About the Author

Douglas Hunter

DOUGLAS HUNTER has written widely on business, history, the environment and sports. He was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the Governor General’s Award for his book God’s Mercies. His previous books include The Race to the New World; Molson: The Birth of a Business Empire; Yzerman: The Making of a Champion; and The Bubble and the Bear: How Nortel Burst the Canadian Dream, which won the National Business Book Award. He is also a doctoral candidate in history at York University, a Vanier Scholar and Canada’s 2012 William E. Taylor Fellow. Born and raised in Hamilton, where Tim Hortons first became successful, Hunter now lives in Port McNicoll, Ontario.

WEB: douglashunter.ca
TWITTER: @DWHauthor

Books by this Author
Beardmore

Beardmore

The Viking Hoax That Rewrote History
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also available: Hardcover
tagged : archaeology
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Building the Best

Building the Best

Lessons From Inside Canadas Best Managed Companies
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also available: Paperback
tagged : management
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Excerpt

Introduction

When we set out to create a book based on the Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies program, we were embracing an exceptional opportunity to provide management lessons from a remarkably diverse group of Canadian corporate success stories. In telling the stories of individual companies (and their top executives), we wanted to illustrate with each chapter, in an engaging case-study style, one of the ten criteria for management excellence found within the program's assessments of strategy, capability, and commitment, and to invite commentary from professionals at Deloitte and Queen's School of Business, partners in the Best Managed program. Management theory, after all, is only theory until you see it in actual practice.

The goal was not to provide a shopping list of companies in any given program year, or to prioritize companies that had appeared the greatest number of times. We were striving for diversity in industries (new economy and old, manufacturing and service), regions (from coast to coast), stages of development (a few years old to many decades), ownership (partially public and private, employee-owned, family-controlled), and annual revenues (in the companies we chose, from the tens of millions to the billions).

The awards program, which has been recognizing exceptional Canadian companies since 1993, provided a rich base of enterprises from which to choose, so much so that the challenge proved to lie in deciding which company best exemplified which criterion. Successful companies need to do many things well, not just any one thing. It's impossible for a company to successfully meet challenges associated with growth, for example, if it cannot also manage its finances or service its customers. Companies that make the Best Managed rankings must measure up to a broad range of diagnostics, and it's almost impossible for one to slip through that has significant flaws in some aspect of its performance.

Which all goes to say that there is not a company profiled in a particular chapter that could not have been the focus of one of the other chapters. National Leasing of Winnipeg was a natural choice for Chapter 10 (attracting and retaining talent to build an exceptional culture), but it could as easily have served in Chapter 9 (creating the right leadership and communicating the vision). Conversely, our subject for Chapter 9, Cirque du Soleil, would also have served capably in Chapter 10. Armour Transportation Systems, a good fit for Chapter 6 (developing and leveraging core competencies) could also ably have appeared in Chapter 2 (pursuing and managing alliances, acquisitions, and other strategic relationships) or Chapter 5 (building and sustaining a customer-focused approach to sales and marketing). The possible switches and substitutions are endless.

Nevertheless, we are confident that the company chosen for each chapter best illustrates the principle being explored, without meaning to imply that it excels at a principle above and beyond any other profiled company, or that a particular principle is necessarily its greatest (or only) strength. And as the reader explores the various chapters, certain common themes and shared experiences indeed will emerge. These go beyond small coincidences-such as the fact that it takes about the same number of people (around sixty) to staff a Boston Pizza restaurant as it does to perform a Cirque du Soleil show.

These successful companies, regardless of which chapter they have been chosen to anchor, place a high priority on understanding their customer base and servicing it to the utmost. They also are agile, flexible, able to change directions and strategies in a way that remains true to their core competencies. They understand who they are and what they do, but they are not rigid or blind to change and opportunity.

Successful companies understand their product, which might be a surprising statement, as it implies that many companies do not. But it is true that many, many businesses do not have a solid, strategic definition of the business they are in, of exactly what it is they are producing or providing. The reader will hear in these chapters executives emphasize the precise nature of their business in ways that their own industries might not recognize. Sometimes these definitions of “what we do” have been in the blood of the enterprise since the beginning. But often, they have emerged in response to internal or external challenges. Ownership and management had to step back, assess their own operations, the preconceived notions of their corporate culture, and the needs of the marketplace, and come up with a fresh understanding of their purpose and goals so that they could move forward profitably and with a better understanding of where opportunities lie and how the customer could be best satisfied.

