“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.”
Henry David Thoreau
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Recent layoffs in all grocers in Canada are not as much about job losses as they are about redefining business models.”
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
Downsizing is never easy, no matter what. And just weeks away from the Holidays, reducing staff is not good for morale. Yet changes in the grocery industry is causing grocers to rethink store structures, which includes laying off staff. Metro has let 250 people go in recent weeks. Loblaw also announced 500 layoffs earlier in the month. It was Sobeys’ turn recently when it announced it was reducing the number of employees by 800, which is about 2% of Empire’s workforce, Sobeys’ parent company. Some may believe layoffs at Sobeys are really about the failed Safeway deal, but there is more to the story.
Empire acquired Safeway in 2013 for almost $6b. It allegedly won a bidding war against Metro, as both companies wanted a better handle on the lucrative western market. The economy out West was flourishing which made a strong case for an acquisition. However, as the economy shifted, due mainly to oil prices, the merging of assets and the restructuring of the organization was poorly executed. Project Sunrise was launched earlier this year to help Sobeys simplify organizational structures and reduce costs. Given the recent financial results, Project Sunrise appears to be working.
Sobeys is clearly on a rebound. Operating costs are lower, the Safeway situation seems more contained and financial results are getting better. However, some store sales are barely moving, and foot traffic could be better. Unlike other grocers, Sobeys has a complicated structure, borderline confusing. Recent layoff announcements extend throughout the company, and not just at Empire’s head office. Sobeys’ model is highly decentralized. For local-market adaptation tactics and customization, such an approach helps. But in an environment in which food prices are under extreme market pressures, structural efficiencies are key.
Sobeys still has a long way to go. Empire shares are up 34% over the last 12 months, but its value is still lower than what it was 3 years ago, about 10% lower. Sobeys needs to do better in the months to come, but time is not necessarily a luxury the company has. The layoffs we have seen across the industry, more than 1500 jobs, are not just about minor strategic readjustments. A fundamental shift is happening in the industry, and no company is immune to these fluctuating market forces. Some may blame higher minimum wages in some provinces, yet this is a minor issue. Companies are dealing with Walmart’s and Costco’s increase in food space, and of course, the Amazon Effect. Amazon is not just forcing grocers to raise their competitive game, it also compels them to think differently about the consumer.
Many consumers still want to touch an apple, or squeeze a lemon before purchasing their groceries. There is also a growing number of consumers wondering if visiting a grocery store is the best use of their time. Young professionals, mainly Millennials, who have grown up with the internet, can see themselves buying groceries regularly online. The hassle of walking around a store and waiting in line to give their money to a clerk is not an appealing proposition.
Grocers have come to realize that they are ill-equipped to attract an ever-increasingly complicated marketplace. Often labelled as a very traditionalist sector, many employees in the sector have been trained to make decisions based on pure intuition. Meanwhile, disrupting companies like Amazon would consider intuitively-driven decisions to be taken at great peril.
Ever so slowly, more companies are hiring talent that embrace the power of data using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. Companies typically have access to an abundance of data and market information, but had little or no capacity to process it. Recent layoffs in food distribution are not as much about job losses as they are about redefining business models. Anticipating what consumers will do in a world where several options are available to them will be critical. The use of proper automation also requires a different skill set, something grocers dearly need. Data smartness is in, intuition less so.
Regrettably, we should expect more layoffs, but many of these positions will be repurposed, however, these will not be reported about in the media. The food industry is preparing itself for a tsunami sparked by the evolution of data sciences in the sector. Since September 2016, food prices in Canada indicate that unprecedented macroeconomic headwinds are affecting the entire market. Long-lasting low interest rates have almost made food inflation an enigma. Offsetting the threatening blows of companies which do not need to sell food to make a profit is real, and the Whole Foods acquisition by Amazon this summer has only enticed grocers to move more quickly.
Grocers are not in panic mode, but they know what is out there is too big to ignore.
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
Dean, Faculty of Management
On January 4, 2018, I received my invitation via e-mail, reminding me not to miss my opportunity to kick off Dalhousie’s anniversary year:
Join us on February 6, 2018 for DALHOUSIE’S BICENTENNIAL LAUNCH,
a unique performance event to kick off our anniversary year.
