This is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m about to take part in what has become a marker of history for MERIX. Every year since inception we gather as group to reflect on the past twelve months but more importantly focusing on the future. It’s the one time of year where we gather to share ideas, to council, motivate and enjoy each other’s company. We’ve taken our gathering across our country, and last year we converged on the city of San Francisco. This year? We gather in our nation’s capital. When I asked the organizers of the event why Ottawa? The answer was simple, not everyone on the team has been to Ottawa. So Ottawa it is.
I’ll be with the MERIX team for the remainder of the week, which is code for I’ll get back to regular blog posts next week. For the next few days I get to spend time with an inspiring group of people from across our country.
Until next time,
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One of the byproducts of getting older is perspective. Gone are the days of being emotionally invested in a professional sports franchise. What happens on the ice, the court, the diamond or football field will not alter my life one iota. Irrespective of what happens during a game the same responsibilities await me the next morning. I don’t get worked up over million dollar athletes who get to extend their childhoods by playing a game for a living. But I must confess that the historical meltdown by the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night brought back memories for me. It’s been a long time since I yelled at the TV, wondering if my flat screen TV was going to be functional by the end of the game.
Alas, sanity prevailed. As soon as the game came to an end I went back to being my dispassionate self as it relates to the local hockey “heroes”. I’ve long since stopped being an apologist for the Leafs. Don’t get me wrong, I go to games but I go more so for the experience. So now when people, usually those who reside in other parts of the country say to me, “Leaf suck”, my answer is, “agreed”. That usually stops the conversation. Now, there was no stopping the conversation about the Leafs colossal collapse Monday night. Leaf nation is stunned, numb and frankly I worry about some being suicidal. Everyone in Toronto is talking about the Leafs blowing a three goal lead with only ten minutes to play in the seventh and deciding game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. The analysis by the sports media is, and will continue to be, unrelenting. This is way too much fun for them. One radio station found a creative way torture Leafs fan by interviewing a statistician who calculated the probability of the Leafs winning that game from a historical context. Kid you not, the stat’s geek looked at every game seven played in the NHL since 1918 to determine the probability of the Leafs winning the game. For example, when the Leafs made it 3-1, based on history the probability of the Leafs winning was 95%, when the score was 4-1 it was 98%. I laughed out loud in the car when I heard this. This exercise was nothing more than plunging the knife a little deeper. Poor Leaf fans, maybe the team should change the saying The Passion That Unites Us All to The Therapy That Unites Us All.
The only impressive thing about the game was the press conference with Leaf coach Randy Carlyle following the game. To have to face the media and answer questions why he and his team failed so spectacularly cannot be easy. Like in business a leader’s character is measured by how they deal with adversity. A hockey coach is the leader of the team. Most teams take on the coach’s personality, and if that holds true for the Leafs it will serve the players well. Carlyle made no excuses. Someone in the media asked if the officiating worked against his team and he refused to be drawn into that debate, he simply said his team ran out of gas. He was calm, leveled headed and waited until there were no more questions to be answered. I couldn’t help but admire the dignity and accountability he exhibited under the most trying of circumstances.
So now that the Leafs have gone down in the hockey chocking history, I’ll have to change my TV viewing habits. Maybe I should start watching Dr. Phil. I suspect some Leaf fans might be making an appearance on the show.
