You’ve Got To Stand Out To Stay Alive

October 26, 2016

By: Anne Whelan, CEO, Seafair Capital 

Doing Things Differently

There’s an old saying that goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That profound statement is attributed to Albert Einstein. But you don’t need to be a Nobel Prize winner to figure out that if you want a different result, you have to do things differently. 

Now more than ever, we need to get that right for Newfoundland and Labrador businesses.

Look at the situation we now find ourselves in. The province is running a huge deficit. The current unemployment rate is the highest in the country — and growing. The average age in the province is rapidly increasing, foreshadowing a significant demographic and health care crisis in the next two decades. Our government has presented a “tax and spend” budget. If we could see our way through to better times where we could trim costs and fins efficiencies, there might be some rationale fr that. But that hasn’t been our pattern. 

To suggest that the problem is the government-of-the-day is to oversimplify the situation. It’d that we — all of us who own businesses or work in them — have to think differently. We are the economy. We are the taxpayers, the job creators, the people who turn the wheels of commerce in our province. If we want different results, it’s time for us to change it up. 

When it comes to guiding a business through challenging times, the silver lining is that economic woes can actually create a sense of urgency for change. Sure, it would arguably be better if that urgency was shared by government, but we have become accustomed ti a level of spending in this province that is going to take some time to correct. Since most companies cant run a large deficit, businesses don’t have the luxury of that time. We need different results, and we need them now. 

 

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While each company has its own unique challenges, there are some fundamental truths about businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador. One of them is that while it’s true that we lag woefully behind in productivity in this province, it’s at the convergence of people and technology that this productivity gap is most noted. What does this mean for business? It means we need to start investing not just in bricks and mortar but also in software and innovation. 

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Through our businesses at Seafair Capital, we have taken our share of economic hits this year and are trying to do things differently. We have had to make some cuts, but we are working hard to find innovation in the way we do our day-to-day work. For example, we’re implementing new software to reduce HR paperwork and increase our accuracy in tracking leave and benefits. Another program creates visual performance dashboards guiding all our managers on performance. 

We’re also looking at all the “touch points” for our customers to see if we can do things better, faster, and cheaper. We are recognizing reporting structures to remove some layers so that our employees are empowered to make swift decisions that favor our customers and serve our core purpose as a business. And we are asking other business owners — and our service providers and suppliers — for their advice and experience so they can help give us insights into developing additional innovative techniques. “Different” is our new normal, and change is our constant. 

No doubt we are in a tough economy. But amid all the pressures, there are opportunities for change. Thinking differently challenges us to do things differently. And, if you take the advice of one of the smartest guys ever, that’s when you get different results. 

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