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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"The Ladder: Ratana Stephens"/ "Am I owed lost commissions during renovations?"

Nov. 7, 2016 "The Ladder: Ratana Stephens": This is an interview by Brenda Bouw in the Globe and Mail:

Ratana Stephens is the co-chief executive officer, co-owner and co-founder of Richmond, B.C.-based Nature’s Path Foods.

I grew up in Northern India. I studied English literature and psychology and Sanskrit at university in Agra.

I am to some extent an emotional and artistic person. I love literature because it’s a reflection of society at the time it was written. Sanskrit is also a language that really touched me. For a few years, I was a lecturer at a girls’ college in India.

I married Arran [Stephens] in 1969 and we came here to Canada. He was born and raised on a family farm on Vancouver Island. In 1971, we opened LifeStream Natural Foods, a retailer and distributor of organic foods. We sold that company in 1981 [to a group of investors, who then sold it to Kraft Foods; 14 years later, they bought LifeStream back].

In 1985, we started Nature’s Path [an organic food company]. Healthy foods were in our DNA. We wanted to make a difference. We wanted to make sure people had a good, healthy breakfast. It also met with our passion, our vision and our purpose … which is to leave the Earth better than we found it.

Nature’s Path has a triple bottom line: to be socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and financially viable. We can be socially responsible and do all of the things we need to do to improve society, the community and the environment, but we have to be financially viable to do it. Our business, I feel, has been a vehicle, in a very small way, to do good.

We’ve had financial challenges, but we worked through them. I didn’t come from business school, I don’t have a manufacturing background or quality-control background – just heart, a passion and a purpose. At times we’ve had to mortgage our home and get loans. We’ve had help from our suppliers, from our team members, even from our children. That’s not necessarily all financial help either. When you start something … with a purpose and a goal … the whole world comes to help you.

My opinion: I like that last line about the world coming to you. 

You need to look after your team. At least 40 per cent of their time is spent in your business. Unfortunately, or fortunately, our business has become a lot bigger. We have more than 700 employees today. Individually, you can’t go and connect with everybody, but if there is anything that we can do to help, we do.

We hire people who have the same values we do. We use the acronym PATHS. ‘P’ for performance-driven, ‘A’ for always improving, ‘T’ for team-focused, ‘H’ for honourable, and 'S' for sustainable. We try to find people who have these kinds of values. That makes our life much easier, because there is less conflict. We are looking in the same direction. Our relationship with our team members shouldn’t be completely business-related. If it is business, it should be business with heart.

People are my strength and my weakness. It’s hard for me to let people go. I feel they have their own families and they have to be looked after. But when it’s not working out we are compassionate. We also feel like, if it’s not working out here, they will be happier somewhere else. It’s better for them and us.

I am more democratic now [as a leader]. I love it. Have in your business family-committed, goal-oriented, purpose-oriented people and give them a chance. Don’t interfere and mettle all of the time. Yes, they have to be accountable, but not every minute, every hour of every day. Nurture them, listen to them, care for them and they will shine through.

I would like to see more future leaders who are sustainability conscious, who believe in values – not just money. It [money] is important, mind you, but if you follow your values, your purpose, you will be successful.

Success isn’t an elevator, where you just push the button and you’re there fast. Maybe for some people it is, but for most people it’s a stepladder. It takes patience, perseverance and hard work, looking up and taking one step at a time. If you think it’s an elevator, you may be very frustrated.

My opinion: The part about success not being an elevator really stood out to me.

"Am I owed lost commissions during renovations?": Today I found this "Nine to Five" job advice column article in the Globe and Mail:

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E- mail your questions to

I have worked 20 years for a large company in travel retail. We are paid a base wage and earn commission on monthly sales. My principal workplace was rendered unusable and renovations are taking almost two months. In the interim, the staff have been assigned to two separate workplaces. This has resulted in virtually no way to attract new clients or to serve existing clients. Our company is not willing to compensate us in any way for our lost sales commissions during these two pay periods. By the way, I have never had an increase in my base salary. I earn the same as someone who was hired last month. Is this legal?


George Cottrelle Partner, Keel Cottrelle LLP, Toronto

Your employer’s renovation of your workplace does not change its legal obligations to perform the fundamental terms of your employment contract, in good faith. The company agreed (expressly or implicitly) to provide you with a suitable workplace and support systems, so that clients may engage your company’s services, and you are able to earn commission income, which forms most of your compensation. That arrangement presumably has been in place for your 20 years of employment.

The company scheduled a renovation, and failed to make reasonable alternative interim workplace arrangements to enable you to perform your job. This resulted in lower sales and a lower commission rate for you, and a substantial reduction in your compensation. You should meet with HR, without concerns of reprisal, and confirm the problems the company has caused you, including financial stress, and advise that you are entitled to be compensated for lost income, and to be provided with a suitable alternative workplace to enable you to earn your normal compensation. Any uptick in your sales will increase the employer’s revenues and your commission income, which is a win/ win. Regarding your base salary, your employer is not required to pay you more than it pays to newly hired employees. There is no legal requirement to increase your salary, except that as a commission salesperson, who works from your employer’s workplace, your base salary must be no less than the applicable minimum wage in your province.


Kyle Couch President and CEO, Spectrum Organizational Development Inc., Toronto

Twenty years of service, and an emergency situation causes this sort of reaction? I think, before you consider legal advice, that you should consider pausing and reflecting on the career that you have built through this organization. Traditionally, a commissioned sales position is built up over time through strong relationships, and customer loyalty.

My sense is that you have not been as effective as you originally believed in this area as you find yourself missing out on business despite this minor bump in the road. Perhaps you have overlooked this importance over the past two decades, in your sales pursuits, as well as your loyalty to your employer to support them through this situation.

Great salespeople relentlessly look forward, not behind, and thrive in the challenge of the sales environment. Get back to your roots on this. Focus on honing your skills for when you get back into your office.


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