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Western Economic Drive, Senate Reform, Alberta Rodeos

Posted By Thom Young, June 19, 2015
Updated: June 18, 2015

Go West, Young Man, Go West


This phrase originated in the U.S. in the early 1800s and is credited to various individuals giving advice to young people about seeking a better future in the land of opportunity. Doubtless, this was good advice for many during those times. Eastern cities were struggling under the crush of their population growth, and business opportunities were limited by the dominance of large corporations manipulating the capital for growth. Economic policies in place caused severe cycles of boom and bust development, and the standard of living for city dwellers was limited at best. North America was simply the storage house for European economic interests, and little in the way of finished products were manufactured for anything other than domestic use. “Hewers of wood and drawers of water” is the economic description of the mercantilism that controlled economic development in this new land. The farther you went away from the dominance of business interests represented in the Eastern cities, the better your prospects of developing an independent enterprise that allowed you to grow your capital value with the development of new towns and cities. These opportunities especially presented themselves in the West.

I know in my family history, the idea of exploring new opportunities has always been seen as an adventure. The German-English word Wanderlust roughly translates to a thirst for adventure. Those who seek such things are natural risk takers with deep-seated optimism. A letter written by one of my ancestors in the late 1700s talks of the journey to “the Canadas” and the seven-week sailing that had them becalmed for two weeks off the coast of Newfoundland, in sight of land with no means of getting to it. They finally made it to Quebec City where they disembarked from the ship and boarded a steam boat to Montreal. The steam boat exploded on the journey with over 400 lives lost and only three of the seven in my family’s party surviving. Still, after somehow making it to Montreal, they continued on to what is now the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario and staked property to build a new life. That farm did well until the last of that generation passed in the early 1900s. The next generation left in the early 1880s repeating the westward movement to new land and opportunities near Neepawa, Manitoba, again staking out the land and working it to support a large family. My great-great grandfather William Forrest Young was an insurance broker and real estate agent who went on to become a scion in Canadian finance. On his retirement from the corporate world, he homesteaded once again at Russell, Manitoba, where he passed in 1935, leaving a large family to wrestle with the estate, nothing of which was left when my turn came up.

For my first visit as an adult to Calgary, the bank I was working for decided I could improve my sales skills by attending the Xerox PS II course held in the Calgary offices of Xerox Canada. My boss and I were both sent, likely because he didn’t want to be upstaged by the new guy who actually had some sales experience. While I learned a lot about financing from this guy, he would fail at selling cold water in the desert. The course was a good one but, like all of the bank courses, the study was combined with much socializing. I remember one of the places we ended up at was the East End Petroleum Club, which was in a corner of a rather seedy hotel. There I was introduced to a young fellow named Ralph whom people (I thought) jokingly called the mayor. I was amused to find out at some later date that he actually was the mayor of Calgary and was further amused to learn that at this rather unusual luncheon gathering I had been introduced to much of the business elite in Calgary. This was 1980—the bust cycle of our resource development had just begun. Calgary was really a cow town then, but it had a strange optimism about the future. Native Calgarians were hard to find, and the large group of people from many different places, all chasing the dream, refused to be swayed from their belief in this promised land, no matter what the economic indicators and Eastern prognosticators had to say. I was strangely convinced of this too and determined that someday I would follow that dream and see what opportunities I could find. It took us almost seven years to get back to Calgary, but we haven’t looked back since. Alberta has been good to us and will continue to be so. As my departed friend “the mayor” put it, the West is where it is happening, and the Alberta Advantage is making certain that we are leading the way into the 21st century!

I was recently reading a Forbes magazine article on employment opportunities. While the article references the U.S. economic conditions, the economic makeup of our country has little difference, and the conclusion the article draws about the best opportunities being in the West is likely just as accurate for Canada. The centre of power and population influence continues to shift westward. This shift will produce a very interesting reality in the coming decade, especially with the movement of the political spectrum that we are now seeing.

Does Our Canadian Senate Continue to Demonstrate Its Irrelevance?


