LEADING CHANGE IN 2021
DEC 2020/JAN 2021
Kear Porttris (left) and Corey Brown, founders of Gwaii Engineering
INDIGENOMICS A Growing Economic Force CREATIVE COMMUNICATION WITH REMOTE TEAMS PM41295544
A COLLABORATIVE MINDSET CAN MAKE BUSINESS BETTER
SPECIAL THIS ISSUE
GUEST EDITO R SAM MOD OF FRESHWORK S
IN CONVERSATION WITH JULIE ANGUS OF OPEN OCEAN ROBOTICS
V E R SAT I L I T Y â€™S N E W LO O K
Premium design, technology, and a wealth of standard equipment, for a sophisticated SUV experience. 2020 XC60 Starting from $48,500 & 2020 XC90 Starting from $63,400* Volvo Cars Victoria is back to its original home in Victoria, BC, at 1101 Yates at Cook. Come by to visit us, browse our showroom and find the Volvo model for you.
VOLVO CARS VICTORIA A DIVISION OF GAIN GROUP
1101 Yates Street, Victoria, BC
European models may be shown. Features, specifications and equipment may vary in Canada. *Starting from price base on the 2020 Volvo XC60 T5 AWD Momentum/2020 Volvo T5 AWD Momentum 7-Seater with an MSRP of $46,350/$61,250 and includes freight & PDI ($2,150). Documentation fee ($495), environmental levy ($100), and tire levy ($20), taxes and other fees charged by the retailer are extra. Offer subject to change or cancellation without notice. Visit Volvo Cars Victoria for more details. ÂŠ2020 Volvo Car Canada Ltd. Always remember to wear your seat belt. DL4891 #41497
DEC 2020/JAN 2021
16 The Digital Ocean
Guest Editor Sam Mod speaks to Julie Angus, CEO and cofounder of Open Ocean Robotics, about how the company protects marine environments and extracts a wealth of unmined data from the ocean.
22 Downtown Dilemma
It’s no secret COVID-19 and the homeless population have affected businesses in downtown Victoria, with the absence of tourists and government employees also taking a toll. BY SHANNON MONEO
30 Indigenomics — A Generative Force
Indigenous businesses are shaping the Island’s economy and challenging traditional narratives through innovations ranging from tech and tourism to civil engineering. BY ANDREW FINDLAY
36 The Power of Collaboration
At this critical juncture, how do we harness the potential of community response and collective behaviour to influence future recovery and long-term transformation? BY ALEX VAN TOL
30 DEPARTMENTS 6 FROM THE EDITOR
A note from guest editor Sam Mod.
11 IN THE KNOW Powerhouse pinball,
welcoming snowbirds, The Very Good Butchers scales up, innovation with Pani Energy, and diversity of leadership at VIATEC.
46 LAST PAGE
Checking out The Upside at CHEK.
INTEL (BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE) 41 HUMAN RESOURCES
Taking care of your team. BY INGRID VAUGHAN
Building in bounce. BY CLEMENS RETTICH
Inflation: Is it déjà vu all over again? BY STEVE BOKOR AND IAN DAVID CLARK
A NOTE FROM THE GUEST EDITOR
Leading Change on the Waves of Recovery
Enriched Thinking™ for your family, business and future. A team-based approach for a total wealth strategy that addresses the entirety of your life. C.P. (Chuck) McNaughton, PFP Senior Wealth Advisor 250.654.3342 firstname.lastname@example.org
A FAMOUS PHRASE in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, reads like this: Bill, “How did you go bankrupt?” Mike, “Two ways, gradually and then suddenly.” Our ecosystem is full of tipping points and thresholds — the fact that our world has changed all of a sudden is a perfect example of the Hemingway Law of Motion. Looking at the tail end of 2020 and embarking on the new year, we see a digitally transformed world with a long way still to go. As the South Island recovers, I believe that entrepreneurs and small businesses will now have the same disruption power that previously rested with large companies. The shocks of a crisis are typically followed by waves of response. Open Ocean Robotics is one such company; its disruptive approach to the $3-trillion ocean industry is something I discuss with its cofounder and CEO Julie Angus, in our conversation on page 16. The proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” has never been more relevant. In our significantly altered ecosystem, we see inspiring new approaches to a reimagined workforce through talent acquisition and virtual employees. As Ruth Mojeed, founder and CEO of the Inclusion Project, pointed out in a previous issue of Douglas, employers As the South Island who mandate having relevant Canadian work experience recovers, I believe that tend to miss out on opportunities to hire great talent entrepreneurs and and bring diverse perspectives. Fortuitously, the crisis small businesses will has challenged employers to reimagine recruitment strategies, rewrite job postings and transform interview now have the same processes to ensure they are as inviting and inclusive disruption power that as possible for all genders, ages, nationalities and previously rested with demographics. This issue looks at some of the Island's innovative Indigenous-led businesses challenging large companies. traditional narratives for First Peoples, diversifying economic development and recovery. At FreshWorks, our people ops team makes a conscious effort to ensure we eliminate the potential to prejudice candidates and team members. We intentionally seek talent from different parts of the world and from people with diverse backgrounds, adding international recruits through Canada’s Global Talent Stream. Today, we collectively speak 25 languages and come from 15 different countries. The mass lockdown forced a major behavioural change to our day-to-day actions; everyone was finally receptive and rather hungry for digital solutions. The rapid adoption (and development) of distributed digital tools supported the rise of entirely new business models and service offerings. My own approach is to discover today to establish what will matter tomorrow. I think companies can positively transform themselves into a future that continues to unfold before us. Hindsight is always 20/20. In retrospect, it’s easy to rationalize the acceleration of the new ways of collaboration (Zoom is now a household name) and imagine how we should have seen things more clearly to have been better prepared for what has unfolded. That said, foresight is crucial, and in this digital-by-default era, the types of new businesses that will emerge are very exciting and not limited to the high-tech industry.
Scotia Capital Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. For more information visit www.scotiawealthmanagement.com
2016-08-04 12:33 PM
— Sam Mod
CONGRATULATIONS TO THIS YEAR’S WINNERS!
2020 The Commercial Building Awards are proudly supported by the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Commercial Division
EXCELLENCE AWARDS Affordable Housing
Commercial - Retail
Live / Work
Commercial - Office
Mount Douglas Manor
Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness
Don Mann Excavating
The Black and White
Capital Park Phase 2
JUDGES’ CHOICE ALEX & JO CAMPBELL CENTRE FOR HEALTH AND WELLNESS 4461 Interurban Road Owner: Camosun College Architect/Designer: Stantec Architecture and Stantec Consulting Ltd. Contractor: Knappett Projects Inc.
it’s where your business happens. OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS, LANGFORD HAS DEDICATED ITSELF TO REMARKABLE GROWTH. THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME OR PLACE TO INVEST IN THE GROWTH OF YOUR OWN BUSINESS. LOOK TO LANGFORD AS THE PERFECT LOCATION TO MOVE OR EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS!
LANGFORD’S OFFICIAL COMMUNITY PLAN (OCP) is both flexible and focused, enabling options for growth and development. Through its OCP, the City of Langford welcomes new ideas and fresh approaches with an eye to making the process easy and transparent. Every proposal is carefully reviewed and discussed. As the incredibly dynamic city it is, Langford likes to say “yes!” Langford is conveniently just 14kms from Victoria, is close to multiple transportation hubs and provides easy access to Vancouver, Silicon Valley and more generally, Asian, US and national markets. Technology businesses continue to seek out office space in Langford as they look to offer talent access to more affordable housing as well as endless recreational opportunities. Langford is a City surrounded by nature and is a draw for highly-valued new talent who are looking for more of a work/life balance. The lifestyle offers endless outdoor recreational opportunities including epic hiking trails, mountain biking and paddle boarding all within minutes of the office.
“AS YOU INVEST YOUR HARD-EARNED RESOURCES INTO OUR COMMUNITY, WE TOO DEVOTE OUR INGENUITY AND FLEXIBILITY INTO CREATING A FRIENDLY INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO LANGFORD.” — MAYOR STEWART YOUNG
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME
M E D I A N AG E
M E D I A N S I N G L E FA M I LY H O M E
WITH A POPULATION OF 45,000+, LANGFORD IS B.C.’S FASTEST-GROWING COMMUNITY. THE LANGFORD ADVANTAGE Without a doubt, Langford’s economic growth is unparalleled in the Capital Regional District. Over the years, it has attracted large, everpopular retail stores as well as a wide range of smaller, owner-operated stores and restaurants. These valued businesses provide a strong tax base for the City and diverse shopping and dining options for residents. Several of Langford’s restaurants have also been nationally recognized for excellence and innovation.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP!
Langford also enjoys a wide range of professional services, including doctors, dentists, physical therapists, lawyers, accountants, estheticians, hairdressers, massage therapists and others.
With so much to offer, Langford is the ideal place to work, live and raise a family. Whether you want to develop a piece of land, open or relocate a business, consider pursuing your dreams in Langford. We invite you into our thriving community and promise to do our best to provide you with the most current, complete and reliable information you need to turn that dream into a reality.
Increasingly, Langford attracts investors, business owners, and service providers who share Langford’s vision of a vibrant, sustainable, healthy and familyfriendly community for all to enjoy.
NEW COMMERCIAL OFFICE & RETAIL OPPORTUNITIES
Already home to the Westhills YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria Public Library Langford Heritage Branch, Victoria Conservatory of Music, Lakepoint One Condominiums, medical professionals and government offices, Lakepoint Village is a 30-acre commercial mixed-use (office, retail and residential) area within Westhills, poised for immediate growth.
Terminus at District 56 is a 5 storey, mass timber building designed to connect residents and businesses in the West Shore. With four storeys of dedicated professional office space over ground floor commercial space, Terminus presents buyers with a rare opportunity to lease or purchase new purpose-built office space in Downtown Langford. Flexible floor plans range from 680 to 15,175 sq.ft.
Keycorp is pleased to present the opportunity to pre-lease new warehouse space in the Glenshire Business Park. Tenants have the ability to work with landlord and architect to design and build out the space. Located in one of the Westshore’s newest business parks, tenants will benefit from flexible industrial zoning allowing a wide variety of uses.