Featuring a special appearance by George Elliott Clarke, MA’89, LLD’99, the former Parliamentary Poet Laureate and author of Dal’s bicentennial poem, it’s a celebration of history, art and culture you won’t want to miss.
Vancouver and Halifax are separated by many miles, but on February 6, 2018, I felt I was in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Dalhousie Arts Centre, Halifax, celebrating Dalhousie University’s Bicentennial Launch.
Good news for those who were unable to watch the live streaming, the event was recorded and can be accessed here. I know you will enjoy this remarkable performance that welcomes the arrival of Dalhousie’s third century.
Dalhousie is celebrating 200 years and is heading into a third century of unimaginable possibilities and opportunities.
Over the coming months, CFAME Connection will revisit our rich and varied history, even as we reflect on the journey ahead. We belong to remarkable community that spans the globe. We invite you to join the conversation and share in the festivities.
“Taxing a food product which has been entrenched in our culture for so long is idealistically silly. We should let the market evolve and allow consumers to make their own choices. That said, the livestock industry ought to look at market data and start listening to consumers in order to better appreciate their concerns. Given that they are one of the most trusted groups in our economy, livestock producers are ideally positioned to renew their social contract with the public.”
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
The idea of having to pay a sin tax for environmentally detrimental foods seems to be gaining more support. For some, eating meat is considered a sin, and therefore meat products should be taxed, like alcohol and tobacco. A new report published recently by a group called Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative (FAIRR) argues that a tax on meat is inevitable.
The meat industry, particularly cattle, has been facing relentless criticism over the last decade. Very rarely have we seen reports encouraging consumers to eat more meat. For one thing, science-based findings connecting climate change and meat have been accumulating. The well-known United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that livestock account for about 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other surveys have even suggested up to 18%. Greenhouse gas emissions produced by the cattle industry will only increase, as the middle class in both India and China are expanding, and as such, demand for animal protein is exploding.
And then there’s health. Two years ago, the World Health Organization linked meat consumption to cancer. The report demonstrated that eating processed meat products increases the risk of developing cancer. Several meat-producing countries including Canada, the U.S. and Brazil ridiculed the report, as processed meats were added to the same category as asbestos. But several other governments, including China and some European countries, have actively discouraged their populations from consuming an unreasonable amount of meat. Not a signal the meat industry needs.
The other major headwind the industry faces is related to the ethical treatment of animals. A number of people believe livestock production to be unethical and that the industrial production of meat should be outlawed, period. The ethics narrative around meat has been gaining traction over the last decade or so.
Now, if you think the FAIRR initiative is some minor, under-resourced group desperately trying to seek attention, think again. It includes a portfolio of 57 investors with more than $2.3 trillion under management. This alliance clearly wants to influence the plant-based protein agenda, and have had their fair share of success in doing so. Already, agri-food giants like Tyson Foods and Cargill are looking at “beyond-meat” solutions. Demand-focused companies are seeing the writing on the wall. Many consumers are re-evaluating their relationship with animal proteins. But in cattle country, a large number remain in deep denial, blaming interest groups for fear-mongering.
Statistics show that demand for meat in Canada is still stubbornly robust. The average Canadian would typically consume about 87 kilos of meat products in one year, which is just slightly lower than the amount from 5 years ago. This year, beef consumption in our country reached 25.4 kilograms per capita, and some expect demand for the product to increase to 25.5 kilograms next year. Surprising, perhaps, but beef prices have come down, making the product more attractive for the consumer on a budget. Some significant variations amongst provinces should be noted, though. Alberta is by far the largest consumer of beef as the average adult Albertan male will eat 83 grams a day. That’s 53% more than the average in Newfoundland, and 18% more than in neighbouring British Columbia. Affordability and lifestyle are probable reasons for such a difference.
Canadian consumers have stayed on the side of our livestock industry, but numbers are showing signs of a change in consumer habits. Demand for pork is expected to fall to unprecedented levels in 2018, dropping 13% from its 2015 level. Demand for chicken, one of the cheapest types of animal protein out there, plateaued in 2016 and has since softened. Although beef could experience a rebound in 2018, expected increases aren’t spectacular, given how low retail prices are these days. Canadians are not giving up on meats, but they are willing to spend more time away from the meat counter. Animal protein still has market currency, but plant-based alternatives to meat are increasingly impressive.
