Archive for the ‘People’ Category

I was out the other day catching up with a good friend of mine when he made a statement that I thought was powerful. In our case it was referring to a company that we had spent some time together, but maybe it will ring true for you in an organization you may have or still may work at today.

In any successful organization it is key for all the functional areas to be working together. Marketing, sales, procurement/ finance, manufacturing (where applicable) and a few other that are around to support the ultimate goal of success depending what success is for that organization. Over the last several years working well together has become increasingly challenging as organizations are challenged to keep manufacturing facilities manufacturing or keeping employees employed to achieve success. The definition of success often depends on where you are sitting within the organization and when there isn’t alignment around goals and objectives, things can go sideways. When each area focuses on their own goal without understanding the overarching goal, the results tend to suffer. If the finance/procurement teams are focused on keeping the costs down and buying the cheapest raw materials or marketing material, it can inadvertently eliminate the story for the marketers to market or the sales guys to sell. When the marketing function thinks that what they do is more important to the brand than sales or finance you usually end up with a bunch of activities that build the longer term health (no guarantees) of the brand, but there are no funds left for sales.  The finance guys end up wondering why the numbers aren’t coming in. Finally, if the sales guys focus only on their goal, which usually requires distribution and throughput (including discounting), but don’t worry about the cost or the brand strategies you can usually keep the boat a float in the short term, but the long term health of the brand will suffer.

As of late it seems that many organizations have been defaulting to having the finance team lead in order to count the beans.  The only issue becomes that it is a short path to the bottom (unless short term success is the ultimate goal). No offence to the finance folks out there, but if the true objective is to keep the company afloat in the long run, step back and look at the big picture. It is great that you can deliver the bottom line numbers, but at what expense. Are the brands still delivering great experiences, are the sales guys able to get the product into the right stores and in the hands of key influencers to try? Do the marketers have investments in sort and long term brand building activities? Without investment in those as part of any strategy there will soon be no beans to count and everyone will be looking for a new place to do their work.  Don’t let self interest (be it money or praise) get the best of you. Work together to achieve the team success. That way everyone wins and the long term prognosis should be good for the brand, the team and the organization.



So, the Royal Bank has come out and apologised for outsourcing some business to an organization that was using foreign workers to facilitate some of its IT work. The effect of the move was that 45 Canadians would lose their roles at the bank….hmmm.

So who’s to blame? Gord Nixon or the bank? The tech company hired to do the work? The RBC employees for not doing a good enough job or not being productive enough? I am sure there would be people that would argue on any of these fronts, but I want to propose that there is someone else responsible for these continued stories of outsourcing, layoffs, downsizings, corporate restructuring or any other word that you want to use for a reduction in the workforce at any company.

YOU. (I include myself in the YOU, but YOU sounds more powerful than WE in this case.)

It’s a complex situation with many other variables (which I would like to expand on in future blogs), but specifically it is anyone who owns shares in a company (or a mutual fund) and continues to demand/expect high quarterly growth or share price increases and dividends without considering the consequences in the short and long term. You see, once sales start to drop (which is happening in just about every company in every sector) there are only a few ways for companies to maintain their profitability in order to keep YOU happy. First, as most companies have already done, you strip out all the fat in your logistics, production and any other cost centre that you may have. Once that is done you start to investigate other areas that create massive amounts of stress within organizations…How about cutting unique aspects of your product out or cutting back on the quality?… Not a good idea. How about cutting your marketing budget and hoping that it won’t affect sales?…I might suggest that it is more about the type of marketing that you are using that may be the issue, but in general if you cut your budget you are less likely to maintain awareness with the buying public…Also, not a good thing. Finally (and not always the last choice), how about cutting some staff or outsourcing to save money?…Well, obviously that doesn’t go over so well with those folks who are directly impacted, but even those that are left behind (I know there is a syndrome named after this) have all of the work that was in the hands of the fired employees dumped on them with no pay increase and no increase in the hours that they have available to get the job done. Outsourcing has a similar effect on the people removed, but the work is…supposedly…passed to others and in this case, the jobs left the country. Whatever choice the company makes, it usually cuts at the core of what and who the company once was, but those in the leadership roles who are most often motivated by short term incentives as well, really are not worried about the long term health of the organization.

In the short term there is upset and anger within the people that have been personally impacted by the downsizing/outsourcing etc. This creates personal stress, family stress, stress within their circle and it all leads to additional issues in society.  The assumption would be that there will be a period of time until these people are able to find a new place to work (if at all) and as a result will change their spending habits, buying less of everything, potentially increasing their debt and adding to the overall risk that they face. This extends to be a risk to our country’s finances should inflation and/or interest rates go up having another negative impact on the segment of the population caught in this growing group.

In the long term, if this type of action happens in more and more companies (open your eyes, it’s happening all around us) and more and more people face the same impact as the individuals above, then it means a lot less people buying a lot less of everything which completes the ugly cycle that we are in right now. Less people with jobs buying less of everything, those with jobs buying fewer products because they think they are next and the companies selling less of everything as a result…and what happens next?  These companies then fire more people to maintain their shrinking profit margins and the cycle begins all over again. It just keeps getting worse unless we start to do something about it.

So what is the solution? Well I am certainly no Einstein, Marx or Keynes and I am certainly not against people working hard and being rewarded for it, but it seems to me we all need to accept less. We need to understand that by accepting less individually (that includes the greedy individuals at the top of organizations making gazillions – when is enough, enough?) we all win as a society.  We need to see that a greater separation between the haves and the have nots is only going to increase the stress and pressure amongst us. That continuing to worry about the Jones’ and buying into continued consumerism will only require more access to money and we will continue to pressure organizations to keep filling our pockets (and theirs) with profits driven by the exact things that drove Gord Nixon and the leadership at RBC to make the decision that they did to outsource the IT roles…even though their first quarter profit for 2013 was 2.7BILLION dollars. Yep, first quarter.

