MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (March, 2020)

Back in studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott.  Our segment was dedicated to the economic impact of coronavirus, including developments such as the interest rate cut that occurred during the week, the potential for widespread decline in the travel/tourism industry, and what the Federal government can do to help business.

Large companies might be relatively well prepared to shift gears when it comes to the need for staff reorganization and mobile/remote work strategies, however, small businesses can be much more challenged to do so.  The crux of the response to situations such as the coronavirus is risk management, with the objective of achieving business continuity during challenging times.

The first priority is to keep people safe and healthy, followed by the business reality of sustaining demand and coping in times of decline.  Here are some questions that business leaders should be asking themselves:

Keeping staff members and customers safe:

  • What are our obligations under legislation such as workplace health and safety?
  • Are there similar regulations or guidelines that must be adhered to, in terms of keeping staff members, customers, and products safe?
  • Do we have appropriate human resources policies in place to address situations of widespread illness or quarantine?
  • Are there particular safeguards that should be implemented, such as travel and similar limitations?
  • Where is the line between “business” and “personal”, in terms of imposing travel limitations?

Business continuity considerations:

  • Have we identified the key processes within our business and developed strategies for execution in challenging times?
  • Do we have systems, policies, and procedures to support a remote work environment?
  • Does our remote work strategy address risk points such as security, privacy, and information sharing considerations?
  • Do we have adequate depth in areas such as suppliers and service providers?
  • Does succession exist for all key positions in the company?
  • Does a labour market strategy exist to find skilled replacement staff quickly?
  • What would happen if sales declined significantly for a period of time; could the company survive?

These are examples of the many areas that must be addressed to ensure that a company can continue to operate in challenging times and it is important to remember that sufficient systems and processes should be in place before they are actually needed.  Doing so raises the likelihood that a company will survive in difficult times, as opposed to being swept away (remember that well managed competitors will have already completed this important work and will be focused on implementation, putting them several steps ahead of those who are less prepared).  Advisors can help to identify areas of priority and how to put them in place efficiently and more quickly.

Thanks for watching.  It will be interesting to see how coronavirus has evolved by the next time I am in studio; stay tuned.

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (February, 2020)

Great day to be in studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside John Northcott and Mark Warner, discussing two stories that have been significantly impacting companies: the rail blockades in in protest of the Coastal GasLink pipeline and coronavirus.  What’s interesting about these stories, from a business perspective, is that they are good examples of situations that companies would not have expected to occur, but which could bring significant impact.

Disruption to Canada’s rail service can impact logistics across the country and beyond.  Companies that rely on rail service to bring in raw materials and/or ship products to customers can be impacted at the very heart of their business: money.  The inability to receive materials to manufacture products (or deliver services) or an inability to fulfill orders means that sales are not generated.  As simplistic as this sounds, consider what business leaders are left to do in the absence of cashflow, including issuing delay notices to customers and layoffs to staff members.  These may be short term implications, however, long term impacts could include a loss of reputation, customers, employees, and competitive position, and when a company sits idle for any period of time, the lost capacity can never be recouped.

Coronavirus is impacting companies globally, across a wide range of industries, including transportation, hospitality/tourism, agriculture, retail, and essentially any company that is trying to advance its business within the geographic area(s) where the virus is most widespread: currently, China.  Whether a company is impacted due to cancellations and travel advisories or by virtue of decreased demand, it still translates into revenue loss, some of which may have been counted as “sold” before the sale actually occurred (something that tends to happen in the routine of business, or due to the enthusiasm of “counting chickens before they have hatched”).  Delays associated with shipments out of China can leave companies abroad scrambling for stock and materials that are integral to manufacturing products and generating sales.

In what can be characterized as a confusing, vicious circle, what are business leaders to do?  Companies that have planned for disruption in their supply chain and distribution channels may be much further ahead, in terms of identifying alternate suppliers and routes; these are not areas to be researched in times of crisis.  The need for business continuity is an example of why identifying various paths forward in advance is so critical, especially to the key aspects of a company’s operations.  Although doing so may not fully resolve every issue, it helps to mitigate the risk and damage that can occur, something that is particularly valuable in times of prolonged disruption.

Business leaders do not always have the time and skillset to work through this important contingency planning, so it is important to remember that advisors can help; it might just be one of the best investments that a company can make.