But little can be accomplished by taxing meat. Taxing food in general, any food product, is morally questionable. A retail tax on food is regressive and can potentially penalize the underprivileged. Some have argued that meat is the new tobacco. This sensationalism-intended parallel is unwise, since tobacco is not essential to life and food is. The implementation of such a tax would also be challenging. If federal or provincial governments were to tax meat, funds would likely be used to support other relevant public programs. But as with any tax, transparency on how funds are dispersed within the massive, bureaucratic governmental machinery is weak. Also, many great small businesses around the country have offered high quality meat products to local markets. Many of them are family businesses. Taxing sausages and steaks would compromise the viability of many stores valued by communities around the country.
Meat has played a significant part in consumers’ lives in the Western world for centuries. Penalizing consumers for continuing a culinary tradition is inexplicable. Taxing a food product which has been entrenched in our culture for so long is idealistically silly. We should let the market evolve and allow consumers to make their own choices. That said, the livestock industry ought to look at market data and start listening to consumers in order to better appreciate their concerns. Given that they are one of the most trusted groups in our economy, livestock producers are ideally positioned to renew their social contract with the public.
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
Dean, Faculty of Management
How to Lead in 2018 – Hire for Depth, Hire a Humanities Grad
2017 was quite a year. The rise of populism in the US, Europe, and many other major economies throughout the world has generated much anxiety in the established media and political class. It is difficult to determine the long term economic effects that this change will have on business. So what are hiring managers in the corporate and not-for-profit worlds to do?
Good management starts with great hires – Skills can be taught, wisdom cannot.
As a hiring manager, be it on the front lines or in the c-suite, do not fall into the trap of hiring the hottest job profile on the market. Now is not the time to hire someone who can punch out a great spreadsheet. You need to hire someone who can provide both technical output as well as provide a deeper analysis of the long-term impact of those spreadsheets or procedural documents. Having the ability to see why a leader has asked for an analysis, looking at the reasons behind a request and the impact of the analysis into the future, will be of greater value than a technical answer to what was being asked. Humanities grads have the ability to provide that depth of knowledge. You can always send a member of your team for training on “hard” skills. Hiring a candidate with great “soft” skills will provide your team with the wisdom and leadership you should be craving.
This brings us to today’s turbulent political climate, which poses unique questions for today’s business and not-for-profit leaders. Throughout the past generation, starting in the mid to late 80s, economic trends favoured open borders and decreased government intervention. The continuation of these economic trends is now in doubt as we witness waves of populism in many developed and developing economies. Most mainstream experts cannot predict where this will lead. Having members of your team with the wisdom and judgement to provide a deeper perspective in their analyses and decision making would give your organization that extra advantage to differentiate itself.
Hiring for a Different Perspective
Humanities grads’ training in debating, communicating, and critical thinking allows for a broader perspective needed to differentiate their analysis from that of other more typical business-oriented grads. In a recent study promoted by the World Economic Forum, Humanities graduates scored highly in several skills valued by leaders, including communication and inspiring excellence. These traits bolster the Humanities grad’s existing baseline acumen towards wisdom and judgement. Prominent Canadian business executive and philanthropist Lynton “Red” Wilson has donated millions of dollars to his Alma mater, much of which is focused on leadership and the liberal arts, “A liberal education helps prepare young men and women for leadership,” Wilson says. “A key component of the liberal arts, the study of Canadian history, equips us all to better understand the context of the experiences, choices and decisions we face every day.”
Closing the loop – Humanities plus a professional degree
Hiring a Humanities grad with a professional degree, such as a MBA, can provide you with the optimum combination – a deeper perspective combined with the business acumen that comes with a professional MBA. An Inside Higher Ed study, picked up by Forbes (“Majoring In The Humanities Does Pay Off, Just Later”), states that Humanities grads do earn more than grads with professional degrees. And the reason? 40% of liberal arts and social sciences grads go on to take graduate degrees, pushing up the earnings average. So, it seems that the Humanities grads, and those leaders who have the foresight to hire them, can have their cake and eat it too.