Deborah Moore 250-999-9841 email@example.com westhillsbc.com/commercial
Matt Fraleigh 250-414-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org district56.ca
Ross Marshall 250-386-0004 Ross.email@example.com cbre.com
TO OPEN A BUSINESS IN LANGFORD CONTACT: DONNA PETRIE, MANAGER OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Learn more at: langfordedc.ca
where it all happens.
www.douglasmagazine.com VOLUME 15 NUMBER 1 PUBLISHERS Lise Gyorkos, Georgina Camilleri
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MANAGING EDITOR Athena McKenzie EDITOR Carla Sorrell GUEST EDITOR Sam Mod DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Jeffrey Bosdet PRODUCTION MANAGER Jennifer Kühtz DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER Amanda Wilson LEAD GRAPHIC DESIGNER Jo-Ann Loro
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DIGITAL MARKETING COORDINATOR Belle White ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Deana Brown, Cynthia Hanischuk, Gary Hollick CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Steve Bokor, Ian David Clark, Andrew Findlay, David Lennam, Shannon Moneo, Clemens Rettich, Alex Van Tol, Ingrid Vaughan CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jeffrey Bosdet, Belle White
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CONTRIBUTING AGENCIES Getty Images p. 12, 14, 36-37, 43-44 GENERAL INQUIRIES firstname.lastname@example.org SEND PRESS RELEASES TO email@example.com LETTERS TO THE EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org TO SUBSCRIBE TO DOUGLAS subscriptions@ douglasmagazine.com ADVERTISING INQUIRIES email@example.com ONLINE www.douglasmagazine.com FACEBOOK DouglasMagazineVictoria TWITTER twitter.com/Douglasmagazine INSTAGRAM @douglas_magazine COVER Corey Brown and Kear Porttris, cofounders of Gwaii Engineering. Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet Published by PAGE ONE PUBLISHING 580 Ardersier Road, Victoria, BC V8Z 1C7 T 250.595.7243 E firstname.lastname@example.org www.pageonepublishing.ca Printed in Canada, by Transcontinental Printing
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[IN THE KNOW]
POWERHOUSE POWERS UP FOR PINBALL
“I was impressed with their COVID protocols and saw what effort they made to make everyone feel safe,” says Lauri Nerman, a member of the Powerhouse Pinball Club, which offers socially distanced pinball.
JEFFREY BOSDET/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
BY DAVID LENNAM There’s something visceral about standing over a pinball machine, hands on the flipper buttons, watching and listening as bumpers clang and kickers pop. Opening a rather hulking physical space to pay homage to the silver ball, Steve Webb’s Powerhouse Pinball Club allows members to pit themselves against an ever-rotating selection of superbly maintained pinball machines — new and vintage — while respecting social distancing protocols. The games hold a certain appeal to enthusiasts, but the room itself, the cavernous Powerhouse building at the northernmost finger of Store Street, is as much of an attraction — a vast brick shrine to the city’s industrial past. Webb moved Metropol industries into the 30,000-square-foot former BC Hydro steam-generating plant, leasing it from developer Chris Le Fevre, who spent several million dollars remediating the 1892 heritage building with its signature brick smokestack. The pandemic caused Webb to shutter his Quazar’s Arcade in Trounce Alley (he’s since reopened offering group rentals) and left him with Western Canada’s largest collection of unplugged pinball machines. “COVID hit and we were poised for a massive summer. Players started sending me emails, calling me and saying, ‘We just want to come in and play for a couple of minutes, please.’ ” After setting a few up in the enormous room, he stood back and thought, Why don’t we just do it here?” It was those people, says Webb — a community of diehard pinball fans — that powered up Powerhouse. The heavy industrial zoning of Powerhouse meant Webb couldn’t just open the doors for anyone to drop in and play, but he could sell private memberships — and beer. At time of press, the Powerhouse Pinball Club boasts more than 300 members and counting. Membership is $10 a year, and the games are open for play on weekends only.
ISLAND TOURISM BY THE NUMBERS COMPARED TO 2019
Hotel Occupancy Rates June July
CALL OF THE WEST
Average Daily Room Rate July June
YYJ International Airport Arrivals June July
SOURCE: STATE OF THE ISLAND 2020 ECONOMIC REPORT
WELCOMING SNOWBIRDS COULD PROVIDE MUTUAL BENEFIT TO WINTER TRAVELLERS AND ISLAND COMMUNITIES.
hile many Canadian snowbirds have always eyed Vancouver Island for its mild climate, this year it’s looking more appealing than ever. “When we looked at the border closure and the risk currently associated with going south of the border,” says president and CEO of the BC Hotel Association Ingrid Jarrett, “we wanted to provide an opportunity to come to British Columbia for a long-term stay.” Already established resort corridors like Courtney/Comox and Parksville/Qualicum have a good track record with this demographic. But the Island has a lot more to offer, so Tourism Vancouver Island and the BC Hotel Association have thought up an experimental initiative using an online portal to connect the struggling industry across B.C. with a pent-up demand for Canadians who want to winter in warmer climates. “We’re trying to make sure that people who are coming here understand that there’s lots of other areas,” says Anthony Everett, Tourism Vancouver Island’s president & CEO, “like
Port McNeill or Port Renfrew.” The potential for a varied B.C. experience is appealing to snowbird travellers who like to immerse themselves in a local community, creating opportunities for experiential programming. With 80,000 rooms and 60,000 employees, British Columbia’s hotels have taken a hard hit and so have the businesses that depend on those beds being filled. Eighty-two per cent of accommodations in the province are small- and medium-sized businesses that are independently owned and operated. “These are our neighbors, who are in our community, living and working and investing within the accommodation industry,” says Jarrett. “If they don’t survive, the ripple effect is that many other businesses will not survive either.” Hotels will provide longterm payment options, starting with weekly and moving up to monthly rates, with some offering incentives for longer. Over 500 accommodations responded to the snowbird initiative, creating service packages to cater to the demographic’s needs and
With the most temperate climate in Canada, snowbirds were already coming to the Island. This collaborative initiative strives to balance the needs of Island businesses and residents with a demand for winter tourism destinations.
taking into account the lack of capacity for the RV industry — a pre-COVID issue that rightly needed addressing to support the increased demand for independent travel. “If somebody wants to park their RV in a parking lot at a hotel, the hotel could charge them an amenity fee to stay, use the exercise room or whatever the amenities that property may have,” says Jarrett. Keeping in line with current regional and provincial travel
advice is like walking a tightrope, and the initiative emphasizes safe, thoughtful travel. “Our approach is educational, trying to find that balance of business and resident needs,” says Everett. “Responsible travel is our future. We’ve been working in this way for some time. But it’s now the most important message: be mindful about travel; be responsible. These are all things that we will carry on as we welcome people here so that we all benefit together.”
TECH’S TOP THREE
Three 10 to Watch Victoria businesses included in The Globe & Mail’s list of top growing Canadian companies [ FRESHWORKS ]
[ SENDTONEWS ]
[ FIRST LIGHT TECHNOLOGIES ]
Cofounded in 2016 by Sam Mod, this issue’s guest editor, and Rohit Boolchandani, FreshWorks Studio is a technology consulting firm, providing end-to-end services in strategy, design and development of software and digital solutions. Today the company boasts 70+ team members speaking 25 languages collectively.
The video distribution platform SendtoNews is the most comprehensive in North America and supplies digital publishers with revenue, content and video. A recent U.S. Comscore report saw the company reach record highs in videos viewed, surpassing one billion.
With 23 current employees, this small but growing company is a heavy hitter. Its solarpowered pedestrian-scale lighting can be found in 25 countries with a primary customer base in the U.S. The technology is sensitive to its surroundings and uses a smart controller to provide maximum luminosity for the environment.
HOW THEY DID IT INNOVATE
THIRSTY FOR INNOVATION
PANI ENERGY’S WATER PROCESSING TECHNOLOGY YIELDS IMPRESSIVE RESULTS FOR A GREENER FUTURE. A RECENT FEDERAL INVESTMENT WILL BOOST ITS REACH.
KEY FINDINGS IN THESE THREE REPORTS PAINT A BIG PICTURE OF THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON THE ISLAND.
A PREMIUM PRODUCT and a tight budget gave The Very Good Butchers a very good start. From the moment they launched at the Victoria Public Market in 2017, the company knew they needed to scale up. They had over 1,000 customers that day and had to shut down for a week to restock. “From the beginning, we wanted to have a very clean product using whole foods [beans, veggies, fruits, spices] and no preservatives… Like the high quality meats that you’d find in a butcher shop,” says CEO Mitchell Scott of their premium plantbased alternative to meat.
CHALLENGE “For the first couple of years our cash was pretty tight,” Scott says. “We didn’t have the capital required to invest heavily in scaling up our production.” With a 4,000-square-foot production facility and a popular city storefront, online sales curtailed at 1,000 boxes a week because the company didn’t have the production capacity to fill more orders. Shipping everything out of Victoria was expensive and inefficient; transitioning to third-party logistics providers enabled them to ship pallets instead.
SOLUTION A few months ago, the company went public and raised the money required for a scale up that would meet their ambitious goal to make their products available in every city and town in North America. They were already working with PSC Natural Foods on the Island and Canadian Choice Wholesalers out of Vancouver, and they have now signed a deal with the wholesale distributor UPFI Canada, chosen for their broad reach across the East Coast. This expansion will see two additional production facilities in Vancouver and Patterson, California, to meet the increased demand, with distribution centres on both coasts in Canada and the U.S.
GREATER VICTORIA’S 2020 ANNUAL CHECK-UP
THE PATH FORWARD
The pandemic is amplifying our interdependence — and our inequities
How COVID-19 is affecting our community
Things to celebrate
+ things to improve
QUALITY OF LIFE IN
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Framework for a better future
The 2020 VIEA State of the Island Economic Report is a comprehensive look at the performance of many of the Island’s strongest sectors and what recovery is starting to look like.
Victoria’s Vital Signs 2020 Report reveals how the pandemic has affected wellness in the region.
The Reboot: Greater Victoria’s Economic Recovery Plan 2020-2022 was developed by SIPP and 120-plus stakeholders to boost the region’s recovery.
JEFFREY BOSDET/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
It’s been a good year for Devesh Bharadwaj, CEO of Pani Energy and recent winner of the Victoria Community Leadership Awards in the category of Innovative Science & Technology. In September, Pani Energy received a $2.8 million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), allowing the company to take a huge step closer to achieving the global impact it hopes for. “The water industry is thirsty for innovation, and Pani is filling this gap with its AI solution,” says Bharadwaj. “We estimate a global deployment of our technology would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 200 megatons annually, roughly the equivalent of taking 43 million cars off the road.” Pani’s artificial intelligence Digital Operator Coach helps water treatment facilities use a plant’s operating data to process water with increased efficiency and performance by optimizing desalination, reducing power consumption and lowering operating costs.
GUEST EDITOR’S PICKS
I use Grammarly for Chrome to check grammatical accuracy; Boomerang/Hubspot for calendar scheduling and efficiency in planning a meeting; and Workona for managing the hundreds of browser tabs we all have open.
LEADING WITH APPS
As an app developer, I’m constantly using apps for obvious reasons. I have been using Zero for intermittent fasting, Castro for listening to podcasts and Google News for news. To explore AR [Augmented Reality], try the IKEA Place app to see how furniture would fit in your home.
I really like Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. Her candid interviews with tech execs, politicians and celebrities focus on their big ideas and how they’re changing our world. — Sam Mod
CASE STUDY DATA DESIGN
Energy Tracking GIVING COMMUNITIES THE DATA THEY NEED TO REACH SUSTAINABILITY GOALS Grappling with global sustainability targets brings on shared goals at the global, community and individual levels. But information about how personal efforts affect the big picture isn’t always at hand. The Community Energy Association has launched the Climate Action Planner Tool to help communities gauge their current GHG emissions, projecting what impact they will have in the long run if they remain stable or if more dramatic actions are taken. Local governments and other stakeholders can use the tool to assess progress in reaching ambitious reduction targets.