We will be monitoring these stories in the coming days and weeks.  Thanks for watching and see you again soon, CBC!

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

Closing out 2019 in studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Sherena Hussain and Natasha Fatah (aka The Women in Blue!).

Here’s what was on our Holiday Season menu:

  • New NAFTA Reaches the Finish Line:  As Canada, the US, and Mexico agree to some final revisions, what are the next steps for New NAFTA?  What does it mean for Canadian companies?
  • Compensation Rules for Flight Delays Kick In:  Air travel passengers in Canada will now have the potential for compensation in the event of some flight delays, but will it be meaningful?
  • More Ontario Cannabis Shops on the Way:  Removing the cap on the number of cannabis shops in Ontario might be an opportunity to better meet market demand, but are there other important considerations?

Negotiation of a new trade deal between Canada, the US, and Mexico has been unfolding over the past year and a half and has not been an easy task.  Given that Democrats control the House in the US, they were in a position to push for revision in order to support ratification and the countries were able to find agreement around clauses pertaining to dispute resolution, environmental, prescription drug, and labour provisions.  In particular, Mexico will have to take steps to improve the labour environment in that country, an area that has been contentious, given its ability to provide an inexpensive workforce and displace jobs.  Deals are one thing; it will be interesting, however, to see how well implementation occurs, once all countries have ratified what is effectively NAFTA 2.1.

Speaking from experience, we live in a world where air travelers tend to feel like they have no rights, especially in those moments when they are not treated particularly well (cue to the herding cattle analogy).  Air travelers are essentially at the mercy of airlines when delays happen, as there are limited alternative to get from one location to another.  Effective December 15, 2019, airlines will now have to compensate passengers in delay situations that are within their control, guidelines that likely have Canadians wondering if they are worth much, in practical terms.  It is important for passengers to know their rights when traveling, keep track of travel documentation, and ask airlines for clarification, when needed.  From a fairness perspective, good communication and transparency are important, however, too many of us know what it is like to be delayed in an airport with little in the way of information sharing.

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, Ontario’s decision to remove the cap on retail shops is an area to watch.  Although studies indicate market demand, successfully operating a company is something that is quite different.  Business leaders too often make the mistake of thinking that a product alone makes a company, when nothing could be further from the truth.  We can all think of stores, restaurants, or coffee shops that opened too many locations, only to have to retrench to a more appropriate number; this type of downsizing can be onerous and expensive.  The same mistakes could be made here; this time, with a highly regulated product that requires special attention of its own.

As 2019 comes to a close, it’s a good time to be thankful for this past year.  It has been my pleasure to appear on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, work that is both fun and a privilege.  Thanks for watching and see you in 2020, a year that is sure to bring a host of interesting developments, to say the least; stay tuned!

 

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

Great day to be in studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Mark Warner and John Northcott (for those who watched live, we had a bit of fun with a Coldplay walk on).

On tap for our discussion:

  • CN Rail Strike.  As the days tick by, this week’s CN Rail strike could have a considerable impact on the Canadian economy.  What should the next steps be to resolve the impasse?
  • Lowe’s Closes More Canadian Stores.  Posting disappointing financial results has led to Lowe’s closing more Canadian stores in an already competitive market.  Should we be surprised by this development and is more of the same on the way for the retail sector?
  • EasyJet Goes Carbon Neutral.  As interest in the environment continues to increase, airlines are considering how to offset their carbon footprint.  Will easyJet’s plan make a difference?

It’s no secret that Canada is a geographically vast country and logistics can be challenging, especially for some industries where there are limited options.  In an already uncertain global economic environment, delays in getting products to market or receiving essential supplies could start to snowball, financially impacting companies and our country.  Having said that, how long should the collective bargaining process have to reach a solution?  Both the company and its employees should be front and centre in situations like this, recognizing the essential nature of their service and the responsibility that goes along with it.

Consumers have lots of choice when procuring home improvement goods, be it online or in a host of retail options within their community.  A core aspect of this that doesn’t get as much time in the conversation as it should is service, as this is arguably a key driver in consumer behaviour.  A favourable retail experience, be it in a store or online, can directly impact whether or not a consumer makes future purchases, as well as the “story” that they share with others.  If stores are “under performing”  in a competitive environment, it is critical to understand why so that retailers can become more effective in these areas, in addition to right-sizing their offering.