Of all the meanderings I’ve written, the most number of items hitting my inbox came from a short bit that I wrote about the Canadian Senate when the Duffy expense scandal first became news. I commented then that the Senate, this unrepresentative left-over from the British parliamentary system made to parallel the British House of Lords, made no sense to me, and I was stead firm in the belief that Canada would be better served by either making it an elected and accountable institution or by doing away with it all together. As we see in the ongoing reports of ineptitude and outright fraud in the audit of their financial workings, senators cut from whichever political party are equally inept in their dealings with public money. Despite the stinging review, no method seems to be in place to correct the deficiencies or to demand these people be held to account for the theft of public funds either through willful intent or ignorant understanding.

Canadian Senate-Red ChambersUnlike the British House of Lords, which was established to appease landed gentry in the transition to democracy, our Canadian senators are appointed at the whim of the leader of the country at any given time. The thought was that this group would be made up of the most qualified of the Canadian elite in academic and business endeavours and would provide a slow, determined review of parliamentary decisions and make recommendations to benefit the process. Right from the very start, however, the “Red Chamber” became populated by political hacks rewarded for their service to whichever political power controlled their appointment. The provision of sober second thought in review of legislation was never effectively accomplished, and those in the know can confirm that historically the activities of the members of this group as whole rarely met the standards for honesty and integrity that we expect from the lowest elected official. This review of these senator’s expenses has clearly shown that, no matter which side is represented or who appointed them, the unabashed consumption of whatever can be scooped out of the public trough has gone on unchecked for decades and that the prospects for correction of the deviant behaviour will continue unabated until such time as Senate reform makes its way onto the agenda of Canadian concern. Unfortunately, Senate reform falls under the heading of constitutional reform and as such puts in play the competing interests of the provinces and the federal government with the demands for change and compensation unrelated to the discussion. The current government cannot be anymore blamed for the Senate’s ineptitude than any previous one, nor does it have any desire to reopen the divisive constitutional debate that would be required to effect changes. Who could blame them considering the total failure of previous attempts for unanimity? Let us all remember that the last successful attempt to amend the Canadian constitution resulted in appeasement and compromise by way of a notwithstanding clause providing a provincial entity the right to opt out of the unanimous provisions of the group or even the legal determination of the highest courts in the land. Simply comprehending that discourse is enough to confuse and annoy, yet it is where we sit with this discussion.

I would leave you with the thought that the next round may well have to come from the provinces, not the federal government. Canadians would have to demand action from their provincial leaders to deal with these matters. To quote my dear departed Nana on this matter, “It will be a long row to hoe!”

Off to the Rodeo


A sure sign that the summer months are here in Alberta is that the rodeo and chuck wagon circuits have begun. I have made the trek to Ponoka to secure the best parking site for my RV so we have a short walk to the rodeo grounds and are far enough away from the redneck party group to enjoy our evenings. The weather is starting out pretty normally with the looming possibility that the High River show will be rained out but the Ponoka rodeo will go on rain or shine. If you’re going look for us at the grounds, I’ll be the guy wearing the cowboy hat!

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

Tags:  economics  rodeo  Senate  Senate reform  Western Canada 

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Plan, Budget, Forecast, and Prediction Differences; and Then Some Puns

Posted By Thom Young, May 5, 2015
Updated: April 22, 2015

What Is the Difference between a Plan, a Budget, a Forecast, and a Prediction?

I belong to several business discussion groups, and this question was recently posed in a LinkedIn blog from the Harvard Business Review (Harvard Business School). Usually, the issues are more pragmatic than philosophical, and I always gain some insights by following the interaction between people here. The forum is an international one as well, so the discussion isn’t as dominated as some by American perspectives on issues—not that American perspectives are bad, but discussions about the uniquely different aspects of American social structure tend to get off into the political realm, which, in my view, is irrelevant to the point of discussing business management and sales. Product development, sales distribution, human resources, and corporate culture transcend any kind of political structure. Producing a profit is a universal goal. The manner of getting there is the crux of the debate.

There is an old saying that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” The essence of business management is about planning. Budget, forecast, and prediction are very important parts of the planning process: you can’t have a plan unless you do the research necessary to put together a budget of the costs to achieve a goal, and you can’t prepare a budget without doing the research necessary to forecast results and make predictions in your budget. These interrelations are the essence of a proper plan.