“I was looking at other solutions. They had amazing results but didn’t last. So the aha moment was: Why don’t we just offer people something that they can remove and replace?” — VICTOR NICOLOV, CUGRIP FOUNDER
Island innovator looks to the natural germ-killing properties of copper to create CuGrip self-sanitizing surface coverings. Named after the element, Cu (pronounced Q) Grip is a naturally antimicrobial copper wrap that provides cover for high-touch surfaces. Studies have found that the COVID-19 virus survives for less than four hours on copper surfaces, compared to up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Solid copper door handles are expensive and eventually oxidize, completely changing colour and losing effectiveness. Seeing the potential for copper’s selfsanitizing properties on busy communal services that can be found in hospitals and on public transportation gave entrepreneur Victor Nicolov the idea for CuGrip.
“You don’t necessarily see the person who wipes down a surface you’re touching,” says Nicolov, whose product is applied to existing handles. “But customers can feel safe seeing the copper.” As part of a pilot funded by Teck Resources for Translink, CuGrip will be installed on two busy electric trolley buses and on two SkyTrain cars in Vancouver. The Canadian government recently put out a call for recyclable PPE to address the huge amount of waste that results from disposable protection. CuGrip answers that call as the discarded copper can be recycled with other foils. CuGrip’s selfsanitizing copper wrap can be applied to high-use surfaces like doors and office equipment.
A PARTNERSHIP SUPPLYING DATA TO RETAILERS WILL SUPPORT STRATEGIC GROWTH IN B.C.’S CANNABIS SECTOR.
BDSA, an American provider of retail sales data and cannabis insights and Vancouver-based Buddi, provider of retailer technologies, have partnered to bring consumer data and market research to licenced producers and retailers. Comparisons, insights and transparency derived from sharing data across the U.S. and the provinces are accessed by subscription, allowing operators to contribute feedback on their product offerings and the development of their markets. B.C. consumers prefer inhalables and have purchased more chocolate than the U.S. — who prefer gummies — and are predicted to contribute to provincial sales of $1 billion by 2025.
THE MATERIALS Copper has long been known to possess antimicrobial properties; ions on its surface naturally kill viruses and bacteria by disrupting bacterial cell membranes.
THE LIFESPAN Depending on the environment, each strip will last up to six months. Copper naturally reveals signs of wear, oxidizing over time and visually signalling to users it’s time to replace.
THE APPLICATION The wafer-thin copper sheets are backed with adhesive and cut in sizes to fit a range of handles and poles. Key to the product is the ease with which they stick and can be removed.
THE MARKET The product offers value for companies, organizations and services that aren’t able to regularly clean surfaces like transport systems, schools, hospitals and restaurants.
JEFFREY BOSDET/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
BATHROOM & TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
LEADERSHIP ADDRESSES EQUITY AND DIVERSITY Corina Ludwig is president of FunctionFox Systems and one of seven women that make up half of VIATEC’s current board of directors.
A CRUCIAL SHIFT
“A half-female board means VIATEC’s mandate is being fulfilled. That mandate is to enhance equity and diversity in the tech sector and to cultivate the most cohesive tech community in the world by hosting a sense of belonging and shaping the region ... The shift that we’re seeing shows that women are not only stepping up, but they’re being recognized for their leadership skills and the talents that they have.”
INCLUSIVE SPACES “VIATEC’s initiatives are really to help leaders of the tech community create inclusive spaces and cultures. I think those topics are new to
a lot of leaders. A series of workshops [and ongoing courses] will help build diversity through awareness and provide tools that leaders can use to help grow their cultures through hiring practices.”
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ADVICE FOR WOMEN IN TECH “Be yourself. Be confident in who you are — and proud to be in places that might otherwise not feel comfortable. Women in this tech community have earned it.”
Find out more about VIATEC’s diversity and inclusion workshops and other events at viatec.ca/ events
GUEST EDITOR’S PICK THE HARD THING ABOUT HARD THINGS by Ben Horowitz Ben gives advice on how to build and run a startup in the real world. He gives advice on things that school just doesn’t seem to go over, like SCAN TO WIN how to analyze problems and find solutions or how difficult running a business actually is. — Sam Mod
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www.crd.bc.ca/ici DOUGLAS 15
IN CONVERSATION WITH JULIE ANGUS, CEO AND COFOUNDER OF OPEN OCEAN ROBOTICS
THE DIGITAL OCEAN Guest Editor Sam Mod speaks to Julie Angus, CEO and cofounder of Open Ocean Robotics, about how the company's uncrewed surface vehicles protect marine environments and extract a wealth of unmined data held by the ocean. EDITED BY CARLA SORRELL
PHOTOS BY JEFFREY BOSDET
n 2005, Julie Angus and her then-boyfriend Colin Angus — now husband and cofounder of Open Ocean Robotics — were ready for a change. Little did they know their decision to row across the Atlantic, from Portugal to Costa Rica, would refocus their careers into technology in self-powered marine vehicles. “It was definitely not the journey I would have imagined,” says Angus, whose master's degree is in molecular biology. “I think that’s the beauty of life — you don’t really know what direction it’s going to take — you open a door and you walk through it.” Today the company of 10 operates out of the Vancouver Island Technology Park, a UVic enterprise hidden behind Camosun College’s Interurban campus. But it took some time to get there. Angus wrote a book about their trip and two more about other expeditions before starting a company making human-powered boats, and then turning their attention to autonomous ocean vehicles. How these vessels could harvest, collect and make use of the ocean’s data was the driving focus for Angus in developing Open Ocean Robotics. “I [had become] quite curious about ways in which we could understand those parts of our oceans that nobody ever sees. If you had boats out there that were continuously just going over these waters — seeing them and understanding them and sharing them — how transformative that would be.” The result of Angus’s line of thought was a solar-powered autonomous boat, or an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV), for collecting the ocean’s data. Equipped with sensors and cameras, powered by solar and wind,
the vessel is an efficient alternative to conventional crewed research missions and can travel in the open ocean for months at a time. Environmental monitoring, including endangered species, illegalfishing enforcement and seafloor mapping are just a few applications of the USV. The ocean and its blue economy is a $3 trillion industry, and within the sector, technology is a distinctive asset for effective innovation. In many ways, oceans have been neglected compared to innovation in other areas like space. “The tide is shifting and people are starting to pay more attention to the oceans,” says Angus. “I hope that trend continues, and I think our company will be one of the key players in making that transition to a digital ocean.”
Adventurer Julie Angus is CEO of Open Ocean Robotics, a company she cofounded with her husband Colin Angus.
Sam Mod (SM): You’ve been called “Adventurer,” an awesome job title. What does it mean? Julie Angus (JA): I think adventurer means “explorer”: going out and pursuing your passions, discovering things, asking questions, being curious. I suppose the term adventurer often refers to doing that in the physical world by exploring remote places, doing something that hasn’t been done before. But in the realm that we’re in right now — where we’re pushing boundaries that are more technological — you
can still be an explorer or adventurer. We’re exploring the oceans, finding new ways to get data that will help us not only understand the oceans better but help us operate more safely and more sustainably. SM: When you started designing autonomous boats, what kind of challenges were you running into? JA: We had a pretty good background in designing boats that work well with minimal power, which have a lot of similarities to
a solar-powered boat. You have to make it extremely efficient; it has to be high performing and move easily through the water. You can’t get more energy from the sun, but you can find better ways to utilize it. The challenging part was the autonomy, like the command and control system and all of the electronics. We didn’t have that skill set. So for us, that was finding other people with those skills. We hired a couple of electrical engineering co-op students from UVic — they were just students, but they had more [electronic] skills DOUGLAS 17
“You can have a sensor on the ocean floor that can predict a tsunami or an earthquake, but you have to have a way of getting that data back to shore.”
Guest Editor Sam Mod (right), CEO and cofounder of Freshworks Studio, interviews Angus in front of Open Ocean Robotics live control station.
than we did and helped build our system. I won a number of competitions and was able to secure some grants, which we used to grow our team. Together we’ve been able to create something that I think is pretty remarkable.
the boat, and the process data is sent off the boat to be viewed by the pilot in real time.
SM: What kind of data is the vessel collecting?
JA: People are already involved in doing tasks like that. You can have a sensor on the ocean floor that can predict a tsunami or an earthquake, but you have to have a way of getting that data back to shore. You could have a cable network, but that means it has to be relatively close to shore or it’s very expensive. What a boat like ours can do instead is sit above that sensor, listening continuously for signals from that sensor, using an acoustic modem, and send that signal by satellite. This means that you can put the subsea sensors into really deep waters where you’re going to get much more advanced warnings than if they were closer to shore.
JA: Our baseline boat would have a weather station for collecting weather data like wind speed and direction, air temperature and barometric pressure. You can detect ocean conditions like the wave height and period, ocean temperature, salinity and depth. There is a single beam sonar for reconnaissance and surveying, and it has the full suite of cameras. With a vessel like that, you could do weather monitoring, climate modeling, security. You can put on specific sensors for different things. We’ve done a pilot [project with] seafloor mapping, where you have a multi-beam sonar system that is taking a picture of the ocean floor — that’s very important for ships navigating to understand the habitat. Another sensor is a hydrophone — that’s what we’re using for the illegal fishing pilot and for monitoring marine mammals like the endangered North Atlantic white whales on the east coast. It can be really huge data files that you’re dealing with, that require lots of bandwidth. The way the data is stored and transmitted depends on the size of it. All the raw data is on 18 DOUGLAS
SM: Just last week there was a tsunami alert. I’m curious: Are they going to be able to predict tsunamis or earthquakes?
SM: Elon Musk is launching Starlink satellites, and you mentioned that bandwidth is a bit of an issue. What are you looking forward to from that launch? JA: Low earth orbit satellites and programs like Starlink will be transformative for getting data off the ocean. We have communication anywhere, but once you’re out of cell range, and limited to satellites, like with our vessel,
the amount of data we can transmit becomes limited and expensive. Currently, our satellite communication uses Iridium SBD [Short Burst Data] for small files and RUDICS for larger files. Starlink would transform what you would be able to send: video, full acoustic files, everything from the middle of the ocean. You could do so much more, and do it in real time. SM: What are some of the technical considerations and challenges you’ve faced? JA: In building a USV that is an endurance vessel like ours — it can go for months offshore — you need to be able to deal with very significant sea states because you’re going to get hit by storms. Making sure that the vessel can self right was a big technological challenge that we’ve overcome. To make sure that we’re always able to stay in contact with the vessel, we have multiple modes of communication. We were thinking about the most extreme environments that the USV is going to face. That’s why we built in redundant, as well as predictive, systems to be able to deal with any failure points and make changes remotely. SM: If you were to make an appeal to the community, be it investors or customers, what would you ask? JA: The most important thing is that people appreciate our oceans and what they do for us:
the environmental benefit, the carbon dioxide that they absorb, the impact that they’ve had on mitigating temperature, the food that we get from them and the economies that they support. I think we need to invest more to protect our coastlines and to ensure the safety of our food supply, as well as the food supply of the fish and marine mammals in the ocean that depends on it. I would ask people to care about the ocean and to do their best to advocate for it. SM: What are some of the core values that you have identified around your company? JA: I think that the triple-bottom line is really important: profitability, sustainability within our company, as well as the ocean environment and community. I believe that people are drawn to our company because we do believe strongly in the things that we’re doing. And we do believe that innovation is core to being able to solve many of the challenges that our world faces. At the same time, it’s central to growing a profitable company and finding ways to merge clean tech and innovation and really use that to drive our economy, both within Canada and globally.