Geoff Smith of EllisDon speaks to the “huge cultural change” his general contracting business was being put through at the time it was developing the software tool that is at the heart of the Chapter 4 case study. “We were changing EllisDon from viewing itself as a construction company to being a service company,” Smith explains. “People got into the business because they like to build. But we're not builders. We're in a service industry that builds. We don't actually build a lot ourselves-the subcontractors do.”

Over at Harry Rosen, Chapter 5, Larry Rosen explains how his upmarket men's clothing chain is “in the business of assisting men in developing a confident personal image, in all aspects of their life, any time, place, or occasion.… We don't perceive ourselves as being in the clothing business. We don't just sell suits and sport jackets. It's a relationship-based business.”

And at Armour Transportation Systems, Chapter 6, Wesley Armour recalls his reaction to the jarring impact of deregulation on his trucking company: “When business became cutthroat, I said to my managers, 'What is our future here?' I decided that we had to be more than a trucker. We had to be a total supplier of transportation.” His company stopped thinking of itself in terms of vehicles and drivers but, instead, in terms of what the customer needed and how Armour had to change and grow in order to provide it better than any competitor.

These individual chapters also tell stories: engaging ones, in which company founders and senior executives address frankly the challenges they have faced. One cannot listen to Rossana Di Zio Magnotta tell the story in Chapter 1 of the traumatic beginnings of the winery she founded with her husband, Gabe, and not appreciate viscerally the hurdles entrepreneurs who risk all on a dream often encounter. And because most of the profiled companies are held privately, the views afforded of their operations in this book are often an unprecedented glimpse of business practices and experiences that never appear in the media. For most business managers, the peek this book provides inside the workings of a private company-including the accounts of a company's travails long before it went public-provide a perspective on business practices rarely attainable otherwise, and which also closely align with their own circumstances.

As it will become clear to the reader, the individual industries in which these companies operate provide their own fascinating insights. Boston Pizza takes you into the restaurant franchise game, Spin Master into the world of Air Hogs and Shrinky Dinks. And Cirque du Soleil makes every senior manager want to run away to join the circus. But the larger lessons always come through. Chapter 8, exploring the PCL Construction Group of Companies, is not required reading solely for business people hoping to build airports and major museums. The company delivers a textbook study of how companies of any type and size need to design the right organizations and processes to support growth. And Chapter 7, on Mediagrif Interactive Technologies, is not of sole interest to e-commerce aficionados. Its achievements in attracting capital and managing finances speak directly to all entrepreneurs, regardless of their particular industry, who aspire to turn a vision into a business that can steer safely through the universal challenges of a start-up.

The lessons imparted in these chapters would not have been possible without the cooperation of the many owners and executives interviewed exclusively for this book. They were generous with their observations and experiences (and sometimes with their private financial data), knowing that their lessons would benefit others. They responded with unvarnished frankness to questions posed about setbacks or challenges. Their achievements give them considerable reason to be proud, but what is consistently impressive is a lack of boastfulness. This is in large part because senior executives well understand that the Best Managed program does not celebrate executives alone, that it is not some personal award of merit. The program recognizes everyone in a company. CEOs in turn recognize that their company's success is predicated on the innovation, commitment, and capabilities of their employees and management teams.

These are also people still fully engaged in meeting the challenges of business. They are not resting on laurels, and they are well aware that adversity is always lying in wait. Many speak to the difficulties of the last recession in the early 1990s, and everyone understands that the economic cycle is not yet dead. There will be rough spots in the road ahead for everyone. But what these companies have demonstrated consistently is an ability to roll with the punches, to turn seeming setbacks into opportunities. It's our hope that readers will be able to draw from these chapters lessons that make their own enterprises more competitive, more adaptable, more agile. And-as seems to be the case in so many of them-a more fun place to work and prosper.

The Deloitte perspective

For each chapter, the authors provide a concluding overview of its theme from the Deloitte perspective. The lessons provided by the particular company profile are presented in a concise format with actionable observations of benefit to enterprises large and small in all businesses and stages of growth. Deloitte professionals provide subject-specific guidance to expand on the chapter content with personal observations while applying company-specific insights to challenges faced by businesses in general.

