaches have been on a relatively isolated basis, the risk a widespread incident should be very concerning.  It’s critical to ensure that organizations have the necessary plans in place to combat this risk, as not only are their operations at stake, so are their reputations.

The ongoing saga of proposed small business tax changes has resulted in more uncertainty for Canadian companies.  Recent developments demonstrate how little those in government who are responsible for this area actually understand, in terms of how business works.  Now is the time to support companies in their growth and development, and requiring resources to be dedicated to addressing tax changes is of no meaningful value.  This is especially true, given that there is an opportunity for Canadian companies to pursue global opportunities, as circumstances in the US become increasingly uncertain.

Finally, the impact of the loss of US net neutrality remains to be seen, but it’s fair to say that a lack of fairness is never good.  Expect legal action and other delays to keep this situation percolating for a while.

Thanks very much, CBC.  See you in 2018!

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (November, 2017)

It was my pleasure to appear on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel again this past weekend with Michael Hyatt and John Northcott.  We discussed the week in business, including:

The stories about the lack of female leaders in tech companies and gender inequality are discouraging, in terms of how our world should look in 2017.  Although much progress has been made, there is still so much left to accomplish.  We can all help to make strides in this area by ensuring that the companies and organizations within which we work have appropriate systems in place to support progress that is fair for everyone.  We can also support young women and girls in knowing that they can achieve anything in their lives, regardless of their gender, and ensuring that action is taken to make this happen.  Too often, companies and organizations defer to the “same old” practices, and this is an important impediment that must be resolved.  Simply put, it’s time to shatter the mold.

Much has been done to support financial literacy on a personal level, but many business leaders lack the finance knowledge that is required to build and grow a successful company.  We can help entrepreneurs and business leaders to understand what they need to know, setting them apart from others.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your viewers, CBC!