Disciplined Value Investing That Works COMPOUND ANNUAL RETURNS1 (Including reinvested dividends, as of October 15, 2020) 1 YEAR
Odlum Brown Model Portfolio
S&P/TSX Total Return Index
Except for YTD period. 2 December 15, 1994. *The Odlum Brown Model Portfolio is an all-equity portfolio that was established by the Odlum Brown Equity Research Department on December 15, 1994 with a hypothetical investment of $250,000. It showcases how we believe individual security recommendations may be used within the context of a client portfolio. The Model also provides a basis with which to measure the quality of our advice and the effectiveness of our disciplined investment strategy. Trades are made using the closing price on the day a change is announced. Performance figures do not include any allowance for fees. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
Successful investing is done by buying and holding high-quality businesses, particularly during times of market uncertainty. I invest alongside my clients in the very same businesses, focusing on companies that will continue to show long-term growth. If you would like to discuss your investment strategy and whether it aligns with your life goals, please contact me today.
R. H. Mark Mawhinney, CPA, CMA, CIM® Associate Portfolio Manager, Investment Advisor
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SM: What are you most proud of? JA: We now have beta customers, and we’re actually serving a need in the market. It’s tremendous that we’re helping solve some of the biggest challenges that we’re facing in our oceans. I’m really passionate about finding solutions that are not only profitable but that make our oceans more sustainable and add to our knowledge. For example, the one project that we are involved in right now is detecting and enforcing against illegal fishing within marine protected areas. Currently, there is little or no enforcement in these areas, and, until you have enforcement, it’s almost meaningless. But it’s very difficult because these areas are huge. They’re often remote; hard to access. We’ve proved technologies like ours can overcome those challenges. SM: Where do you see yourself and your field going in the next five years? JA: I see a lot of innovation in the marine robotics space. The ocean is moving toward being a digital ocean. Having IoT [internet of things] for the ocean, connecting everything from the seafloor to space, will result in a more profound understanding of the ocean.We can use that information to improve the health and sustainability of our oceans, but also allow ocean industries to be more sustainable, to be more profitable and to provide greater safety to the men and women that work on our oceans. ■
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It’s no secret that COVID-19 and the homeless population have weakened downtown Victoria, while the absence of tourists and government employees has taken a toll. But looking further afield, it’s a different story.
BY SHANNON MONEO PHOTO BY JEFFREY BOSDET
FALLING FOOT TRAFFIC According to Bray, at least 65 per cent of former office employees are needed to keep food, beverage and gift shops open. The DVBA contacted the provincial government in September, asking it to send workers back. But the government has been slow to act, opting for a staggered, part-time return, which began in mid-October with employees asked to work at least one day in the office. Bray expects it will take time before numbers rise significantly and consistently. “But I do know for property owners who have private sector employees, their numbers have been higher for some months,” he says. When a typical downtown retail business closes, about five employees lose their jobs, JEFFREY BOSDET/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
JEFFREY BOSDET/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
AYLE ROBINSON is a runner, and when a woman left her store this past summer with a $700 jacket, Robinson gave chase. Co-owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store, she ran seven blocks, keeping distance between herself and the thief in case the woman became aggressive. No one tried to stop the woman but a person on Douglas Street called the police. “I kept telling her to drop it,” Robinson recalls of the incident, admittedly rare in her 15 years running Robinson’s. “She finally did.” When police caught up with Robinson, they told her not to do that again because of the potential danger. The woman was likely in debt and didn’t care what happened to her or Robinson. Crimes committed by homeless addicts and the lack of long-term, corrective treatment are old news to Jeff Bray, the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA)’s executive director. “When someone needs to commit a crime every four hours to feed their addiction, having a home won’t solve it,” says Bray, also co-chair of the Coalition to End Homelessness. “More of the same isn’t good enough.” As crime climbs and enforcement fails to keep pace, people are beginning to believe they may not be safe in downtown Victoria, putting unique local shops and distinctive boutiques at financial risk. With holiday shopping underway, there is risk they’ll head to the malls or locales like Sidney or Langford, Bray says. Kathy Whitcher agrees with Bray. She’s executive director for the Urban Development Institute (UDI), Capital Region, an 850-member B.C. association for the development industry.
Bray says. If unemployed, their EI won’t cover the cost of rent in Victoria. Many of those people need their jobs. They’re students, new Canadians and those reentering the workforce. Politicians need to understand there could be hundreds of people close to homelessness if small services fail, Bray says. The other worrisome aspect is that business owners pay 48 per cent of all property taxes for the city of Victoria. While it’s difficult to determine whether an exodus is brewing, Whitcher has heard from property brokers whose clients are opting to build or live in outer municipalities, rather than downtown. UDI members (none of whom wanted to be interviewed for this article), with projects in downtown Victoria, are “Next year (2021) will be seeing pre-sales suffer. “People are not tough. But Victoria is a destination," says Gale wanting to live downtown anymore,” Robinson, whose loyal Whitcher says. If developers can’t sell customers have kept buying. units, they’ll build where they can, in places like Saanich or Esquimalt. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps agrees “The elephant in the room is, we have to talk that “very unhealthy people are being about the mental health crisis,” Whitcher says. left on the street.” But she stresses that it’s not In October, she started working from home a Victoria-only problem. She cited Vancouver, after a man smashed windows and threatened Kelowna, Prince George, Kamloops and several people in a building across the street. Abbotsford as some other cities dealing with a rampant homeless problem. At the September “It’s bad. Businesses were initially empathetic. Union of BC Municipalities annual gathering, Now they’re done, fed up,” she says. “But it it wasn’t transit, infrastructure or housing really boils down to the fact that office workers that dominated demands for funding. “We’ve haven’t come back to the downtown. The fixated far too long on housing,” Helps says. people on the street are the people living on the street. Tourists are non-existent.”
“When someone needs to commit a crime every four hours to feed their addiction, having a home won’t solve it. If we really ask ourselves, when we see someone with no teeth and pants around their ankles, are we helping them? More of the same isn’t good enough.” JEFF BRAY, CO-CHAIR OF THE COALITION TO END HOMELESSNESS
“Our number one ask is for mental health and addictions treatment.” In October, mayors of B.C.’s 13 largest cities called for immediate help, laying groundwork for the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus to have an ongoing relationship with the new provincial government. The strategy is following Ontario’s lead — big city mayors will hold regular tête-àtêtes with Premier Doug Ford, Helps said. The same month, the City of Victoria confirmed that businesses have been impacted
SPACE FOR LEASE Helps is also cognizant of growing street-level business vacancies and how winter, with the lack of tourists and few office workers, may snowball the problem. But Helps remains sanguine, counting on a return of visitors and investment. “We are very well-positioned over the next few months to tell the world we are safe,” she says. While Tyler Dolan, the Colliers managing director for the Island and the Okanagan, expects the remainder of 2020 to be stable, he notes that construction in downtown Victoria has not been gangbusters. In the third quarter of 2020 there were no new projects under construction, says Dolan. Office investment in Greater Victoria for the first nine months of 2020 dropped 35 per cent by total transaction volume compared to the same period in 2019. And while office space rentals haven’t been hit as hard, even with employees working from home, the bigger concern is retail space. The downtown vacancy rate also rose to 6.7 per cent compared to 6.1 per cent in Q2 2020. But major employers, like the provincial and federal governments and tech companies,
have kept their spaces. “Right now the big thing is what’s going to happen when stimulus falls from the government,” Dolan says. The return of office employees is crucial, he says, even if it’s on a rotational basis. His prediction? “It’s going to be back to the basics. The strongest will survive.”
“We have our economic development team go out and talk to businesses. We want to amplify what we’ve got. We don’t want businesses to fail. You don’t see a lot of empty spaces in Langford. One moves out; another one moves in.”
JEFFREY BOSDET/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
by sheltering within the DVBA boundary, despite measures to decentalize encampments.
STEW YOUNG, MAYOR OF LANGFORD
ROAD TO RECOVERY Internationally known, Richard Florida is a professor at the Rotman School of Management, and Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. He holds a PhD in urban planning from Columbia University. Via an email exchange, he reminds businesses that recovery from COVID-19 will be difficult. “Resources are going to be scarce and budgets are going to be strained. That is exactly the time you need clear priorities. I am shocked, and I mean shocked, at the lack of attention communities across this country are paying toward the long run, economic recovery from the pandemic. Throughout the entire process, our communities have been working from behind the eight ball, trying to mobilize medical
capacity and locking down, then reopening in a haphazard way. And then, maybe, closing down again, never paying any mind to recovery,” he wrote. Florida advocates partnerships between all three levels of government to address the future of cities and communities. The test will be when cheaper urban space becomes available, as big stores, downtown malls and swanky condos empty. “Do you want to miss this opportunity to turn undervalued real estate assets into much-needed affordable housing or innovation or creative space? We missed the opportunity after the financial crisis of 2008 to do just this, and so we got more expensive housing,” Florida wrote.
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Helps touts the city’s plan, Victoria 3.0–Recovery Reinvention Resilience–2020-2041, which, she says, lays out how Greater Victoria will reinvent itself in a low carbon way. The document has a strong focus on small business, calling for specific support of youth, newcomer and Indigenous businesses. Redeveloping the conference centre, creating an arts and innovation district and ocean futures cluster, promoting Victoria’s tech successes and rebranding Victoria are all elements of the document. “The 21st century is an opportunity for smaller cities to shine,” Helps says.