So here is what you and we can do. The next time you show up to your Shareholder’s meeting or have an opportunity to discuss or impact any organization’s direction in whatever role you play, think twice about downsizing or outsourcing as a means to maintain double digit quarterly returns. For those of you who may not be in tight with such business decisions, speak up when you see other situations like the one at RBC. The more light that is placed on these issues in all businesses and industries the more likely it will be that organizations may reset their priorities to include the population that they ultimately serve and who buy their products.  In the world we are in today, the growth numbers of the past couple decades are not sustainable (of course there will be some exceptions) and if we don’t reset our expectations (profit and lifestyle), more Canadians than ever will be out of work, the government will have less people to tax and pay for what will be a growing need for services and we will ALL be worse off.

BUT, let me say this…There might actually be a beautiful golden pot at the end of this not so beautiful rainbow. If we can all (and it must be everyone simultaneously or it will fail) shift our expectations, accept that the past is the past and that the future will be different in how we value our life and lifestyles, if we can accept that he with more toys does not win and that work life balance really is a goal that is worthy of a achievement, we may actually create an even better society that is full of people who think about one another, share their wealth and take the time to smell the roses.

Fingers crossed.



Virgin Airlines…what a great surprise!

 I have just returned from a trip to Los Angeles and when I looked to book the ticket a few days out from the trip the cheapest option was to fly Virgin Airlines. I had recently been told that Virgin was a good airline and have always had a great impression about Virgin and their amazing guest experiences.

 Well, I can tell you now that I like what they have to offer. It certainly has some of the same components that other airlines have, but I would have to say that Virgin has done a great job at finding ways to differentiate themselves from the completion. Virgin does not fly any routes within Canada and does not have large schedules to the US out of Canada, but if you do ever get to try them out, here are a few things that you are likely to see…or hear.

 They had tunes playing by the check in counter…love it!

  • Staff was friendly and helpful at all points except for one guy on my return home
  • Funky lights on in the plane when you board – simple, but different
  • Love the animated cartoon humour that explains the normal pre flight rules and regs versus the more traditional serious approach on other airlines
  • Was shocked to see the pilot come out of the cockpit to do the welcome message  to the passengers leaving Toronto… and when he said “we sincerely thank you for flying with us” I really thought he meant it!
  • At any time during the flight you can order food from the screen in front of you…anything, anytime.
  • Wireless internet service on the flight! It was free because of the holidays, but I would pay just about anything for free wireless on a flight!

 As I mentioned above, the schedule in Canada is a little challenging to fly Virgin, but if you enjoy some of the services above as part of your flight, I am sure you will enjoy the Virgin Airlines experience.


My very good friend Nicole Gallucci surprised me with this Blog over the weekend and I thought it was a great example of what a company known for delivering price as their POD can do when they add a great experience. Very compelling to most for sure.

 Be sure to check out the Blog of Nicole and her team at Boom Marketing when you have a chance. Always a great read and very entertaining !

 So let me start by saying, I hate Walmart…or I used to.
The notion of one-stop shopping does not work for me.  Walking through a 20,000+ foot store that is filled to the rafters with everything from sporting goods and stereos to meat and produce is overwhelming but intuitively also makes me wonder the quality/appropriateness of everything. And then there are the huge line-ups that take so long because carts are overflowing with lawnmowers, hockey equipment, shaving crème, clothes and tonight’s dinner!
But yesterday I had a different experience. Not sure if it was a Walmart experience or a Collingwood experience. Or maybe it was a combination of both.

My children and I have rented a condo at Blue Mountain for ski season. After a day of cleaning and unpacking we had accumulated a list of items that we required that rightly or wrongly the one-stop shop Walmart could satisfy so begrudgingly my daughter and I ventured over.  Two carts later– filled with items that ranged from underwear (yup, my son forgot to pack it?!?!?!) to pillows, shampoo, frozen waffles, electrical tape and Christmas videos (you gotta love the National Lampoon Christmas movies) we checked everything off our list and laughed at the extras we had accumulated along the way.

 The store was clean and bright, staff who found us in the aisles asked if we needed help (honest!) and then as were heading to the checkout a woman appeared and directed us to a specific cashier, helped us over, informed us that this was one of their regular cashiers who would get our goods properly bagged and out the door efficiently and then closed this cashier’s line so that other customers were not held back by the length of time to process and bag our purchases. Within seconds a new cashier was up and running to manage other customers. As we were checking out our cashier actually packed our bags properly – frozen items together, bathroom supplies all in the same bag,… and kept up ‘a how are you doing’ social banter – are you kidding me. I had to check myself to ensure I was in fact at Walmart. To top it off, as we were midway through the checking out of purchases a young gentleman appeared. His role is to help us put everything back in our carts and get us safely to our car – are you kidding me!!!!!!!! There was no call-out over the PA system for a “carry-out” just this bright, gentle face, bundled in a coat hat and scarf with a Walmart button on his jacket here to help two weary shoppers. Okay so now I am in complete shock. And my 16 year old daughter looks at me and says, “Mom this store is amazing. I love it here.”
Pete has asked me to write blogs several times because I often get caught up in conversation with him and we rant and rave over good and bad customer service.  I had to write about our unbelievable experience at Walmart! It was so different from expectations that not only have I altered my perception of Walmart (I know its not like this in every store but this one deserves recognition) but I have written a blog for someone else’s website versus my own and likely shocked Pete all at the same time!
If you have to go to Walmart, its worth the drive to Collingwood!!!!