Miller’s Monday Morning Message

Andrew MillerMiller’s Monday Morning Message
presented by ACM Consulting Inc.

Andrew Miller on operational excellence, strategy, life balance and everything in between

Toronto – November 11, 2013
Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, so it is a day where we should all be thinking about those who risk their lives for us every day, and those who have lost their lives protecting Canada. We wear poppies to show that we have not forgotten and to show our support for our veterans. It is a day to step back and have some perspective.
 
Here is just a brief reminder of what we are all fighting for, both at home and abroad:
  • A democratic country where people have the ability to say and do whatever they want.
  • A universal healthcare system where everyone has access to basic treatment.
  • An education system that helps our children learn skills that will not only help  them in the workforce, but also help them in life.
  • A social system that provides special services for those in need.
  • A thriving economy where jobs and opportunities are available.
  • Natural resources that not only benefit our country, but are also desirable to other countries.
  • An infrastructure that allows for ease of movement.

We need to put this all in perspective. We live in one of the greatest countries in the world and have access to everything we need. We are in this position because of those that have been willing to fight to maintain our way of life, both Canadians and and our allies. So today, take a moment to appreciate where we live. Sure, we have issues that need to be resolved because no system is perfect. But, instead of complaining about it, of all days, today is the day we should all be thinking about what we can do to make it better and appreciate those who have given us the opportunity to sustain our way of life in this great country.

 
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Andrew Miller
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© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2013.

Is the sky really falling in the US?

We are now in Day whatever of the closure of the US government and we are in full blame game mode. It’s everyone else’s fault why this is happening and the doomsday advisers are circling like vultures. People are actually saying that if the shutdown lasts long enough, it will lead to a Depression. Are you kidding me? Do we really believe, as selfish and childish as the US politicians are right now, that they would let the economy fall into a depression?

I have colleagues pulling all of their money out of the stock market for fear of a crash. I know others who are already concerned about the impact on their businesses. This all seems premature to me. I’m all for preparation, but the US economy fuels most of the other world economies. The US knows this and I can’t believe that they would let it get that far. If it does, it will be on the backs of the worst group of Democrats and Republicans the US has ever seen. The fact that we are even discussing this is embarrassing enough that they should all quit their jobs.

All over healthcare legislation that was passed over a year ago. Talk about waiting until the last minutes to take a stand.

The strange irony is that I don’t even want to be writing about this. But I feel compelled to say something about a bunch of spoiled politicians who use the lives of their constituents like little pawns in the game where the winner is able to grasp as much power as they can.

 

US Government, as embarrassing as it gets?

Now that the talk of a US government shutdown is hopefully over as they work out a deal to keep the country running, let’s briefly dissect this.

This is a government where one party is trying to use the shutdown of government as leverage? Where one person can have the floor for 21 hours to tear down a program that is supposed to help people get better medical care? Where neither party is willing to give even an inch to compromise and realize how silly they both look?

Is this really what government has become? It’s like a bunch of kindergarten kids fighting over the building blocks. This experience, as a Canadian watching from the outside, is a joke. If you didn’t think before that politicians were clueless and self-absorbed, you now have undeniable proof. These people were talking to themselves. Did they really think the public was listening or cared? They were self-absorbed, delusional, and selfish. There’s no two ways about it.

Both parties should be embarrassed about this whole situation and everyone comes off looking terribly. No wonder some of our great minds don’t want to go into government. It’s a farce. I would love it if someone came forward and apologized to the general public. Like maybe the President. “Folks, I’m sorry about what we have become. This whole situation shows how out of touch with reality politicians have become and as commander-in-chief, I am going to do something about it. We should all be embarrassed about how this played out.”

I’ll hold my breath until that happens…..still holding.

Completing the Tough Mudder challenge

On Saturday, I completed the Tough Mudder challenge. This challenge is a military style obstacle course set on a ski mountain. I spent four hours running (and walking) up and down ski hills, crawling through mud, climbing over walls, and jumping into cold water. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Here are some pictures from the event.