“I’m grateful that a lot of loyal customers rallied behind my business. There’s a really special feeling about Fernwood.” ERYN BEATTIE, OWNER OF LUNA COLLECTIVE
THE LONG GAME
Fifteen kilometres northwest, yet a world away in Langford, Mayor Stew Young says it’s business as usual. “We say, do it safely. We have our economic development team go out and talk to businesses,” Young says of how his city has supported entrepreneurs. “We want to amplify what we’ve got. We don’t want businesses to fail. You don’t see a lot of empty spaces in Langford. One moves out; another one moves in.” Young’s mantra of being open for business — by avoiding high commercial taxes, creating a safe and affordable community for families and coming down hard on crime, like vandalism — has made Langford, population about 45,000, one of B.C.’s fastest growing communities. Municipal growth in 2020 was five per cent. “Housing starts are as high as they’ve ever been in 20 years,” Young says. A hightech company, bringing 100 employees from Brampton, Ontario, is setting up shop, and an 80,000-square-foot office tower is being built on a blasted hillside behind Costco. And Young’s cheeky move to give free land to the drifting Maritime Museum got some downtown noses out of joint. “Langford’s got everything now,” he says. “We’re our own self-contained economic zone.” While Langford may offer the predictable services found in most small cities, Victoria has the cachet that comes with the offbeat and bohemian. In Fernwood, Luna Collective owner Eryn Beattie has come out of the COVID-19 tempest on higher ground. “I was able to adapt pretty quickly,” Beattie says of her three-yearold shop that sells vintage and handmade goods. She closed Luna Collective in mid-March and laid off her two part-time staff. But behind shuttered doors, Beattie pivoted to online sales, deliveries and customer pickups. Regular clients 26 DOUGLAS
BELLE WHITE/DOUGLAS MAGAZINE
Robinson closed shop in mid-March, reopening for the May long weekend, just as people were gearing up for the outdoors. By August the business had recovered revenue lost during its two-month closure. Success is attributable to Robinson's loyal customers who value the advice and service they get. “You can buy a backpack online, but no one will fit it for you. We fit it and tell you how to load it,” Robinson says. Accustomed to the long game, Robinson took over the store’s reins in 2005, remodelling and revamping the store her grandfather George Robinson started in 1929. “He survived World War II and the Depression,” she says. “We haven’t had a major world crisis. Now we’re having one.” Originally a store selling hunting and fishing equipment, George added bicycles, starting layaway plans so newspaper carriers could afford bikes during the Depression’s hard times. Later he brought in baby carriages after seeing mothers struggle with babes in arms. Despite COVID-19, in April, Robinson paid off the building even as the business’s property taxes rose almost 20 per cent from the year before. As more and more customers return to her store, Robinson believes she and other Victoria businesses will prevail. “Next year (2021) will be tough. But Victoria is a destination.” Florida offered his balm for the B.C. capital. “Victoria is a beautiful place. We almost did a vacation there this summer, but then we decided not to take our two little kids on a plane,” he wrote. His words of advice? “Victoria can benefit immensely by the shift to remote work. It’s close to Vancouver. It is a beautiful place that is connected to the world. Victoria needs a strategy for recovery based around remote work and remote talent. It can do as well as it wants to.” ■
stepped up to buy. “I’m grateful that a lot of loyal customers rallied behind my business,” she says. “There’s a really special feeling about Fernwood. “A lot of downtown businesses were doing similar things, but they had to paper up and board up their windows due to crime,” she says. “I felt like I didn’t have to do that. I haven’t seen crime affect my business.” A bonus is that her landlord lives above her street-level shop. But for some businesses, online sales are a double-edged sword. A September Royal Bank of Canada survey reported that almost a third of Canadians are opting to buy online items they previously bought in stores. Making it more palatable is that delivery costs are falling, store pickup options have improved and so have online loyalty programs. Segments at risk, according to RBC, are department stores, smaller malls and high-density commercial properties, buttressing Florida’s prediction. Working solo to fulfil or deliver orders, Beattie was able to match her usual monthly sales while closed. When she reopened in midJune, sales stayed consistent and summer was even better. “August and September were my best months ever, since opening,” Beattie says of sales that were 85 per cent in-store and 15 per cent online.
Know a new business that deserves to be recognized?
MAGAZ I N E’S
12th ANNUAL 10 to Watch Awards
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS
The Douglas 10 to Watch Awards shine a spotlight on Vancouver Island’s best new businesses. Now in its 12th year, this prestigious award provides the publicity
“The 10 to Watch Awards provided a massive shot of confidence to our team and it came exactly when it was needed.”
and “rocket fuel” that startups (three years old or less) need in those critical early years of enterprise. Nominate your own business or a business you think is worth watching.
— PAST 10 TO WATCH WINNER
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BEING A WINNER? • The credibility of winning a well-recognized award, and wide-spread recognition through a televised ceremony broadcasting across Vancouver Island • Positive exposure to 120,000+ Douglas readers • Featured in the June/July 10 to Watch issue of Douglas magazine (30,000 copies in circulation) and on douglasmagazine.com
NOMINATE A NEW BUSINESS Go to douglasmagazine.com for details and rules. Nomination deadline: 5pm on January 8, 2021
VICTORIA FOUNDATION VICTORIA'S VITAL SIGNS REPORT
has been a year unlike any other in living memory. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to the protests and rallies for racial justice, to the immense shifts and disruptions in our professional and personal lives…our community and its residents have been rattled to the core. But how has our region really fared during these unprecedented times? What have been our successes? Our failures? And how will we continue to recover and grow from the events of this year? These are the questions tackled by the 2020 Victoria’s Vital Signs report, the 15th annual report from the Victoria Foundation. And just as 2020 hasn’t been a normal year, the 2020 Victoria’s Vital Signs isn’t a normal report.
“By taking a look at the results in the report, it’s pretty obvious that the events of this year have caused massive changes in how residents see our region.” — SANDRA RICHARDSON, CEO VICTORIA FOUNDATION
“By taking a look at the results in the report, it’s pretty obvious that the events of this year have caused massive changes in how residents see our region,” said Sandra Richardson, CEO of the Victoria Foundation. “But while we reflect on the hardships of this year, I believe we should also see this as an opportunity to take a step back, reassess our values, and rebuild our community so it’s stronger, kinder and more sustainable than ever before.” Of the nearly 1,800 people who took the 2020 Vital Signs survey earlier this year, 51 per cent said they have felt a decline in their mental health as a result of the pandemic. Also, 29 per cent have experienced a job or income loss. Of all
survey respondents, 74 per cent said they feel the pandemic is a major threat to the local economy. Along with these troubling revelations, the 2020 Victoria’s Vital Signs also looks at finding the right path forward, through a feature article exploring how our response to this crisis will determine the direction of our community in the years ahead. Pandemic Snapshots throughout the report also bring data and statistics, which when combined with resident opinions, offer
a full picture of how this crisis has truly affected our community. All this plus the report’s lauded look at the best things and most important issues in Greater Victoria and a citizen grading of 12 key issue areas can be found in 2020 Victoria’s Vital Signs. Find the report today at victoriafoundation.ca. You can also look for the report at local businesses and libraries or contact the Victoria Foundation at 250.381.5532 to receive a hard copy by mail.
#200 – 703 Broughton Street victoriafoundation.ca
A D V E R T O R I A L F E AT U R E
MNP GETTING TO KNOW STEVE WELLBURN
“I have a sincere desire to help people with everything related to their business… it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.” — STEVE WELLBURN, MNP
e all want to do business with people we know and like. That’s why we want you to get to know Steve, a local private enterprise partner who’s passionate about helping businesses succeed. In this Q&A, find out how Steve approaches his work and how he’s adapting to the changes brought about by COVID-19. Steve, did you always want to become an accountant? In university I was quite interested in economics and fiscal policy. As I approached graduation, my focus changed. At the time, my father was an accountant. He never pushed me, but I saw the potential opportunity and the ability to do great work. How would you characterize your professional self? I am a business advisor and an accountant with a sincere desire to help people with everything related to their business. I find it very rewarding and it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. What is your role with MNP? I work with clients of all sizes and in all industries, advising on business plans and future direction, helping with succession
planning, and finding the answers to the their questions about large-scale decisions. I spend a lot of time talking to people about their needs and working those through with them, as well as helping them determine where they want to go and how best to do that. What changes have you had to make with your work since COVID? We are doing a lot more virtual meetings. I’m thankful that we have the technology for that but you don’t get the same connection. In person, it’s easier to see how the client is digesting information, and you’re more likely to learn about issues in their personal life that affect the business. I’ve had to learn to be more diligent in virtual meetings so I’m having those meaningful, in-depth conversations that ensure I can really make a difference. What are your clients’ biggest challenges now? Uncertainty — no one knows when things will get back to whatever ’normal’ will be. Some clients are thriving, some are struggling, and some are staying the same, but all are challenged by uncertainty.
A D V E R T O R I A L F E AT U R E
As a business advisor, what is the number one advice you give to your clients right now? We’ve been doing a lot of work with clients on building resilience. As a business owner, you’re trying to make plans and set a direction — but how is the future going to look? When you don’t have a clear timeline, you have to make sure you can adapt to whatever the situation is going to be a month, six months or a year or two from now. What do you do when you’re not at work? I’m married and we have three kids aged 12 to 20, so I spend a lot of time with my family. I’m quite involved with our church, and I do road biking pretty much every day.
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Indigenomics A Generative Force Indigenous businesses are shaping the Islandâ€™s economy and challenging traditional narratives through innovations ranging from tech and tourism to civil engineering. BY ANDREW FINDLAY PHOTO BY JEFFREY BOSDET
Corey Brown (right) and Kear Porttris are co-founders of the aboriginal consulting company, Gwaii Engineering, on the grounds of the Tsawout Nationâ€™s new longhouse on Saanichton Bay.
hen Corey Brown was a youngster playing on the beaches of Haida Gwaii, he never imagined he would do something groundbreaking – but it turns out he did. At age seven, born into the Old Massett Village Council, Brown moved from Haida Gwaii to Vancouver Island with his mother. She hoped for better opportunities than he could get in his remote home village, where, according to Brown, secondary education is a struggle. With an aptitude for math and science, he eventually gravitated to university and went on to earn a master’s degree at UBC in civil engineering — a lonely profession when it comes to Indigenous representation, Brown would soon learn. “When I went back to Haida Gwaii and realized that I was the first professional engineer to ever come out of my community, that’s when it struck me,” Brown explains over the phone from the Victoria offices of Gwaii Engineering, a company he founded in 2017. Not long after, Saskatchewan Métis and fellow engineer Kear Porttris joined as partner. Running a viable civil engineering consultancy in a competitive market is paramount for the partners. However, Gwaii Engineering, a member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, is anchored by a deeper set of values. On their website Brown describes their mission: to “create capacity within First Nations communities on Vancouver Island and throughout BC.” Brown and Porttris are also driven by another unspoken mission that social programs, smoke shops and casinos do not define the First Nations experience in contemporary British Columbia. “How many Indigenous engineers do you know?” Porttris asks. It’s another way of saying, though they may be breaking ground, there remains a mountain to climb. In many ways, the Indigenous economy has never been as rich or as diverse as it is today on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in Canada. A new generation of Indigenous entrepreneurs and leaders are helping First Nations emerge from the dark legacy of residential schools and the Indian Act, which, when it was first enacted in 1876, in effect rendered Canada’s First People to be wards of the state. From tech and tourism, to commercial cannabis cultivation and civil engineering, it is an increasingly diverse business ecosystem. Partnerships like the one between the Huu-ay-aht First Nation and Western Forest Products aim to grow a more sustainable local forestry sector. The Port Alberni Inlet-based nation has a seven per cent stake in the Western Forest Product’s Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44, granting them timber harvesting rights in the Port Alberni region. 31
The Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort is owned by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, providing long-term revenue streams and employment.
Brown and Porttris are also driven by another unspoken mission that social programs, smoke shops and casinos do not define the First Nations experience in contemporary British Columbia.