Until next time
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I write this blog while waiting for repairs to be made to the plane prior to take off. Which by the way I think is a damn fine idea, if there’s a problem with the plane I don’t care how much time it takes to fix the problem. It never ceases to amaze me how some people moan and grumble about the plane not being able to take off for mechanical reasons or when the plane has to be de-iced. What could possibly be that important at the end of the journey to piss and moan about flight safety? So, I have some time on my hands and I had a little extra time to devour the National Post. I came across an interesting article; it was especially interesting given the purpose of my trip…
I decided that 2013 was the year to reconnect with our customers. The previous twelve months became somewhat of black hole with respect to this practice. No excuses, but I was the Chair of CAAMP in 2012, at the same time working on a management buyout, which came to a conclusion in February of this year. Now that my responsibilities with CAAMP are becoming fainter and the Merix and Paradigm ownership issue is resolved, it’s back to basics. I’ve always believed that sitting directly across from your customers, looking at them in the eye, and asking them for feedback is the best way to gauge exactly how your organization is performing. So on tour I go. I’ve met with a number of our status originators in Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, and with plans to meet in Ottawa, Vancouver and either Saskatoon or Regina. One way to show a customer that their business is valued is to meet them in their backyard. The effort alone should speak volumes (pardon the pun). Back to the article in the National Post entitled, “Six skills to ensure success,” written by Rick Spence. He states that one of the six keys to success is to “snuggle up to your customer“. According to Spence, “some of your best sources of market intelligence and new ideas will come from clients.“ That is so true, and its why enjoy meeting with our loyal supporters. I talk very little about Merix Financial when I meet with our customers. I’m more interested in their business, and how we might fit within their mortgage ecosystem – the best way to find this out – talk less and ask questions. Your customer will provide a detailed road map for you and all you have to do is two things – don’t interrupt and make them THE focal point.
If you’re executing fundamentals in customer feedback such as: requesting feedback, surveys, one-on-one meetings and user groups – that’s fantastic because it’s a key to success. However, in this day and age of text, twitter and every other medium contributing to the erosion of effective and personal communication – the one-to-one meeting is a huge advantage. There’s still customers out there who value the simplicity of an authentic conversation (and that’s becoming a skill set today). Your customers enjoy the engagement, and you learn from it; doesn’t get much better than that.
Until next time,
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We live in exciting and historical times. The way we communicate with each other, the way we conduct business, almost every aspect of our life has been impacted by the digital revolution. We’re a part of history because the digital revolution is having a dramatic impact on our lives. Look at the impact your mobile phone has on your life. A recent survey I came across indicated that over 90% mobile users keep their device within arm’s length 24 hours a day. All of us, to a degree, have become reliant on technology. For some in the world technology and social media has dramatically changed their lives. Look at the Arab Spring, and the impact social media had on the Egyptian populace to create political change. You can debate if they’re better off today than they were yesterday, devil you know versus the one you don’t. The point is political change happened in Egypt because of the free flow of information. That’s powerful and it gives us reason to marvel at the profound effect that social media has on individuals, and nations as a whole. However, not much is written about the darker side of the digital revolution.
Nationhood building is bold, it’s exciting and the drama unfolds in real time. But the same tools that can galvanize a nation of people can also be used against them. Everything we do today almost invariably leaves a digital fingerprint. Every aspect of our lives, likes, dislikes, habits etc. is being captured. Just think what an autocratic régime can do if they had the resources to invest in technology to monitor every aspect of their citizens lives? If you’re concerned about your civil liberties being infringed upon today, just imagine what it is going to be like in countries where the rule of law is nothing but a talking point or just another way to extort money from the West. Autocratic countries which have the means and resources to invest in technology will take stalking to a new level. It’s happening now and stopping this is next to impossible.
Another dark side of the digital revolution is the harm it can bring by destroying reputations or sullying someone’s good name. Facts are damned because anonymity acts as a factual cloak. A recent victim, former Toronto Maple Leaf general managers Brian Burke, has decided to fight back. Burke has filed a lawsuit with the BC Supreme Court saying he was defamed. Simply put, Burke was targeted by 18 anonymous individuals on- line, stating that he was let go by the Toronto Maple Leafs for having an affair, and impregnating a local Toronto sportscaster. For those of us who have followed Burke’s career, we’re not surprised that he would fight back. I commend Burke for what he’s doing. Too many times individuals and organizations do not fight back for fear of fueling the fire. Also factoring in the decision not to defend one’s self is the cost to do so. Burke has the will, the time and the resources. According to Burke’s lawyer, Peter Gall, “a lot of people think they can with impunity say whatever outrageous things on the Internet and nobody’s ever going to be able to find them or hold them accountable. Brian is going to hold them accountable.” The first thing Burke’s lawyers are doing is seeking court orders against websites that published the comments. These companies will have to disclose who these individuals are. The fact that fictitious names are used to post anonymous comments does not mean that it cannot be traced back to the author. Compelling websites to provide the real names of individual is one thing, but I would take it a step further. I would hold these websites equally responsible. The notion that these websites cannot control what people say is rubbish. If a website provides gasoline, newspapers, matches, knowing there will be am inferno that makes the website a party to the arson. If the websites engages in aiding and abetting they should be held accountable.