In the category of the future is now, environment related stories continue to make news, the latest being easyJet’s plan to ensure that their flights are carbon neutral.  Although it’s difficult to argue with companies that adopt plans to help the environment (but, there are those who spend time doing so), it’s having a strategic approach that matters, including establishing tactics, milestones, and performance review guidelines.  It will be interesting to see of the aviation industry will work collaboratively to find industry solutions, thereby focusing more broadly than on individual companies; a world of opportunity awaits.

As 2019 moves into its final month, there are still many business stories to discuss.  I’ve made a prediction of what might be on the menu for my next studio visit; let’s see if I’m right.  Thanks for watching and see you in a few weeks, CBC!

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

The fun of live TV, combined with a busy news morning in advance of the Federal election, characterized this week’s CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel.  Standing by for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s press conference, Elmer Kim, John Northcott, and I chatted all things business, including what we didn’t see on the campaign trail.

Playbacks can make things interesting, and review of some of our commentary from September 14th, at the beginning of the campaign, puts areas where business concerns could have been better addressed into context.  Following the theory that politics and business “travel on parallel tracks”, it is often evident that governments and political parties do not fully appreciate the challenges of managing and growing a company (or just how much policies can negatively impact the real world).  One of the best things that governments can do is put business leaders in a position to focus on what matters, as opposed to on administrative burdens in areas such as taxation and regulatory matters; this approach provides the opportunity to fuel growth and progress.

How can this be achieved?  Although governments are likely of the view that they consult with business, the lack of focus on the issues that matter suggests that this isn’t done nearly enough.  Further, advisors and investors bring a wealth of knowledge and context, in terms of business strategies that work (and those that do not), as well as the trends and opportunities of the future.  It is this perspective that is integral to developing a long term strategy to build a greater number of companies that can be globally competitive, an opportunity of particular importance in our current world of economic and political uncertainty.

And a word about economic diversity, particularly in terms of Canadian regions where the focus has long since been on resources: diversity is a state of mind.  Regions that have a lengthy history of a business community and local economy that include a range of industries can appreciate how products, services, technologies, and human capital can reach across various applications, with a bit of tailoring.  Those who haven’t lived this experience might not see the opportunity or scoff at even looking for it (have seen this first hand), and it is in this reality where the state of mind that is diversity can take hold, for those who are willing to take the leap.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next couple of years, as it is progress that is already overdue.

In the meantime, business leaders need to have a range of plans for whatever the election results might be; this is simply good management.  Failure to do so puts a company at risk and in a reactive position, as opposed to the relative strength of being proactive.  In the event that the current predictions of a minority government come to pass, uncertainty might continue to unfold for a period of time; advisors can help companies to navigate forward in this type of environment.

Don’t forget to get out and vote on October 21st, as it is so important to do so.  Thanks for watching and see you again soon, CBC!

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

What an exciting weekend to be in studio alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott, for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel. With this week’s Federal election call, we were on hand to discuss all things business; here’s a sample:

Business leader priorities and key challenges they face. Given the highly uncertain global trade and business environment, Canadian companies have faced additional challenges beyond day-to-day operations; this is an area for candidates to be mindful.

Labour and workforce related issues. As the global economy evolves at a rapid pace, Canadian companies are challenged to remain competitive like never before. A party’s workforce and retention strategies are of key interest, as companies cannot be successful without these resources.

Business grants and fee reductions. Thus far, some platforms include grants to support startups and reduce some of the charges that companies typically face. Companies can always benefit from expense reductions, but in the case of emerging ventures, a critical issue is the shortage of growth capital for high potential businesses that are past the startup stage; will platforms address this specialized issue?

Incentives for certain sectors. Areas of interest include auto manufacturing and oil production, and although platforms might include tactics to maintain jobs, the bigger question relates to the undeniable evolution of sectors such as these. What steps should be taken to remain competitive?

Importance of debt/deficit reduction. A key question is how do voters view this area; are they concerned about the deficit, and if so, to what degree? An aspect to consider is viewing spending in the context of an investment, as compared to an expense, as the situation warrants.