Enterprises like the Comox First Nation’s Salish Sea Foods or the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s majority-owned Canoe Creek Hydro and the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort, are providing long-term revenue streams and employment for members. Carol Anne Hilton calls this resurgence Indigenomics. Hilton is CEO and founder of the Indigenomics Institute; author of the soon to be published book, Indigenomics: Taking a Seat at The Economic Table, and has a master's in business management from England’s University of Hertfordshire. She sits on B.C.’s Indigenous Business and Investment Council and on the federal government's Advisory Council on Economic Growth, among many other pro-Indigenous initiatives. “There’s this constant negative narrative of First Nations lagging behind the rest of the country on a whole range of socio-economic metrics,” says Hilton, who is of Nuu-chah-nulth descent from the Hesquiaht First Nation in Clayoquot Sound, but grew up in Chemainus. Her goal is to flip this narrative on its head. A 2017 Toronto Dominion Special Report unearthed some facts and trends about Canada’s Indigenous economy that many might find surprising; namely, that Aboriginal businesses tend to be more innovative and export oriented than businesses started by Canadians of other 32 DOUGLAS
nationalities. The report found that “a higher share of Aboriginal businesses introduce new product/services, or new production/delivery processes relative to the broader Canadian small business sector,” and were “twice as likely to have introduced a new product or service over the prior three years.” But the report also highlighted some less surprising facts about the ongoing systemic challenges faced by Indigenous Canadians, such as talent recruitment, relatively low educational attainment and geographic isolation. Hilton says remoteness has compounded a cycle of dependence on government services and lack of capitalization. She points out an example close to home and close to her heart. The Hesquiaht nation is the most northerly of the three Nuu-chah-nulth nations (which includes the Ahousaht and Tla-oqui-aht nations). Of the Hesquiaht’s more than 700 members, many live offreserve in urban centres. Those who live on-reserve are off-grid and for decades have been reliant on diesel power generation, which has resulted in an unsustainable yearly drain of cash. The nation pays for barge loads of diesel just to keep homes lit and heated. The Hesquiaht are now in the process of building a run-of-river hydroelectricity project to wean the community from diesel power — a seemingly small but significant step forward on the road to economic independence, Hilton notes. Poor access to capital has also been a major stumbling block. First Nations who live on reserves are unable to own the land —
Indian reserves are federal property — making it difficult or impossible to leverage personal property for financing. In August 2020 the South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) released the Rising Economy Taskforce Committee Reports. According to the six-member Indigenous Economy Committee, which included Hilton and SIPP’s Director of Innovation Jacques van Campen, better integration of First Nations into the regional economy is key, achieved with measures like creating a dedicated Indigenous economic development office and having Indigenous input on public and private procurement. In addition, the committee called for better cooperation to build infrastructure and business development through initiatives like Indigenousfocused financial training and e-commerce capacity support. Underemployment and the need for upskilling is another area that was singled out for attention. (In 2018 Indigenous unemployment was more than twice the provincial rate of 4.5 per cent.) Hilton’s Indigenomics Institute is championing a lofty target for growing the Indigenous economy from its current annual value of $32 billion to $100 billion by 2025. (There are currently no accurate estimates for the value of B.C.’s Indigenous economy; however, prior to the pandemic Indigenous tourism in B.C. generated $705 million in direct gross domestic output and 7,400 full-time jobs.) The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business’s Aboriginal Procurement Marketplace could go a long way toward helping to reach this target. For example, if all levels of government in Canada —
Carol Anne Hilton calls this resurgence Indigenomics. Hilton is CEO and founder of the Indigenomics Institute and author of the soon-to-be published book, Indigenomics: Taking a Seat at The Economic Table.
municipal, provincial and federal — allocated five per cent of the current $224 billion that Aboriginal businesses bring in, it would add $11 billion to the Indigenous economy. However, it also takes a conscious shift in thinking at the individual band and First Nation level, says Christina Clarke, CEO for the Songhees Development Corporation. For the Songhees, that shift happened under the visionary leadership of the late Chief Robert Sam. Before his passing in 2012, Sam was the elected Songhees chief for more than a
A 2017 Toronto Dominion Special Report unearthed some facts and trends about Canada’s Indigenous economy that many might find surprising, namely, that Aboriginal businesses tend to be more innovative and export oriented.
decade, during which time he sat on the board of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and developed bylaws for property tax and fire protection, among many pioneering initiatives. “He had a vision of self-government and self-sufficiency and to go beyond just program delivery,” explains Clarke, who is of Labrador Métis descent, and began working with the Songhees in 1995 in the finance department, later becoming finance manager. “That kind of re-orientation allowed us to reach out to the community.” The neighboring territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt nations placed them in a strategic location that, pre-contact, fostered a culture of exchange. Clarke believes it’s a natural evolution for the two nations to return to the values of trade, entrepreneurship and cooperation that were crushed under colonial rule and the residential school system. “It allowed the Songhees to say ‘Yes, we’re capable; yes, we’re entrepreneurs,’” Clarke says. Today, the Songhees and Esquimalt nations are a growing economic force on the Victoria waterfront. Through a joint venture management company, Matullia Holdings LP, the two nations own three acres of former Transport Canada land and will close a deal to buy an adjacent four acres from BC Hydro in January 2021. The Matullia-lands are considered a pivotal piece of Victoria’s aspirational plans for an Arts and Innovation District. Pre-pandemic, the community-owned companies Songhees Tours and Songhees Events & Catering would have collectively employed more than 40 mostly Indigenous staff at peak business times. Salish Sea Industrial Services, a partnership between the Esquimalt and Songhees nations and the Ralmax Group of Companies, is giving members apprenticeship and job skill opportunities. According to Clarke, the Songhees Wellness Centre was a big step forward for the nation. This community-driven project, which opened its doors in 2013, was initially financed by Vancity followed by long term joint financing from Royal Bank of Canada and a debenture bond issued by the First Nations Finance Authority, a nonprofit corporation that Robert Sam helped create to give First Nations
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communities access to the same financial tools available to non-Indigenous municipalities. In 2018 the Songhees launched the Songhees Innovation Centre, a coworking space housed in the same building. Animikii Indigenous Technology is one of the innovation centre’s anchor tenants. This certified B Corp software development company was founded in 2003 by Jeff Ward, an Ojibwe and Métis, originally from Manitoba. It is driven by a simple mission: to use “technology as an economic driver toward Indigenous self-sufficiency.” Jarid Dixon Taylor, a ’Namgis nation entrepreneur from Alert Bay, is another Innovation Centre tenant. His company Brandigenous, which opened in 2019, works mostly with First Nations and Indigenous organizations to create quality branded products. He views Indigenous companies as de facto social enterprises. “We’re trying to recreate an economy that was taken away from us. It’s been a generation-upon-generation rebuilding process,” Taylor explains. The Songhees and Esquimalt nations have the benefit of proximity to an urban centre, with access to talent, resources and business partnerships to help fuel their economic resurgence. It’s a different story if you’re from the Kingcome Inlet village of Ukwana’lis, like
The Songhees Innovation Centre is a coworking space for Indigenous entrepreneurs at the Songhees Wellness Centre.
Mike Willie, owner of the Port McNeill-based Sea Wolf Adventures. As a member of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, he grew up playing around on dirt trails and listening to his grandmother speak the native Kwakwaka’wakw language in the family home. Back then, there was no electricity and only outhouses for toilets. However, Willie remembers
it as a “real community surrounded by grizzlies and mountains.” And one with its connection to culture left more intact than other Indigenous communities, thanks to its location at the head of a central coast inlet. That put Indigenous people from Ukwana’lis beyond the reach of the RCMP and Indian agents who were tasked with policing the potlatch, a practice fundamental
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Before the pandemic slammed tourism and reduced his 2020 summer business by 75-80 per cent, Willie was managing a staff of eight Aboriginal guides and boat operators and welcoming guests from Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands and elsewhere.
to coastal First Nations that was banned by the federal government between 1884 and 1951. The potlatch survived in Kingcome Inlet through more than six decades of prohibition. Cultural traditions had a powerful impact on Willie. It led him to learn traditional songs and stories from his grandfather, and eventually he ´ became a teacher at Gwa'sala - Nakwaxda'xw School, previously teaching language and culture at the Lilawagila School in Kingcome. In 2013, after a return trip to his home village in Kingcome, Willie had an entrepreneurial itch to scratch. To launch Sea Wolf Adventures, first as a water taxi service and of Telegraph Cove, he tapped into NEDC who provide financing and business support to Aboriginals on Vancouver Island. Two years later, he expanded into wildlife and cultural tours. Before the pandemic slammed tourism and reduced his 2020 summer business by 75 to 80 per cent, Willie was managing a staff of eight Aboriginal guides and boat operators and welcoming guests from Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands and elsewhere. “We don’t want to be standing on the outside of the tourism circle, watching as others access our territories,” Willie says, adding that he’s hoping the government will help Aboriginal tourism businesses like his bridge through the challenges caused by COVID-19. “A lot of Europeans take our tours. They want to dive deeper into our culture and history.” He also says he’s seen a transformation in his young guides when they visit places in their territory “that they’ve only heard about in stories.” The entrepreneurial success and cultural resurgence exemplified by pioneers like Mike Willie and Corey Brown of Gwaii Engineering are helping reshape the way Indigenous people are perceived by broader Canadian society, and also how Indigenous people see themselves in Canada. Carol Anne Hilton of the Indigenomics Institute believes it’s high time. “There’s a perception of viewing First Nations as a cost rather than a constructive or generative force,” Hilton says. “And that’s not helpful for Canada’s goals for reconciliation.” ■
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The Power of
Collaboration COVID-19 has exposed the many fault lines in our society. At this critical juncture, how do we harness the potential of community response and collective behaviour to influence future recovery and long-term transformation? BY ALEX VON TOL
36 DOUGLAS 36 DOUGLAS
ot so many years ago, Seattlebased Jessica Jobes was one of 3,000 engineers on a top-performing engineering team at Microsoft. Working collaboratively, the team ran 230,000 optimization tests per month, sharing test results and data. With this collaborative commitment to delivering excellence, the team raised its business growth consistently for 49 consecutive months. “Can you imagine? Never a down month of growth in four years?” says Erin Athene, who is proud to now call Jobes her business partner in Mint CRO, a B.C.-based firm that specializes in conversion. Microsoft knew what repeatable, scalable growth looked like, Athene explains. Equally important: the software giant understood that no single person, no matter how smart, could run all the tests, have all the ideas and analyze and process everything themself. To see that kind of growth, you’ve got to trust people to work together toward the best outcome for all. This kind of transparency and collaboration is still relatively rare in business, with society slung to the opposite end of the spectrum. Although there are many exceptions, we’ve generally built our capitalist economy on a scaffolding of scarcity and mistrust, driven by a
dog-eat-dog ethic. The pandemic has neatly graphed the results: an inequitable distribution of resources, services and opportunities so severe that humans and our Earth are breaking.
