Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Buy Local - Not Rubber Lobsters

"...phenomenon called the 'Briefcase Syndrome' - it is an unfounded and almost laughable belief..."

So much has been touted about supporting local business, but it appears that this whole movement has us conditioned in thinking if we purchase a rubber lobster at a mom and pop souvenir shop that we have done our part. Or picking up a jar of strawberry jam at the local market is what all the hoopla is about. 

I do my best in my writing to keep my professional career out of my editorials, and I will do my best to keep my thoughts as generic as possible.. but I am near at the END OF MY ROPE with the hypocrisy of Provincial Governments and Large Privately owned local businesses.

Large Businesses - I don't think I need to name them, but my disappointment is focused on those multinational employers of thousands of people that have germinated from New Brunswick family enterprises into world leaders. I wont bother googling and putting links up here of endless press releases from their owners, leaders of "being proud to be a New Brunswick (or Atlantic) business", and the value they hold on being a local business. The pride of the people that helped them grow to world industrial leaders. How they tout government (and utility) grants and discounts under the flag of being a New Brunswick Company. They ask for our support and understanding as they steer local political directions. 

Provincial Government - We (as it really is our money) pay millions on retaining our local workers, grow tourism, "buy local" campaigns.. Millions and Millions of our dollars are spend annually based on the pride we have to live and work in New Brunswick.

All good right? Well, simply put, these folks standing making speeches (for both private and public enterprise) CLEARLY do not speak to the actual decision makers in their own organizations. Or, and hopefully this is not the case, have set a mandate to those decision makers inside their organizations to disregard all of their wordage and philosophy on supporting New Brunswick.

I work in a business that started with 3 entrepreneurs that ran the risk and went on their own into a very competitive market. A true success story - and now exists as a healthy Mid Sized Organization. Virtually every dollar of profit, is either spent or reinvested in New Brunswick.

I (in my line of business) count on business from these above mentioned Private and Public Clients. A New Brunswick company - offering goods and services to organizations that very loudly proclaim supporting New Brunswick Business. Seems a pretty good model. But it is a severely broken model.

NEVER would I suggest that ANY organization when selecting vendors for good and services, even consider choosing a vendor that is more expensive or in any way a lesser quality - as business is business and I cannot support that fact strong enough. I am not in the least bit irked when we are provided an opportunity to do business with the our New Brunswick customers, and for ANY reason are not the best pricing or the best quality. That is a free market and the way it should be.

HOWEVER, almost weekly I am made aware of contracts being signed, purchases being made, services being procured from the government or these Local Enterprises that we were not even invited to show our wares, provide a price, detail or offerings. And although difficult to gain access to the nature of these awards - on the occasion that I do find details, we can offer a much less expensive and higher quality product. But we were never invited to even be aware of the opportunity. I could even sleep at night if these awards were made to other New Brunswick grown companies.. But almost without exception they are awarded to US based vendors, or Central Canadian Vendors. 

HOW, HOW, HOW can these back room procurements of good and services be awarded endlessly by both Private and Public Enterprises without even making the slightest of efforts of considering a local vendor as a viable option. Again - not for a second am I suggesting favourable treatment.. I am suggesting that local companies are at the very least invited to state their offerings and costing.. If we cant compete, we cant compete - that is fair ball.. BUT PLEASE let us compete,

To listen or watch a CEO make a tear jerking presentation on how proud they and their family are to be New Brunswickers, and at that exact moment back in their corporate offices - procurements are being made from foreign suppliers, without providing any opportunity for local companies to even bid. 

I have (not to be too specific) worked for months making Public Sector Decision makers aware of lines of business that are available a 5 minute drive away from their offices.. Only to find out at a later date that they awarded a contract of the exact lines of business from a US based company without even making me aware that they were making the purchase. This is not a single occurrence -this is habitual.. and 180 degrees counter to what our elected officials are saying about supporting New Brunswick Businesses. 

THE QUESTION: Why do these purchases for goods and services get negotiated and awarded to foreign vendors. Primarily because of a phenomenon called the "Briefcase Syndrome" - it is an unfounded and almost laughable belief, that if good or services come from a bigger business hub (Toronto/New York/Japan etc) then they MUST be better. If a consultant gets off a plane, carrying his briefcase, then he is clearly more skilled and knowledgeable that a consultant that you may run across buying groceries at your local store. THUS, clearly if you want the best - then you better have the best come in from the airport. 

This belief as ridiculous as it is, is engrained in our government, and local multinationals. How would it ever be possible that New Brunswicker have same or better skills than someone from New York? So therefore our Industrialists born and raised in New Brunswick have no other choice than not even consider a New Brunswick business to do business with, and not even inviting them to the table... but my sarcasm is wearing to read so I will stop.