Screaming like a warrior after completing the event.

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Walking through the human car wash to get cleaned up.

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Donating muddy shoes after the event.

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MM&A Railway applies for bankruptcy

After the tragedy a few weeks ago at Lac Megantic so many things have come out that are just wrong, and there are a few that aren’t even being talked about. Here a brief list of my musings about this tragedy:

  • Why is no one talking about the fact that there are railway procedures that allow a running train to be left unoccupied? Forget about how many brakes were applied, why is that ever allowed?
  • After the worst tragedy in his company’s history, why did it take MM&A Chairman Edward Burkhardt four days to visit the site? When asked, his response was that he was more effective managing the crisis from his company’s headquarters in suburban Chicago. Is he really that out to lunch?
  • Burkhardt, pulling his best impression of BP’s Tony Heyward, shifted the blame to every party but his own company. The train was tampered with, the engineer lied, the firefighters started the fire. The list goes on.
  • Let’s acknowledge the strength of the residents of the town for their perseverance.
  • MM&A now has to file for bankruptcy because it can’t cover the costs of the cleanup, estimated at more than $200 million. Wouldn’t they have insurance for this kind of thing? They do run a railroad after-all. Oh right, they do have insurance, $25 million worth. Does that seem sufficient for a company carrying dangerous goods across the continent?

If any of you remember the listeriosis crisis that Michael McCain and Maple Leaf Foods went through a few years, you may remember this quote from Mr. McCain, “Going through the crisis, there are two advisers I’ve paid no attention to. The first are the lawyers, and the second are the accountants. It’s not about money or legal liability-this is about our being accountable for providing consumers with safe food.”

Sounds like a good lesson for Mr Burkhardt.

A potash cartel?

Yesterday it was announced that one of the two global potash cartels is disbanding, sending the natural resources market and the stock market into a frenzy. Belarus Potash Company (BPC) will no longer exist as one of the companies involved has decided to walk away from the partnership.

This could have a huge impact on Canpotex Ltd, which is made up of three other organizations. These two marketing groups, have been considered and perceived as cartels because they control so much of the world’s potash supply and control the market for pricing. The global potash market was essentially a duopoly before this announcement.

Canpotex includes Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Agrium Inc, and Mosaic Co. Companies that most people have never heard of. The BPC consists of Uralkali from Russia and Belaruskali. These two marketing groups combined control about 70% of the world’s potash exports and have combined revenues of more than $10 billion, so this is a sizable industry that most people have never heard of.

The interesting point about this news is not only that one of the marketing groups is disbanding, but that there are only two marketing groups in the world and they control most of the production and pricing of potash. Who knew?

Shoppers and Loblaw’s, a match made in heaven?

As you have already likely heard, Loblaw’s has agreed to buy Shoppers Drug Mart for more than $12b. This is actually a seemingly smart acquisition for so many reasons. The loyalty programs that both companies have. The ability to attract different customers to the various stores and leverage their strengths. The securing of Loblaw’s as a force to compete against Target and Walmart. Yes, this deal makes a lot of sense on paper.

Hopefully Loblaw’s will be able to make the integration work. They have said it will take 6-7 months and that customers will see no difference and that all employees will keep their jobs. I hope that is the case. This is a very complex acquisition and it might just be easier for Loblaw’s to keep Shoppers running as a separate division, as it has proposed.

This changes the Canadian retail landscape once again as we see additional consolidation in the grocery industry. As you may remember, only a few short weeks ago, Sobey’s parent company Empire agreed to buy Safeway. So the big get bigger. This is great if you are a supporter of Canadian businesses.

Another interesting angle…think how many service providers, consultants, lawyers, etc., will be lining up to try and get a piece of the acquisition pie. No doubt there will be money available for “integration” of the two companies.

I wish them all the best as I hope this turns out to be as good a move for both organizations as it appears to be on paper.