A SHARING ECONOMY Moving away from the status quo requires adopting a new way of framing things. Big change requires big faith and trust that we can make the leap. It begins by dropping the scarcity mindset and onboarding the truth that there is enough for everyone. Deciding to work together instead of against each other is how we do it. Focusing on uniqueness as a differentiator offers a way to stay in the game without needing to extinguish your rivals. “If you’re a business and you’re going to market, what’s your differentiator? Why your product over another product?” asks Shelley Voyer, program manager of W Venture, VIATEC’s accelerator for women-led companies. “It’s not that both scarcity and abundance can’t exist, especially if you’re focused on what makes you unique. Can we change our mindset so that if you are unique, both can exist at the same time?” “When you come from a perspective of abundance, collaboration is a natural outcome,”
Athene says. “In contrast, a scarcity perspective motivates people to hoard their ideas, thinking they will be more effective if they compete with each other. But a scarcity perspective actually limits business growth: you’re only relying on your own learning, your own data, resources, brainpower, innovation and budget, as opposed to ‘leveraged learning’ through a collaborative ‘all boats rise’ approach.” Taking notes from Jobes’s Microsoft experience, Mint CRO built a community that collaborates with its competitors. At Microsoft, Jobes collaborated within her team to improve Microsoft’s competitive advantage, but when training companies on Mint CRO methodologies, collaboration happens externally between companies. As a result, client companies improve more than if they didn’t share their wins, failures and learnings. “Our client companies consistently achieve 5 to 25 times improvements on growth rates over industry averages,” Athene says of clients whose needs range from B2B services to marketing and ecommerce. “We have seen the power of collaboration directly result in tremendous acceleration of business growth and efficiency in generating customer leads and sales.” The company’s elite Mastermind group starts every call asking “What did you learn this
week? Any big wins, big fails?” Seven or eight participating clients share their screens, their data, their strategies and their results with each other. The group sees so many specific results that they quickly learn what’s working and what’s not. They move on to test approaches they know worked for another company, rather than testing randomly or unknowingly duplicating each other’s failures.
STRUCTURING FOR SOCIAL GOOD Recently, we’ve seen other B.C. companies moving in this direction, adopting more openness and transparency in the service of helping more people. In the early stages of the pandemic, Vancouver-based outdoor garment manufacturer Arc'teryx responded to a call for medical gowns by pooling its creative energies with local health authorities and manufacturing partners to develop a reusable medical gown. “They’re making [the designs] available to anybody because they realize that it’s what’s needed in order for us to be able to support our frontline workers,” says Deirdre Campbell, managing director of Canada at Beattie Tartan Integrated Communications and a longtime collaborator in the tourism and hospitality sector. “And so why would I keep that to myself? Why would I not share it with my competition so more of it can be created?” When schools closed in March, Greater Victoria School District 61 was looking to provide meals to children and their families. The Victoria Foundation bid for a grant from the Rapid Relief Fund to get fresh food into schools by building on existing partnerships with the Good Food Network and the Food Rescue Project. “We were able to build on partnerships formed with restaurants like Zambri’s and Jones Bar-B-Que to actually get meals into the schools and reach the children and families,” says Carol Hall, director of strategic initiatives for the Victoria Foundation. “It’s a great example of how there were existing relationships in place that allowed businesses and nonprofits to act quickly and collectively in a really innovative way to make people in our community better off.” Funding social agencies is the silver bullet to take us to a better place. “You see how civil society touches our everyday lives like seniors’ care, art classes for kids, the local theatre and all the arts programs and youth services and food programs,” says Hall. She cites data from a 2016 study done in partnership with the University of Victoria that showed an economic contribution of more than $4 billion and 60,000 jobs by the charitable sector in our region alone. “The sector is so much a part of what makes our region home and special,” adds Hall. “As we think about a path forward, the civil society sector is really a critical part of that.” 38 DOUGLAS
Whether registering as a benefit corporation, or simply choosing to be a generative force, an organizational commitment to providing social good offers a better structure for supporting human well-being. “We have quite a few businesses that are socially focused, and that’s a real change,” says Voyer. “We’re seeing a lot of movement toward challenging that kind of business model assumption that it’s just profit. It’s profit plus; these are entrepreneurs, and everyone wants to do well, but not at the expense of everything else, which is kind of the legacy we’re dealing with.”
NURTURING COLLABORATIVE GROWTH Dallas Gislason, director of economic development with South Island Prosperity Partnership, suggests North Americans take a page from overseas and combine competencies across businesses. “That stuff has been going on in places like Europe for generations,” he says, citing examples of companies in one sector coming together to create joint-owned ventures for collaborative purchasing, investments in R&D or workforce training. This lets companies pool the benefits
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of collaboration and apply it to their own businesses — much like Mint CRO’s approach. “It elevates all those competitors relative to their global competitors and makes them all better,” Gislason says. “That’s what you see in Denmark. They’ll have the most productive meat processing facilities in the world because the competitors are actually collaborating with each other. “Collaboration immediately increases the likelihood that we’re going to find the best solution together. And when I say collaboration, I mean intergovernmental, with academia, with the citizens and the populace and NGOs and businesses, etc. We call it a triple-helix approach: public, private and third sector [NGOs]. If you bring all those parties together, you’re more likely to find solutions.” Trisector strategist Peter Elkins, whose far-reaching solutions arise from that convergence of government, third sector and business, throws down the gauntlet on human greed. “No one needs more than ten million in the bank,” he says. “It is absolutely possible to have a fulfilling life without having billions of dollars locked up in the markets. Why not move money around in a way that lets everyone have a good life?” That’s just what Elkins set out to do with Esca, an impact accelerator that shifts capital
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toward addressing our thorniest human issues. Esca represents a new way of innovative investing in Canada by scaling local businesses and funding a civil society. The accelerator onboards entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, plugging them in with experts who build their brands into profitable businesses. The aim is to churn out benefit corporations that provide good employment to local economies and direct a percentage of top-line revenue into the not-forprofit sector as unrestricted funding. “The reason we direct funds toward the charitable sector is because they’re doing the work society most desperately needs,” Elkins says. “With the accelerator model we’ve set out to solve three questions I kept hearing in communities across B.C. when I was serving on the B.C. government’s Emerging Economy Task Force: local investing, funding NGOs and housing.” The impact accelerator addresses recommendations from the 2019 State of Innovation in BC report issued by Deloitte in partnership with the Province. These include creating incentives for small firms to scale and grow, commercializing ideas to get them into the market and speeding the delivery of projects that will have social impact. In addition, Elkins explains that the accelerator works in any sector, while satisfying investors with above market returns of eight per cent. Everyone wins.
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People flourish when they are looked after and when they’re engaged in looking after something bigger than themselves. “People are realizing we need each other to figure our way out of this,” says Campbell. “The understanding that we are all in this together has made people look around and say, 'How can I help you?' It’s almost like if you succeed, that means I can succeed, versus I want to succeed over you.” There’s a corollary to this shift that is so beautiful it makes one’s breath catch. If we make the conscious choice to reorganize ourselves around a paradigm of collaboration, we might be able to properly address the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which, without a collaborative mindset, are nothing but a depressingly hopeless target. Pair the goals with a serious, collective intention to focus on lifting every human into a place of worth and well-being, and we might have a chance. “[There’s] this bold, ambitious target for 2030 around really big, intractable issues like climate change, hunger, poverty and inequality,” says Hall. “All of these issues are interconnected, and we can’t solve any one on its own – it really requires us to work collectively and differently together. I think that’s what each of us can ask: What do we need to do to leave no one behind?” ■
BY INGRID VAUGHAN
Taking Care of Your Team Leaders need to get creative to keep teams — and themselves — engaged, communicating, and having a bit of fun within the extended boundaries of the office.
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here’s no doubt we are all navigating a post-COVID world, both personally and professionally. As to how long this phase will last, predictions range from another one to five years before we experience anything close to a pre-COVID environment. Either way, it appears we will be here for a while. For many, the personal has become easier to manage. We know how to keep ourselves and others safe when we’re out, we know the value of a bubble and we are making informed
decisions about our own health and that of our families. We’ve gotten into a rhythm, of sorts, that allows us to better navigate these day-today realities. While this is also true to some degree for businesses, many things have become more complex. Most businesses are shifting practices to refocus in this new reality. Managing remote teams and handling more personnel issues can feel overwhelming when added to the necessary tasks of keeping the proverbial wheels on the business bus turning.
So how do business owners and managers take care of their people, and themselves, in this current environment?
RE-IMAGINE MEETINGS Some employees are in the office, some working remotely, some doing both while others haven’t returned to work yet. They’re no longer all in one place. This makes it challenging to feel like a team. A recent study by Remote.co found that “87% of remote workers feel more connected DOUGLAS 41
through the use of video conferencing.” Further, employees are looking for ways to have fun and relieve the stress of daily challenges. Teams need opportunities to connect, both socially and around work. Here are some ideas to improve engagement and foster connection within a digitally disrupted workplace: Simulations Propose a problem you’re currently facing or that you could face in the future. Or, put forward an innovation challenge around how to do business better. Divide your team into groups and have them think about solutions or ideas (Zoom’s new break room feature is a great way to do this). Share those ideas with each other.
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87% A recent study by Remote.co found that “87% of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing.”
Video Challenges For example, one business sent each team member five unrelated ingredients and gave them 20 minutes to create a signature dish, while filming their efforts. Videos were shared with the team and a winner chosen based on specific criteria. Have your team come up with fun ideas for challenges. Talking About Values Team meetings are a great opportunity to revisit your company values. How are individual team members experiencing those values regardless of their location? What improvements can be made? Do they even know what those values are? Virtual Book Club Choose a business book that would benefit your team. Have team members read a chapter each week, or month, and use a team meeting to discuss ways to apply the learned principles. Remote Team Meal Perhaps everyone orders pizza for a virtual pizza party. Maybe you send employees a treat to their door. An informal virtual hangout is an opportunity to connect and talk about things outside work. Try playing some games — there are great ideas online.
FOCUS ON LEADERSHIP COVID-induced personnel challenges include high levels of anxiety, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, resulting in poor performance, absenteeism and conflict. Dealing with these challenging HR issues can be a strain on even the strongest leaders. This is the time to invest in your own leadership growth. Take a leadership course to learn how to navigate difficult people problems more effectively. Join or create a business peer group for support from others experiencing the same challenges. Work with and learn from an HR Consultant or Advisor who can take away the stress and anxiety by dealing with the most difficult problems. The more confident you get at handling the day-to-day HR issues, the fewer there will be.
PRIORITIZE PERSONAL WELL-BEING Keeping yourself physically, mentally and emotionally healthy may be the most important factor as you lead your team through changing times. Your team looks to you to set the tone for how to function 42 DOUGLAS
effectively inside your organization. If you are stressed and anxious, or showing up unwell, they will feel insecure and their stresses will be heightened, resulting in lower morale, higher turnover, and poorer productivity. Prioritizing your own health and wellness will help you generate the kind of energy and health you want to see on your team. This takes time
and effort, but you’ll see a high return on investment. Keeping your team connected, gaining leadership competency and taking good care of your own health are key to keeping your organization healthy and nurturing a strong corporate culture. Demonstrate leadership that encourages your team not just to survive,
but to thrive in the midst of challenging times. You’ll build a strong, supportive culture and a successful business. ■ Ingrid Vaughan, principal of Smart HR and founder of the Smart Leadership Academy, provides HR support and leadership coaching to small business owners and managers.