Poor planning is better than no planning! Why? Well, if you have a plan and measure your progress against the plan, you develop a report card that allows you to change your method and correct errors in the assumptions made in putting the plan together. The result of doing this process properly makes your plan work. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The whole of this process takes many years to learn, but learning it properly will make a world of difference in your life and give your business a much better chance of success.

The essence of planning is reviewing information relative to the goal. Setting the goal is the hard part. What do you want out of your efforts in life? Platitudes like “to be successful” or “to be happy” or “to live a good life” sound nice, but they don’t have much substance in the planning part of setting a goal. You have to get in front of that person in the mirror and have a long, hard discussion about what those platitudes mean. Then you can start figuring out how to achieve them. Success means many different things to many different people. The same can be said about being happy and living a good life. This hard heart-to-heart discussion with yourself has to quantify those things. Do you want a big house and lots of money? Now you’re getting to the nib of the matter, because identifying what you want is the first part of working out what you need to do to get it.

Many people think that luck forms a large part of the path to success. I’ve often said that it’s strange how hard these lucky people work to stay focused on their goals and keep on the path to achieve them. Business planning is no different than personal planning and, especially in our business, the component parts are easy to break down no matter whether you are the owner, a department manager, or a CSR. Your income and success are tied directly to your production results. Your market share or the size of the book of business you manage determine your income level. If you make your employer money, you make money. It’s not rocket science. You are a cost centre in which the biggest part of the cost is your earnings. Support and other component parts of your position—like premises, advertising, and administration—all form part of the costs of employing you. If those costs exceed the revenues you produce, you better have a plan to correct that or the matter will be taken out of your control. The only difference between receiving a commission on your work or a predetermined salary is that your performance review comes with every pay cycle if you’re on commission. The business owner is no different: if the revenues from operations fail to produce sufficient returns to keep the lights on and the employees employed, corrective action must be taken quickly or a total failure comes quicker than you think. Most sales-oriented businesses (which are virtually all business) have less than 90 days of working capital to keep the doors open if the revenues fall below the breakeven point. Fast action is necessary to protect the business if sales objectives aren’t met.

In my years in private business, I’ve learned the hard way about the need for proper planning and review of budgets and forecasts. The old adage that “wise people don’t make errors in judgement but errors in judgement often make people wise” sort of follows along the lines of “don’t make the same mistakes twice.”

I cannot stress enough that setting goals and preparing a plan to achieve those goals is the way to become successful. Decide what you want, and put in place the action plan needed to achieve it. Stop and review your progress at regular intervals, and determine both what has hindered you from meeting your objectives and what has helped you exceed them. Do more of the latter. Do this long enough, and you’ll find yourself surprised by what you have achieved. Others will notice your success before you do!

I could share much more with you on this topic and, as I have promised in the past, will revisit it again in the future!

 

Everyone Needs a Good Laugh Every Now and Then

After talking about such a serious subject, having a good laugh is in order! These posts have been circulating on the internet.

Here’s an amusing twist on words and puns.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it....
  • Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!
  • A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.
  • I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crêpes.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
  • They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.
  • I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.
  • Jokes about German sausages are the wurst.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
  • When chemists die, apparently they barium.
  • I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  • I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
  • When you get a bladder infection; urine trouble.
  • Broken pencils are pretty much pointless.
  • What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • I dropped out of the communism class because of lousy Marx.
  • All the toilets in New York’s police stations have been stolen. As of now, it appears the police have nothing to go on.
  • I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
  • Velcro—what a rip off!

For me, Sinko de Mayo is truly a day to celebrate. Few people have come to know the “true” origin of Sinko de Mayo. I’m pleased to set the record straight. A little known fact is that, back in 1912, Hellmann’s mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York. This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico, but, as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost. The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day. The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course as Sinko de Mayo. Go out on this day, grab a couple of slices of Wonder Bread and a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, and have a party. You know I will!

In Closing

If all goes according to plan, you’ll be receiving this on the 5th May. The date "is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken to be Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16” (Wikipedia). Le ruego a mis amigos mexicanos que me perdones por burlarse de su lengua.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

Tags:  budget  business plan  economic forecast  economic prediction  economics 

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