Jeff Chuchman MA, MBA(FS) 2017 is Associate Director, Advancement Services at McMaster University. Recognized as a collaborative relationship builder, Jeff fosters community engagement and generates team synergies by welcoming and valuing input of colleagues. His MA in early 20th century history provides a rich appreciation and understanding for thriving within our current complex and dynamic work environment. Jeff has graciously agreed to be a repeat contributor on CFAME Connection.
Every university has a legend. Dalhousie is no exception.
On Dalhousie’s webpage that lists important dates for 2017 – 2018, Munro Day stands out as unique to Dalhousie University.
Every year on the first Friday of February, Dalhousie closes its doors to celebrate Munro Day. And for good reason. Without George Munro, Dalhousie University would merely be a page in a history book.
George Munro, born in 1825 near the once active shipping port of Pictou, Nova Scotia, did not attend Dalhousie, nor did he follow his first career choice of becoming a Presbyterian minister. Instead, he made his way to New York City and fulfilled his destiny in the printing and publishing business, amassing great wealth in the process. Even so, his loyalty and attachment to Nova Scotia prevailed. When Dalhousie faced extinction, his gifts of $330,000 ($10 or $11 million today) brought life and independence to the fledgling institution. George Munro endowed Dalhousie chairs in physics, history, political economy, English literature and philosophy.
The man who published romances, light fiction and an inexpensive story paper called “The Fireside Companion” recognized the power of education.
As we celebrate DAL200, George Munro’s legacy is a reminder that individual contributions to education, even those seemingly small, generate positive outcomes for society.
“It is our hope that the Dalhousie journey does not end with the completion of the program. Our graduates go on to do amazing things – academically, professionally and life altering. The relationships that evolve over the course of the academic years at Dalhousie are truly valued. As alumni of Dalhousie, graduates become part of a larger, global community.”
I take this opportunity, as we celebrate DAL200, to reflect upon my 25 years with Dalhousie University. I have witnessed many changes, been involved in countless exciting and challenging adventures and met thousands of wonderful people.
When I started with the Centre for Advanced Management, (originally OEPG), my role was to provide support to applicants and students of the MBA (Financial Services) program. I found my home! Over the years, I was honoured to provide “behind the scenes” assistance to individuals who embarked on a profound and robust academic journey.
In the beginning, the blended/distance program was a relatively new delivery concept to the Faculty of Management and Dalhousie. Together, our Faculty of Management team and incoming students demonstrated that high quality teaching and learning could be achieved without having a physical presence on campus.
The MBA (Financial Services) program, and later the MPA (Management), and Management of Information Management programs, offered working professionals with a unique opportunity to continue with their professional careers and personal obligations while achieving a post-graduate degree. Many students joined the program primarily for career advancement, however they soon discovered that the path to earning a degree presented much more: deeper learning, strategic thinking, confidence, a new way of looking at the challenges they face, and of course, life-long relationships. Recently, I was reminded of these enduring friendships, when I received a photo from a 1999 graduate, depicting a large group of fellow alum at a dinner arranged by the group without Dalhousie involvement.
Over the years, advances in technology have enhanced the delivery of CFAME programs. From facsimile machines to video conferences, live classroom sessions, webcasts, etc., what remained constant was the dedication to deeper learning, exploration and discovery, the staple of higher education. Students bring a vast amount of knowledge to the classroom, which strengthens the experience for everyone.
It is our hope that the Dalhousie journey does not end with the completion of the program. Our graduates go on to do amazing things – academically, professionally and life altering. The relationships that evolve over the course of academic years at Dalhousie are truly valued. As alumni of Dalhousie, graduates become part of a larger, global community.
The goal of CFAME Connection is to enrich the Dalhousie experience and keep our alumni relationships strong (knowledge sharing, deeper learning, building relationship, staying connected).
I want to send thanks to all our students, alumni and faculty for participating in the CFAME Connection conversation, and special thanks to Rebecca (MBA FS 2003) for making it all happen.
Associate Director (Administration)
Centre for Advanced Management Education