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Building in Bounce Creating and fostering a resilient learning organization is an ongoing pursuit that yields positive results. The good news is, the tools are already in your toolbox.
arly in the pandemic, the owners of a growing HVAC business on Vancouver Island began winding down services. Social distancing requirements limited employees’ ability to visit homes and businesses, work on construction sites and come to the office. With an already healthy balance sheet, access to Federal support programs and a trickle of business, the owners were able to keep the lights on. They decided this was a good time to get to many of the back office and management pieces that had been languishing in the previous months, pushed aside to deal with a trajectory of over-the-top growth. They imagined they had at least two to three months of very low demand in which to work on fundamentals. They didn’t get four weeks.
The hallmark of an organization like this is that, at every level, failures are treated as gifts. This attitude is at the heart of the Japanese idea of Kaizen, or continuous improvement. The company had imagined a long U-shaped recovery and instead found themselves in a steep V. A brief vertiginous fall was followed by an equally rapid, but much longer rise. This was a perfect illustration of resilience: Resilience isn’t about bouncing back, it is about bouncing higher. By late fall, the business will have regained all of the ground it lost, and grown beyond its original size.
All while a pandemic is disrupting our world. How did they do it? How were they able to bounce higher, when many around them were failing, even in the same industry? How did they not only survive a disruptive event, but thrive? Thoughtfulness, hard work and good fortune play a role. But there are practical tools and approaches that increase the likelihood an organization not only survives a major crisis, but benefits from it. That is the heart of organizational resilience – the ability to benefit from failures and crises. It is all about learning.
LEARNING TO BOUNCE The central mechanism of organizational resilience is learning to incorporate feedback from a crisis and grow stronger from it. A learning organization has the ability to understand rapidly what just happened, why it happened and what kinds of countermeasures to put into place. It is not limited by the crisis at hand – the benefits permanently strengthen the organization. Decision making processes, communication, cultural strength, systems redundancy, and supply chain, for example, are all improved. If the organization is a learning organization it will learn in good times and it will learn in tough times, it will never stop. In fact, some of its best learning will be through crises and failures. To do that an organization requires two foundations: A Culture of Learning: No organization is instantly good at learning. Trying to develop that quality while a crisis is already upon you is better than doing nothing, but the risk of failure is substantial. Foundations of psychological safety, transparency and coaching all need to be established to survive, assess, counteract,
and adapt. The hallmark of an organization like this is that, at every level, failures are treated as gifts. This attitude is at the heart of the Japanese idea of Kaizen, or continuous improvement. Failures and crises create learning opportunities, they show us what to improve. The Tools for Learning: Cultural foundations in place, a resilient organization also requires the tools, systems, and processes to learn successfully in the middle of a crisis. This means being data-aware, having well-managed communication tools and networks and the ability to redeploy resources rapidly. The organization’s structure, communications, and management must be designed to maximize learning. There are tools that support transformation into a resilient learning organization. What will surprise many, and disappoint a few, is how mundane they are. No snake oil, just tools that are often overlooked in our search for the magic bullets that don’t exist.
THE TOOLKIT Clear Values and Objectives These don’t seem like tools, but they are. The degree to which every team member knows what the game is, whom they are serving and how, how we measure winning, and what everyone’s role is in winning, is the degree to which they will independently do the right thing without looking for permission or directions. Transparency of purpose is a precondition for rapid learning. Meetings What is the first thing to go out the window in most organizations when the pressure is on? Good communication. Whether an integrated military command centre, a software development team on a three-week sprint, or a successful hospitality business, all resilient organizations understand that good communication is a precondition for resilience. DOUGLAS 43
At the heart of good communication are layers of meetings happening at a steady cadence, from daily 10-minute stand-ups to two day deep-dive retreats. Meetings are the pulse of a learning organization. An Effective Org Chart Most think of organizational charts, also referred to as org charts, as old-fashioned models of hierarchies and command-and-control structures. A good 21st Century org chart is nothing of the sort. It is a circuit diagram for making decisions. A well designed org chart, and the organizational design it maps out, facilitates the rapid flow of information and fast, accurate decision making. Done right, it increases
independence and confidence, and gives team members the ability to assess, learn, and adapt rapidly even in a crisis. The last thought to leave here is that, just like the journey of the HVAC business doesn’t stop with the onset of Covid-19, or where it is at present, becoming a resilient learning organization isn’t a once-and-done thing either. A constant recommitment to improving communication, transparency and processes is required to remain resilient. ■
Clemens Rettich is a business consultant with Grant Thornton LLP. He has an MBA from Royal Roads University and has spent 25 years practicing the art of management.
BY STEVE BOKOR AND IAN DAVID CLARK
Inflation: Is it Déjà Vu All Over Again? The economy’s resilience continues to defy expectations thanks to a unique set of factors that can’t compare to historical precedents.
or those of us old enough to remember the price shocks of the 1970s and interest rates that topped 20 per cent before the 1980 recession, this article may cause our hearts to skip a beat as we speculate a return to those years due to COVID-19. Some economists would argue that it’s different this time. The stagflation of old was a result of the falling US dollar as it went off the gold standard. It was also a result of successive OPEC production cuts that started in 1973 when OPEC members tried to penalize
Western nations for supporting Israel, a move that sent the price of oil from $3 to $12 per barrel. To protect their standard of living, labor markets demanded ever higher wages (wage push inflation) which then caused manufacturers to raise prices to stay profitable (cost push inflation). As a result, inflation skyrocketed. Today we are experiencing a shock to our economy, unprecedented government instituted shutdowns limit the spread of a devastating virus. Central banks and governments are
flooding the system with a tidal wave of cash. All in the belief that the effects of the virus will be short lived and, once vaccines and treatments become readily available, everything will go back to normal. But will it? In our opinion, maybe not. Inflation is a measure of how fast the price of goods and services increase in value over time. As such the value of one unit of currency today is worth less than a unit of currency tomorrow or next year. Rising prices occur when costs of production go up, or as a result of more cash in the system at the same level of production. Notice how getting a haircut costs more than it used to. In either case, it has eroded householders the ability to consume the same level of goods over time. Unfortunately, right now we may be experiencing both scenarios at the same time. How is that happening? For one, governments are handing out monthly cheques to workers sidelined at home, and not receiving as much goods or services in return. The
THE INFLATION CYCLE Governments are handing out monthly cheques to workers sidelined at home, and not receiving as much goods or services in return. Could this snowball to inflation?
To raise the money promised to support businesses and individuals, the Government issues new bonds.
LOW INTEREST RATES
Low interest rates put off savers (the public) so the Bank of Canada buys them instead, by printing new money.
The increase in the money circulating in the economy is not met by a similar increase in goods and services received for that money.
With more money in the system inflation kicks in and extra cash moves into asset classes like gold, cyclical stocks and residential real estate.
methodology is complex, but in essence, The Government of Canada raises money to give out cheques by issuing new bonds to investors (savers). The trouble is that savers are not buying the new bonds, given the extremely low rates, but the Bank of Canada is. They do so by effectively turning on the printing press and creating new money out of thin air. In effect, there is now more money circulating in our economy even though there has been a decrease in goods and services produced throughout the recession. At the same time as the stay at home economy progresses, we see a shift in economic activity. Instead of eating at local restaurants, for example, the local operator is either closed or functioning at significantly reduced levels, leading to consumers eating at home. The grocer makes more sales, but there are fewer restaurant employees earning income. Combine that with social distancing policies throughout the system and it’s easy to imagine a complete revamping of the entire supply chain. If this scenario plays out over the next few years what are the consequences? It will take some time for inflation to kick in, but with more money in the system, excess cash will be directed towards other asset classes. The most obvious are gold, cyclical stocks and residential real estate. But there is another concern that centers around the political will to institute a living wage and/or raising the minimum wage, both of which have inflationary consequences. If you include a fiscal stimulus bill for infrastructure spending then we may start to see longer term inflation impact the economy as it moves to a full recovery – this is of course, conditional on a successful vaccine. For now there seems to be two active economies; those that can work from home and those that are experiencing massive unemployment and receiving government support. While this widening gulf between the haves and have nots is not inflationary, it is concerning for central banks around the world as their main goals are to keep inflation to a level of around two per cent, and to ensure full employment. In an attempt to stabilize prices, the Government has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the problem. This may have unintended consequences, that being inflation. The new normal is low growth, low interest rates and low inflation – for now. ■
Steve Bokor CFA is a licensed portfolio manager and Ian David Clark is a portfolio manager and certified financial planner with PI Financial Corp, a member of CIPF.
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As winter draws in, CHEK's Jeff King (left) and Ed Bain have gotten creative with thier locations for The Upside. Bain's carport, featured in the segment's early days, will now become a regular fixture in the week's film schedule.
CHECKING OUT THE UPSIDE
ISLAND BUSINESSES ARE IN THE SPOTLIGHT, THANKS TO A CLEVER PIVOT BY CHEK NEWS. On March 17, Ed Bain and Jeff King got a call from their news director at CHEK, Scott Fee, telling them to meet a camera crew on Mount Tolmie. What evolved from those unscripted, playful first broadcasts was The Upside, a segment that has taken the “weather guy” and the “sports guy” — long-time friends and colleagues — on the road to film 180 broadcasts to date, and counting. “We decided to try and help our local restaurants,” says King of early ideas for the segment. “So we did something called ‘Takeout Tuesday,’ encouraging people to support local restaurants.” 46 DOUGLAS
As lockdown endured, the pair turned their spotlight to other local businesses that might benefit from the attention. Physical distance requirements limit the amount of people in CHEK’s film studio. Anchor Stacy Ross is live at 5 p.m., followed by anchor Joe Perkins at 6 p.m. Wherever their remote shoot is filming, King and Bain join the anchors live on air six times during those two hours for up to 45 minutes of air time each day. Adept at wrangling the multiple shots and locations required off site, cameraman Mark Innis makes The Upside possible.
Eating oysters in Fanny Bay; making pottery on a driveway in Langford; ziplining at Mount Washington. It sounds like fun and games — which it is because the pair make it so, deeply grateful for the opportunity — but the impact of their attention has yielded results for struggling businesses and charitable causes. “We were up at the South Island Saskatoons berry farm, and they were run off their feet the next day,” says Bain. “The people watching are terrific; they recognize the need and travel to places we show them.” Coverage for the Rotary Club of West Shore’s Golf Ball Drop helped
raise $20,000, and the segment contributed to Tour de Rock’s success in raising $78,000. “It’s the mom and pop shops that we are most proud of being able to help,” says King. “We’ve met just the most incredibly nice, generous people — not one bad person. People that are going through some pretty tough times right now, but they’re just wonderful and trying to find a way to make it work.” The segment was born from change, so adapting to new circumstances will be par for the course with winter’s early nights and freezing temperatures. That said, the show must — and will — go on.
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