So what is there to do - I think reluctantly we need to let our Government and Large Enterprises continue with their hypocrisy, and begin to personally act on this. When we in our professional roles require good or services, certainly shop the International Vendors, but source a locally owned business and provide them an opportunity to compete. They may or may not be able to  - but providing them the chance is all that is needed. I would suggest, that as a local business, with a much more limited geographical base with provide much superior commitment behind their products - and a company who appreciates your business with almost always offer the most aggressive pricing and attention to detail. Give it a try. I do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Olympic Experience

"I no longer chuckle at the less than perfect performances of these athletes - I hold them in the highest regard of all"

It is typical in human nature I suppose that after the excitement of a moment in time, that excitement quickly passes and we move back to our mundane, routine lives. As I think is the case of the Sochi Olympics. It was only mere days ago that offices shut down, bars opened at ungodly morning hours and Liquor laws were even changed.. It was a proud time to be a Canadian to watch our hockey teams march to gold.

These Olympics were different for me. I did feel an unusual pride in being Canadian, and I am not generally a a flag waver, but I think it is because I watched as many of the events in a much different light.

My son, had a budding career, that was cut far too short, as an Alpine Ski Racer. I brag far too often on his successes and accomplishments, and in retrospect, probably had a bit of Hockey Dad syndrome. Financially I was unable to allow him the training, the travelling, the coaching that was required to continue on past the already very high level he was competing at. A regret that I will carry to my grave. But, even with his career cut short, I was witness to a great deal about elite sporting commitments that are required to be in the game, and I also was witness to pure love of the sport by him and his comparators at all levels,

We watch sporting events, and watch the leaders as the approach the finish line to win one of the 3 medals, listening to snippets of commentary of the background of the athletes, and even on a rarer occasion hear mention of the training regime that gets these athletes to the pinnacle of sporting events. But often these comments are just the necessary background chatter of commentators, and we never pause to really consider what it takes just to make it to the Olympics. We even (or I have before my enlightened realization) would chuckle at that poor bastard that came in last place.. "man he sucks and how did he ever get in this event."

I watched my son, EVERY night, immediately after school, without prompting and more frequently secretly, disappear down to the basement to do stretching, and muscle building. A backpack stuffed with books and a camping water carrier filled to the brim stuffed  in a backpack for weight as he did endless push-ups. An exercise bike jammed in a corner beside his ski tuning bench in a cramped unfinished basement space to work on endurance. Home made weight sets to tone his muscles. A daily routine, hours in the basement, then back upstairs to finish the night doing homework. Home made starting gates were built in the back yard to work on saving thousands of a second on his starts - back and forth, back and forth. Weekends spent training on the ski hill. Finding that balance of social enjoyment and unyielding focus often times working on something at the same time he was fulfilling the requests from the coaching from the group.

High School was simply an effort of catching up on missed work and then leaving school for another week for another trip - always in a state of catching up or preparing to be away. Often up to 8 weeks was spent away from the classrooms of his Junior and High School Education. Weeks on the road travelling, racing, were even more strenuous, Filling a day with morning warm ups, competition, hours tuning and waxing his skis and then head in his school work, and one final work out for the day. Then to start all over again at 5:30am the next morning.

Was my son special - no, he was a committed athlete that made tremendous sacrifices to his sport. Like EVERY athlete in the Olympics. From the gold medallist, to the sorry dude who comes in dead last. Each and every athlete ever seen on TV has made this commitment (and much more I assure you to be present at the Olympics).

But, I watched these Olympics with something more significant than the above preamble in mind. Being a spectator of a sport such as Alpine Ski Racing from when the kids were less than 10 years old, to competition that had no age limits, I often shared the sidelines with parents of children that will never feel the reward of stating atop of the podium. These competitors also had the commitment, braved the ridiculously cold windy days wearing nothing but a helmet, and a one piece nylon racing suit. These competitors shared the work ethic and desire of podium dwellers, but knew deep in their hearts that winning will never be in the cards. One may even suggest that these are the true champions. Just imagine for a second, giving your whole life (socially, financially, physically etc) to a sport, knowing as you are pushing your self to the brink of exhaustion in a training workout, that you will never win.

What emotional and mental strength these athletes must have. No TV interviews, no press - just alone as they tear the safety fencing down knowing that they had an incredible performance of their own, and that alone providing enough motivation to start training the next morning at 5:30am in the freezing cold.

What makes the podium dwellers and last place finishers different, I have no idea, but I suspect what keeps them going, continuing in the sport and all of the associated sacrifices is very different. I no longer chuckle at the less than perfect performances of these athletes - I hold them in the highest regard of all.