On the lighter side of the digital dark side, I came across a story that made me laugh out loud. A doctor in the U.K. has opened up a Digital Detox Centre. For a mere $30,000 you can send your child away for 28 days for digital detox therapy. The doctor claims that after 28 days your child will be back to normal and no longer addicted to all things technology. If you don’t find this bizarre, and you think this therapy might be good for your child, I have a proposition for you. For $1,000, including travel expenses, I will come to your home and give you my version of digital detox therapy. I will ask you to round up all of you child’s technology; a secondary search will be required because the little darling is hiding something, somewhere. When I’m satisfied that I’m in position of all the technology, I will excuse myself and go to your bathroom, and I will fill up your bathtub with water. Within seconds none of the child’s technology will ever work again. I’m up a grand, and you can blame it all on the meanie man.
Until next time,
Cheers.Read More Add a Comment
As I drive into work every day, and I make no apologies for that, it’s impossible not to notice how much Toronto’s landscape has changed in the last ten years. There was a time when driving on the Gardiner Expressway provided views of Lake Ontario to the south, and Toronto landmarks to the north. Those views have all but disappeared. If you find concrete and glass esthetically pleasing then a drive on the Gardiner is a must. Not exactly my idea of visual bliss but who am I to judge or question progress? If there’s a need, and demand, someone will build it. And build it they have. Yes, that’s what makes my drive into work every day, (I guess I could say I’ll take public transit in the future to score some brownie points…nah) a little less more stressful. I have to look at the concrete jungle knowing the condo market will bring hell fire and brimstone of biblical proportions on our industry, and the overall economy. It’s too much to bear, unless you’re a condo owner in the downtown core who can charge between $2,000 and $2,500 for a 700 sq. ft. condo. And based on the now called Residential and Tenancies Act, tenant protections only apply to buildings that were occupied before 1991. Soooo, if you own a condo in Toronto, and you’re a landlord, you can increase rents as high as you want when the lease expires. Let me rephrase that, to as high as you can get. Good news for condo owners, bad news for renters.
So, who are these renters that now have to fork over significantly more of their disposable income for shelter? People who want to be closer to work, don’t want to depend on cars, want all the amenities at their door steps, have no desire to live amongst the suburban sprawl etc. Sound like first time home buyers? That indeed is one of the reasons that demand for rental units is on the rise in Toronto. There is no doubt that first time home buyers (or as it became fashionable to describe this sector as the tail end of the credit curve) were significantly impacted by all the changes to mortgage rules. What’s one to do if you can’t buy a home? Living with mummy and daddy might be an option, assuming your parents are eligible for sainthood. But the only other option is to rent and that’s lead to a BOAM! As in rent will increase. It seems like the condo supply side of the equation has not caught up with investors, and there’s enough data to suggest that it will not. Toronto is no different than most major urban centers in North America. Over the past 20 years there’s been an urban renaissance, empty nesters, first time home buyers, people looking for different life styles, flocking to the core to buy property. When land is scarce, last time I checked no one was building land, purchasing a condo may end up being the only option.
Who really knows what the future holds for the condo market. On one side of the argument you have the” thinkers” predicting Armageddon. On the other side of the argument you have the “doers”, the actual builders working within the free market economy. They didn’t amass their fortune by guessing or taking bets on projects worth hundreds of millions. If I had to place a wager my money is on the “doers”.
Until next time.
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