Canada’s economy, growth rate, and trade. Current times are characterized by relatively strong economic performance and buoyed exports; success in this area can be difficult to deny. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for New NAFTA, a topic that seems to be getting more interest in recent days from Republican leaning people in the US than here in Canada.

Consumer issues, including housing, taxes, rebate programs, and wages. The appeal of these programs can have a lot to do with who you are, where you live, and how you live. How do regional differences impact policies and do voters think they should?

We’ll be watching the election campaign to see how the various platforms approach and impact business. Check back for more commentary, as the campaign moves forward!

MEDIA: On G7 Watch

Great to be on Summit watch again, this time, for the G7 in Biarritz, France.  Thanks to my media work and inclusion in the Informed Opinions Expert Women Database, I have been on hand to provide media commentary to discuss this important global summit.

It was my pleasure to join CTV News Channel TV on a sunny Saturday morning to chat about G7 expectations and priorities for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Although some have indicated that they view summits such as the G7 to not be of particular importance, our increasingly fragmented world needs these opportunities to connect on key issues, find common ground, and identify areas of collaboration.  Here’s just a few areas where strategies and action are needed:

  • The global economy, amid slowdown and recession concerns
  • Trade and related partnerships, including addressing tariffs and disputes
  • Relations and issues between the US, China, and others
  • Climate change and environmental issues, amid the Amazon fires and continued sea ice melting
  • Areas of conflict, including tensions with (and within) Hong Kong, China, Russia, North Korea, the Middle East, and Venezuela
  • Gender parity and diversity, an issue that impacts at least half of the world’s population

There are many more areas of concern to our world, requiring leadership with a range of skills and disciplines.  Summits like the G7 are really what a leader makes of it, recognizing that it is their responsibility to be stewards of not only of their role and country, but also of our planet.  I believe that addressing issues of global importance is something that citizens of the world have the right to reasonably expect from the leaders of their countries, remembering that people have the power to choose who holds these roles in many cases.

Closer to home, key issues of concern for Prime Minister Trudeau include trade considerations (with the US, China, and the UK, in particular), strategies to resolve China-specific conflicts, and demonstrating progress in advance of the Federal election; these are not easily achieved in what has become a world where resolution is difficult.  Regardless, a steady and rational path could set the stage for cooperation and strength in numbers for those who are willing to listen.  Remember also that 2020 will be an important year for the US; could the G7 be setting its sights on the likelihood of a more receptive participant being in the Oval Office in January, 2021?

Looking forward to my next Media Watch; it might be just around the corner, stay tuned!

MEDIA: Celebrating 2 Years on CBC News Network!

Pleased to be celebrating two years of regular appearances on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel!  Our panel reviews the week in business every Saturday morning after the 10 AM news (Eastern Time), discussing a diverse array of topics.  Here’s just a sample of topics upon which I’ve provided commentary:

Such a range of topics, and never knowing what the news cycle could bring at any moment, makes providing commentary on the Panel so much fun.  Thanks to everyone at CBC News Network, as well as those behind the scenes who make us look so good; we couldn’t do this without you!

 

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

Summer days also mean studio days for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Sherena Hussain and Janet Stewart.  On a personal note, it was great to get a chance to work with Janet, who I know as the anchor of CBC News in Winnipeg!

There are so many stories we could have discussed on what was a busy and varied news week; here’s what we covered:

Facebook’s $5 Billion Fine.  Federal regulators have fined Facebook $5 Billion for US privacy violations.  What are the implications for the company, in what has become an ongoing saga of operational problems?

Boeing’s Max Mess.  Boeing is considering pausing production of its troubled 737 Max jets after two devastating crashes, a lengthy “fix” process, and public concerns.  With the grounding impacting airlines and ongoing regulatory scrutiny, can the Max’s reputation be salvaged?

When Inspired Honey Hits the Shelves.  Investigations by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have found that some products that claim to be honey are anything but.  What should consumers do when shopping for food items and is there an even broader impact?

Although some have shown little concern about the magnitude of Facebook’s recent fine, there’s no denying that $5 Billion is a massive amount of money.  Given the many shortfalls that have been observed over the last few years, including in terms of privacy, security, unintended use of subscriber data, and questionable content, there should be significant concern over the potential for additional financial penalties that could be in store for Facebook.

