Back in studio this past Saturday for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside John Northcott and Mark Warner; what a busy news week! I find it especially fun to discuss a range of topics that can be linked together, a reminder that so much of our business, political, economic, and demographic world is connected and can sometimes impact us in unexpected ways.
- Huawei’s US Court Challenge. As trade talks and friction between the US and China continue, tech giant Huawei launched a challenge to being labelled as a “security risk” in US court. What are the implications, and is the Company’s role in development of the global 5G network even more uncertain?
- China Halts Canadian Canola Shipments. Relations between Canada and China are also tense, with the detainment of Huawei’s CFO and two Canadian men earlier this year. Is the revoking of a major Canadian exporter’s registration to ship canola a business matter or a political one? Is this a sign of more things to come?
- Facebook’s New Vision. With the social media giant being under fire for years regarding privacy, content, and user protection challenges, founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined a future vision with a decidedly more private and secure environment. Is this approach the way of the future or a means to move away from Facebook’s current challenges?
Over the past couple of years, “nation” oriented issues have risen in profile globally, with developments in the US, UK, China, and Venezuela representing a few examples. In the case of China, there has long been the dichotomy of the potential to access a large market with the challenges of doing business with a country that doesn’t have the best reputation for “playing by the rules”. The challenges associated with Huawei remind us that good products are not always enough, when it comes to choosing a business partner, and that we are judged by the company we keep.
The US has been firm in indicating its lack of comfort in terms of doing business with Huawei and has gone as far as encouraging other countries not to involve the Company in 5G network development. As the saga continues, other developments have come to light, such as in the case of Canadian canola shipments being halted for “quality” issues, leaving many to suspect that the underlying rationale is more political in nature. The lesson for Canadian companies is to remember that developments in faraway places can (and do) impact your business, as will be the case with canola farmers and everyone who counts them as customers. Business leaders need to remember that the long term success of their company requires a strategy that hedges against reliance in one area and to always keeps a careful eye on what is occurring in the broader marketplace and industry. This is also true for countries.
In recent years, we have seen Canada step up in a number of areas, and while the US is certainly its core trading partner, it has been interesting to watch developments in this relationship and others. As referenced by former President Barack Obama at an event in Winnipeg a week ago, the level of US influence globally has declined from where it once was; this has brought both opportunities and risks. Regardless, Canada has both an opportunity and a need to continue to build its global trade strategy.
In terms of Facebook, hopefully, it is finally taking to heart the need to strengthen its environment to effectively address the challenges of an increasingly complex world. As I have said for some time, many of the challenges that Facebook has encountered are what I consider to be fundamental business practices: the need for the right systems and processes, protecting user data and rights, knowing who you are doing business with, and having appropriate contracts and documentation in place. All companies need to address these areas, regardless of their size or type of business, and emerging technologies do not get a pass. We will see if Facebook will take the necessary steps to address these areas and others in its existing platform, or whether future evolution to a more robust environment will be the case.
And finally, on the 10th anniversary of the “bottom” of the financial crisis market, have any lessons been learned? Of particular interest is the need for companies to have the right strategies in place to support long term survival, a point that might seem out of place on this topic. In fact, it is very much related to the strength of our business community and economy, in terms of the importance of having a core of companies that: offer the right products and services, in a manner that customers want, at a competitive price, by way of competent systems, processes, and people. These companies also understand the trends in their industry and where they need to migrate to as a business, to ensure their longterm relevance to the marketplace; this also includes shuttering areas that simply do not work anymore.
Consider this in the context of the many companies that have ceased to exist over the past few years; these include giants of yesterday, who were lacking in most or all of the areas mentioned above. The result impacts the economy as a whole, as well as jobs, household spending, and a range of other areas. Let the need for strong, thoughtful, and nimble leadership at both governance and executive levels be the lesson on this 10th anniversary, and if any in these ranks do not understand the connection and urgent need for action, they are probably in the wrong job.
Thanks again, CBC News Network, for the on-air mention of my new book, Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb and see you next time!