Talk to the Customer

When sales were down and anxiety was rising, my ol’ boss George Goeders at Procter & Gamble used to say to me, “You can’t solve it by sitting in here, get out there and go talk to the customer.”

Words to remember. Thank you, George.

That is why this past week was so refreshing. During continued decline of the stock market and energy prices, our two Edmonton Liberal MPs, Randy Boissonnault and Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, were busy out talking with customers – the right thing to do.

Eight roundtables held at the Shaw Conference Centre plus three others exposed the ideas and concerns of business owners, union employees, entrepreneurs, youth, academia, local government and local families. The MPs came well prepared, the attendees came well prepared, and the dialogue was rich, focused and on point for today’s realities.

And these weren’t the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” kinda consultations. These were well prepared, well facilitated, well organized engagement sessions where there was an openness to new ideas and an understanding that no one knows all the answers.

What was interesting was that although our MPs desperately want to help and roll out some magical program that solves everyone’s economic problems, there was a greater understanding that the real role of government is really to create the environment where entrepreneurship and investment can best flourish.

Keeping taxes low, eliminating unnecessary regulation, opening new markets, promoting the Canadian brand, reducing the size of government and hiring entrepreneurial thinking people into the public service all create that environment where people want to invest and take risks … things that consistently employ people and create wealth.

It is a powerful motivator when government leaders are promoters of economic growth and prosperity, and powerfully concerning when they sit behind closed doors alone trying to figure out how to squeeze more tax from the system.

Getting out and taking to customers always results in better solutions.

Thank you, Randy and Amarjeet for kicking off your leadership with the right approach.

Why Are We Waiting?

There’s a nervousness growing on the streets and in the conversations happening in our coffee shops across Alberta. There is concern and angst among people who are typically risk-takers, adventurers and entrepreneurs.

And it’s becoming infectious. And it’s becoming concerning.

Alberta has a long history of an unusual economy – filled with highs and lows, droughts and floods, journeys and discoveries. It’s been a land of opportunity between periods of hardship, and our culture of camaraderie and cooperation has prevailed when times were most tough. And we’ve always fought through it, together.

Optimism is a key virtue of living here, as is hard work. There is no room for entitlement, and pointing fingers and complaining leaves you sitting very alone. If something needs fixing, we fix it. If something needs doing, we do it. And if someone needs help, we help them. It’s pretty simple.

So why has developing a budget and a policy framework become so difficult?

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, our individuals, families, businesses, farmers and non-profits all need some help, some guidance, some direction in terms of what they can expect … such that they can plan and make decisions that positively affect their future.

Instead, we’re playing politics and waiting for a federal election before taking care of our own?

That’s certainly not the culture that’s made us successful. That’s certainly not how we build our province. And that’s certainly not any form of leadership.

People expect more. And when you can taste fear hovering in the air … people need action.

Let’s see some leadership and some action … please.

PC Candidate: Rumour or Truth

If the rumours are true, this will be an exciting week ahead.

If rumours are true, then Chris Labossiere (@chrislabossiere) will be declaring his intention to run as the Edmonton-Rutherford candidate for the Alberta PC Party in the next provincial election, and this is great news for Edmonton.

Consistently inspired by public service, Chris has been a force for change in our province over the past decade, and has been an inter-generational, selfless leader for a hard-working, responsible and tolerant Alberta.

Over my past two years at EEDC, no one has come to me with more ideas, no one has been more willing to roll up their sleeves, and no has been more willing to challenge the status quo as Chris Labossiere.

If this is the caliber of candidate that Jim Prentice and the PCAA team is attracting to lead this province in the future, then I’m looking forward to what is to come.

I do not live in Edmonton-Rutherford and cannot cast a vote for Chris or anyone else running to make the necessary changes that are needed. But I encourage all Edmontonians to take the time to get to know him, as he will likely be a major player in the years ahead … and his heart and soul is firmly rooted in our fabulous city which will benefit profoundly from his service.

This is one rumour I hope is true.

Are We Smart Enough?

Complacency is a dangerous disease. It’s forever affected General Motors, Kodak, Microsoft and Blockbuster. And it is a widespread addiction amongst Alberta companies.

Why?

Because things are good. Why change? Why invest? Why try harder … when you can just sit back and enjoy the prosperity that comes from underlying economic growth?

Look at your own organization. Look at yourself. What are you investing in today that will allow you to reap dividends in 2-3 years or 5-7 years?

These are important questions, and they are the questions every Albertan should be asking every day. They are the questions that we will explore at E-Town (www.e-town.ca) next week, and it is important that you invite yourself to the conversation. Here’s why (true stories from the past week):

Me: Is your team coming to e-town this year?
CEO: It looks fabulous, but we’re too busy working too hard.
Me: Is working harder your competitive advantage?
CEO: Ummm … shut up.

Employee: I’d like to attend e-town this year. It only costs only $399.
Boss: What will you learn?
Employee: Technology, leadership and creativity trends affecting our business.
Boss: I don’t think those are our priorities right now.

Do these stories sound familiar? Are we simply trying to win by working harder? Or is it time we start thinking about competing by being smarter than your competition? One of our speakers, Estelle Metayer, focuses solely on this topic, and I’m probably looking forward to her session the most.

Why?

Because it strikes at the heart of our economic future. And you can’t afford to miss it.

Register yourself and your employees at www.e-town.ca.

Thank you.

Dare to re Discover

Eras are often defined by the visions of leaders: the Carnegie era defined the important connection between industrialist and philanthropist; the Kennedy era defined the culture of US risk-taking by charting a path to the moon; and the Jobs era defined unlimited innovation with the interdependence of technology and humanity.

Whether those leaders are local, global, political, industrial, dictatorial or libertarian, leaders with commanding visions define their eras.

On a local level, we had the Stephen Mandel era, the Cal Nichols era, the Don Lowry era, the Tony Franceschini era, the Dave Mowat era, the Indira Samarasekera era, the Shelia Weatherill era and the Ross Grieve era … all different leaders that left their mark in different ways.

What is important to note is that they all progressed their causes and left their mark. Leaders have to leave a mark … have to move their organizations forward … or they are often forgotten as part of “a lost decade” era … and that is a tragedy of leadership, especially when that leader was brought in specifically to steward a public-facing organization in a defined direction.

The University of Alberta is in need of an era … and it has the opportunity to define its next decade with the selection of a leader that heightens the vision, determination and relevance of this amazing institution. Our university has the opportunity to select a President that has the following:

– Clear vision for campus development focused on enhancing the student experience;
– Understanding of our industrial and societal needs for entrepreneurial graduates;
– Capability to engage alumni, to build pride in the community and to raise capital;
– Clarity of expectations for research & teaching excellence across core faculties; and
– Ability to align all Deans to one vision, one voice, one goal … of being the best.

If we get it right, that leader will not only define the next era for the University of Alberta, but also for the City of Edmonton and the Province of Alberta. If we dare .. strive … and take risks … it will be a defining decade for all. The combination of our K-12 System, NAIT, MacEwen, NorQuest and University of Alberta has the ability to position Edmonton as the place with “the Brightest Kids in the World” and the University of Alberta is a critical cornerstone of that reputation.

So let’s Be Bold. Dare to Discover. Be Indisputably Recognized. Be a Leader.