It’s critical that the company put fundamental systems and processes in place to proactively combat threats and mitigate risk, and although new compliance measures require certification from Facebook’s CEO, the strength of such obligations tends to be related to the person who signs.  To this end, executives must have a full appreciation of the serious nature that certification entails, and not fall into the category of those who sign their name with little recognition of the magnitude and consequences.  Many will be watching this next chapter very closely, including regulators.

First and foremost, the story of the Boeing 737 Max is a tragedy, with two horrific crashes and the loss of hundreds of lives.  Couple this with a relatively slow response from Boeing to ground the planes, criticism and concern from pilots, lawsuits from victims’ families, and a significant financial and operational impact to airlines and there’s not denying that a crisis is at hand.

Companies in this type of industry must always be mindful of the high degree of attention that must be paid to areas such as design, testing, training, and communication.  In the event that there proves to have been weaknesses in these areas and others, Boeing must take steps to fully review what was behind this disaster, and resolving it should start at the leadership level.  Consumers have their eye on the Max; how many would trust this technology enough to get on board again?

It’s certainly disturbing when a food item turns out to be something other than what was expected; this is just what has occurred with some products labeled as honey.  Besides the obvious risk and unfairness to consumers, this scenario also impacts companies that are producing and selling quality products in an honest manner, as doing so tends to be more expensive than items that are “watered down” or laced with cheaper inputs.

There is no excuse for companies incorporating additives into a food item that is being represented as pure or of superior quality; how dangerous it is to have such products in Canada’s food supply.  Although shoppers have a job to do when it comes to reading labels, the onus is on companies to be truthful about their products; regulators must also take steps to ensure that standards are in place to protect consumers, as well as a robust enforcement regime.  There is no place for dishonest, fraudulent, or low quality food products in Canada, period.

These are serious topics, but there was a moment to smile.  The reason?  Watch the archived version and find out why!

 

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

In studio this past weekend for a fun CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Sherena Hussain and Jacqueline Hansen.  With a city and country still reeling from the Toronto Raptors’ big win, we couldn’t help but start our conversation there.

  • Raptors (and businesses) win bigWith all of the excitement around the Raptors’ playoff run and championship win, many restaurants and businesses hosted events and shared in the fun.  What’s the financial impact and will it last?
  • Mountain Equipment Co-Op and “the Pink Tax”.  MEC faced a social media backlash when two similar items had a price difference, with shoppers having to pay more for “the women’s version”.  Is this an example of the Pink Tax and what are the implications for companies in this situation?
  • Beyond Meat’s Big Deal.  Tim Hortons introduced Beyond Meat products in their 4,000 locations across Canada this week; what does this say about the company and customer preferences?

There’s no denying that the Raptors’ playoff run caught the attention of local fans and those across Canada, including many who do not follow basketball on a regular basis.  I would be remiss to not mention the beautiful diversity story that this fan base represents, including people from every walk of life, so uniquely Canadian.

It’s true that much of the game day spending, such as visiting restaurants and attending games, is event specific, however, when a team is able to expand its fan base, it can create benefits in the future.  I was fortunate to be around the corner from Jurassic Park Halifax the night of Game 6, watching fans arrive on foot from every direction to cheer on their team.  Shout out to those who arranged these events, providing Raptors enthusiasts in Halifax with a venue to share in the fun.

MEC’s situation with the Pink Tax is a good reminder of the importance of a well managed system for procurement, production, and pricing, so that problems like this do not occur.  Production costs can differ, however, it is important to have a good understanding of costs and pricing in advance, to ensure that parity and reasonableness exist across a company’s product line.  And as for the Pink Tax generally, it does exist, with studies indicating that women pay in excess of $1,000 more annually than men for similar products.  Companies need to make a dedicated effort to eliminate this inequity; how about a diversity officer who is responsible for pricing parity and fairness?

And finally, as Beyond Meat continues to expand its distribution, management is, again, a key issue.  Strong systems in the areas of supply chain, production, and logistics are critical, to ensure that customers (and their customers) are not disappointed by a lack of supply.  New products can be in demand in the early days, but generating sustainable interest is something quite different.  We’ll see where Beyond Meat’s story goes from here.

As I mark my 20th appearance on the Biz Panel, a special thanks to everyone who has supported and helped with my segments on CBC News Network, especially those behind the scenes.  On a personal note, it was especially fun to have my dog, Laci, walk me to work!