Growth Insights, a global website operated by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, offers a diverse selection of materials related to the ten chapter themes gathered under the imperatives of strategy, capability, and commitment. It provides a comprehensive, research-backed view of the challenges facing today's growth companies. Growth Insights identifies the business issues that matter most to growth organizations, and showcases practical perspectives from both company executives and Deloitte practitioners on how to address these business issues. Visit the website at www.growth-insights.com.

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Canada's Coca-Cola

Canada's Coca-Cola

Refreshing the Nation for 120 Years
edition:Hardcover
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Champions

Champions

The Illustrated History of Hockey's Greatest Dynasties
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also available: Hardcover
tagged : hockey
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Double Double

Double Double

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also available: eBook Paperback
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God's Mercies

God's Mercies

Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery
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Excerpt

Part I

Beyond the Furious Overfall

One

On September 6, 1611, a veritable ghost ship–sails flapping seemingly untended, the hull gnawed by pack ice and gouged by groundings, her course speaking more of accident than intent–drifted from the western horizon into the reluctant company of fishermen setting seines for mackerel off Dursey Island, on Ireland’s south coast. The eight emaciated Englishmen aboard the bark Discovery had all but given up hope of ever reaching a friendly shore.

It had been a mistake not to steer for Newfoundland when they’d had the chance, and instead to trust that a favourable new breeze could carry them all the way home. The wind had failed them. First, the grain supply ran out, followed by the stock of wild birds they had killed. After exhausting their individual daily ration of salt broth and half a bird, they resorted to eating tallow candles–and, as a special treat, the marrow of gnawed bird bones fried in candle grease and dressed with vinegar. They were so weakened that they sat rather than stood at the whipstaff to steer the ship, and they steered her badly. As one survivor, Habakkuk Prickett, wrote of his skeletal shipmates, they “cared not which end went forward . . . some of them would sit and see the foresail or mainsail fly up to the tops, the sheets being either flown or broken, and would not help it themselves, nor call to others for help.”

Their last hope had been to make Ireland, and they had begun to fear that they had missed it altogether. With a few more careless turns at the whipstaff, they might well have blundered too far south to spy their intended landfall. They then could have missed Land’s End, or even strayed south of Brest and into the Bay of Biscay, by which point the Discovery would have become a ghost ship in fact.

Instead, there was salvation. “A sail! A sail!” they cried. Then more sails appeared: an entire fishing fleet. They steered for the nearest vessel, a bark at anchor.

They had no guarantee of a warm reception. The idea of a common duty of the sea, of sailors of all nations coming to one another’s aid in times of distress, was unknown to the times. That same summer, Jonas Poole narrowly escaped the capsizing of his ship while loading aboard the oil boiled down at a land station after a High Arctic whale and walrus hunt at Spitsbergen. When he and his crew rowed to a nearby ship from Hull, the Marmaduke, the men from the Humber broke out pikes and took to boats to prevent them from boarding. The Marmaduke was considered to be poaching on the commercial territory of Poole’s employers, the Muscovy Company, and the Marmaduke’s crew was entirely prepared to prod fellow Englishmen to certain deaths in open boats in Arctic waters. The Marmaduke’s master had to be talked into rescuing his own ­countrymen.

The Discovery’s men, however, had approached the right ship. She was out of the Cornwall port of Fowey. Her master, John Weymouth, took stock of the misery aboard the hulk and made the charitable decision to weigh anchor and guide these poor starving souls into nearby Bearhaven, on the north shore of Bantry Bay.

Weymouth delivered the men into one of the most virulently anti-Anglo fissures of the Irish coast. Ten years earlier, Spanish forces had landed at Bearhaven and assumed command of Dunboyne Castle from Daniel O’Sullivan, of the O’Sullivan Beara clan. O’Sullivan was the chieftain of the Irish Catholic Congress, and his baronies for centuries had earned most of their income from leasing local fishing rights to the Spanish. When the English defeated invading Spaniards at Kinsale in 1602, O’Sullivan was undeterred by the Spanish withdrawal and chose to fight on as the last Irish chieftain not to recognize the rule of the English crown. And when the English under Sir George Carew, Lord President of Munster, arrived by sea and land to deal with the insurrection, the customary atrocities followed.

