Thursday, June 21, 2018

"Base your company in a small community"/ better leader

Jan. 6, 2017 "The case for basing your company in a small community": Today I found this article by Chris Hamilton in the Globe and Mail.  This reminds me of The Simpsons episode where Homer gets a job at Cypress Creek.  He moves his family to the town to work for Mr. Scorpio:

President, Mars Canada.

Bolton, Ont., nestled between the Cold Creek Conservation Area to the north and the Nashville Conservation Reserve to the east, is home to roughly 26,000 people. With the beautiful Humber River passing through its centre, the community has an idyllic small-town vibe and at first glance seems an unlikely home for one of Canada's largest brands in the food and pet-care industries.

When Mars was looking for its first headquarters in Canada, three factors guided our decision: 

Where can we provide the best quality of life for our associates? 

Where's the best location physically for our business? 

And where will we get the most support from local government? 

This trifecta led us to Bolton, and 30 years later it continues to pay dividends.

Between our Bolton headquarters, and our other manufacturing facilities in similarly small Ontario communities such as Newmarket and Guelph, we achieved a retention rate of 87 per cent over the past year and on average our associates stay with us for nine years. 

When it comes to keeping talent at Mars, we attribute much of our success to carefully considering the communities that we operate in.

The urbanization of the past few decades has resulted in 82 per cent of the Canadian population living in large and medium-sized cities, inevitably leading many businesses to centralize their operations in urban hubs to tap into the largest and most desirable talent pool. What's often overlooked in this process, however, is the role the physical location of a business plays in the well-being of employees.

An associate's experience should be viewed holistically, including their lives beyond the workplace and not centred solely on wages and benefits. An example of this kind of thinking is factoring in commute times. 

A location outside of the downtown core provides an easier commute for associates that choose to live closer to an urban centre as they will typically travel against the flow of traffic. This benefits their well-being by reducing the stress associated with a long commute and helps businesses through improved productivity.

Another factor often overlooked when choosing an office location is the deep sense of connection that people feel for companies in supporting local initiatives. For example, our longest partnership has been with Caledon Community Services, providing support through volunteer hours and donations on such projects as The Exchange, a new community food centre with a focus on education, and providing those less fortunate with food.

We have found that our associates who live in and around the communities in which we operate tend to passionately participate in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Since the effects of CSR initiatives, such as supporting a local animal shelter, are felt closer to home, it fosters a strong sense of ownership and pride in employees to work for a brand that helps people that they often know firsthand. 

Operating in smaller communities allows big companies to more easily see the impact they can have on people's lives and reaffirm the value in committing to CSR programs.

The lower cost of land in small communities also makes it more feasible to offer extra benefits within the workplace. In Bolton, for example, Mars offers free parking, an on-site cafeteria, a gym, and outdoor volleyball and basketball courts. 

Locations in small communities can even have natural perks. Our Guelph site is home to an acreage of maple trees that is tapped, and the sap is used to make the maple syrup we bottle for associates and guests. These small things all go a long way in improving our associates' quality of life and retention.

Another added bonus of small cities is that they better lend themselves to future expansion. We recently grew our Newmarket plant to accommodate the production of Maltesers, creating 30 new full-time jobs. 

We also expanded our Bolton food plant, a 55,000 square-foot, $77-million dollar expansion of our Mars' Ready-to-Heat production facility, which created 37 new highly skilled, well-paying, full-time jobs for the community. It's the single largest capital project expenditure in our company's history, and a sign of our commitment to responsibly growing operations in the communities we call home.

In addition to providing employment opportunities, large businesses can also aid smaller cities with the boosted economic spinoff of attracting other businesses to the area. As well, local governments tend to be willing to work more closely with you on initiatives due to the role you play in fostering employment in the region. In turn, this makes for a positive business atmosphere that helps foster growth and builds long-term relations that transcend changes in government.

As a big fish in a small pond, businesses can not only provide a higher quality of life for their employees, but they can also have a more significant impact on the community in which they operate. By resisting the urge to centralize in an urban hub and thinking more holistically about the physical location in which they operate, large businesses serve to reap immeasurable benefits in terms of how they are perceived by both internal and external stakeholders.

"Questions to ask yourself to become a better leader": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

It's a time of year for reflection. Let's reflect on the impact of bosses, past and present, and their influence on us. Let's reflect, more importantly, on our own skills as managers and supervisors (and supervisors-to-be).

The first managers we meet are parents, relatives, babysitters and teachers. Their influence can linger in many ways throughout our lives. Our first bosses at work can also have a profound influence. In some cases we mimic these first managers – tough, absent father, and we become one; overbearing first supervisor, and we apply that style. But of course, we can also become the reverse, not wanting others to suffer as we did. Life is complicated. To understand our own managerial impulses, we need to dig deep.

Here are two other important influences:

  • What were the top two strengths of the best manager or team leader you have worked for?
  • What were the top two weaknesses of the worst manager or team leader you have worked for?

For me, the best manager was a passionate visionary and, at the same time, a careful, considerate leader at his best. The worst managers – two are coming to mind – were unable to listen to contrary ideas and arguments from subordinates. I can still remember one cutting his fingernails while I was making some (futile) argument to him. Both were bullies and one had a cruel streak. But I don't mean this to be about me.

Slow down – I know newspaper columns are meant to be read quickly – and try to answer the questions about your own life. They may reveal something of who you are today.

Two more questions:

  • What are the three biggest mistakes managers or team leaders make?
  • What are the three wisest things managers or team leaders can do?

Bad management is an unrecognized crisis in Canada. I suggested we begin a conversation on the issues. These two questions dig into that. The answers can help you to understand – or shape – your own theory of management.

  • In taking a new job, what are the traps you watch out for?
This is another way to understand what you dislike. One time the office of the person interviewing me seemed like a funeral parlour, with a deathly stillness – empty orderliness, reflective of the leader in the interviewer's chair, I sensed. Not for me.

Two wrap-up questions:

  • What’s your biggest weakness as a manager or team leader?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face to be effective as a manager or team leader?

Now we're coming closer to the target: You. And closer to action.

It's worth considering whether your weaknesses relate to the bosses in your life – whether they have influenced you – since that can help with change. But change won't be as simple as deducing the behavioural influence. Change only comes by disciplined effort – deliberate practice.

Your first instinct may be to tackle the biggest flaws – derailers that can prevent career success. But most advice on behavioural change stresses taking on doable challenges in small chunks so you can develop a pattern of success and build upon it.

So pick one weakness that you think you can improve on and write down what you specifically need to do to improve. Lay out a battle plan, one practical step at a time. 

Consider the triggers that create bad behaviour – stress and irritating personality types of colleagues are frequent contributors – and how to avoid their sway. 

Review your progress every week, without fail. If you can, create a scorecard. For example, you might promise with every direct report to express gratitude once a week. Be specific, with a numerical goal, if possible.

I should warn that evaluating progress once a week may be too infrequent. Every evening, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith pays an associate to call and ask a series of questions that force him to recap whether he was true to his behavioural intentions as he went through the day's activities. That forces accountability – he can't shrug it off.

Time to get going.


  • My heart sank on Dec. 24th when I arrived at a bakery five minutes after it opened to find about 60 people ahead of me. But it was a good lesson in customer service from Bread & Butter in Kingston, Ont.: The line snaked into the warmth of a neighbouring restaurant, where the bakery had arranged for coffee and baked goods to be available, while every staff member it had handled our orders. What can you do similarly in your busy times?
  • More than 60 per cent of frontline leaders say they never received any training for their new role.
  • A study that proves the obvious: If you pay more attention to your cellphone instead of the employee in front of you, they consider it a snub and it builds mistrust. So avoid phubbing (their term for phone snubbing).

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