On Dursey Island, all two hundred inhabitants were killed – some by the sword, others burned to death in a church, others tied in pairs and tossed from the island’s cliffs into the ocean. After Dunboyne Castle was overrun, an untold number of defenders were killed as they tried to swim to Bear Island; those pulled from the water by the English probably became the twenty­seven men Carew hanged as traitors in the market square of Bearhaven. It was in this harbour, so recently bloodied by English soldiers slaughtering Irish patriots like walrus in the Greenland Sea, that the Discovery’s famished men sought mercy.

If enlightened mariners had learned anything from their wildly unpredictable encounters with indigenous populations in this age of exploration and conquest, it was that they could never be sure of how the people on the shore had been treated by previous visitors–and how, as a result, these people would choose to treat those who followed. In Bearhaven, the eight people aboard the Discovery were about to reap the consequences of Carew’s atrocities.

The locals did not harm the Discovery’s men. Neither did they want anything to do with them. They were advised to deal with their own kind – the English who were fishing offshore. And so the starving eight were turned away. But their countrymen in the fishing fleet were no more charitable. The Discovery’s men “found them so cold in kindness that they would do nothing without present money, whereof we had none in the ship,” wrote Prickett.

They were rescued a second time by John Weymouth, who agreed to let them pawn their best anchor and cable. They used the proceeds to buy beer, bread, and beef from the other fishing boats. They also needed seamen and a pilot to get home, for the Discovery’s complement was down to eight greatly weakened hands. Another English ship’s sympathetic captain, a man named Taylor, agreed to accept a note from Weymouth for the value of the anchor and cable so that Taylor could guarantee the wages that the Discovery’s crew promised to the men they hired from the fishing fleet. So angry was Taylor with the men who had otherwise refused to help the Discovery home that, according to Prickett, “Taylor swore he would press them, and then, if they would not go, he would hang them.”

And so the Discovery’s small circle of survivors were able to strike a bargain with the necessary hands: three pounds ten shillings for every man who could help them reach Plymouth or Dartmouth, and five pounds for the pilot. And what if the weather forced them instead into Bristol? Another pound for each of them, then. It was at Plymouth, about twenty miles west of Weymouth’s home port of Fowey, that the Discovery regained England proper after a seventeen-month absence.

No one knows what the survivors volunteered of their ordeal between their hailing Weymouth’s bark off Dursey Island and dropping anchor off Plymouth Castle. Prickett allowed that men in the fishing fleet had “made show that they were not willing to go with us for any wages.” Taylor’s anger with their reluctance suggests their unwillingness was based on nothing stronger than revulsion with the state of the ship and crew. But the questions would have been inevitable: Where had they been? How had they come into such desperate straits? And most pointedly: Where was the rest of the crew? There had been fourteen other men aboard on the outbound journey in April 1610, as well as a youth, the captain’s son. What of them all?

No one, English or Irish, likely would have offered their charity or services had even the most basic details of the Discovery’s voyage been surrendered. The extra hands may have noticed the darkened splotches of blood in some of the berths; in explanation, the survivors may have been compelled to produce the clothing, bloodstained and torn by weapons, of missing men, which they had so carefully preserved. From there, a story of sorts would have tumbled forth. The survivors may have learned from these initial experiences of being questioned what to emphasize, how to parry the skepticism. Far more educated and worldly men would be demanding more specific answers once the ship was back in England. And the consequences of not providing an entirely credible answer would be so much greater.

However ­close-­lipped the survivors managed to remain on the final leg home, there would have been no suppressing their awful tale once they touched Plymouth. They would hurry on to London, to explain themselves. And if explanations were not enough, then promises would be made– enough, hopefully, to save them all from the hangman.

Two

There would be no single, coherent account of what had occurred aboard the Discovery on her voyage of 1610-11: of how the explorer Henry Hudson, his son John, and seven companions had disappeared on this expedition in search of the Northwest Passage; of how five more men then perished on the voyage ­home.

After the Discovery regained England in September 1611, the survivors delivered Hudson’s papers to one of the voyage’s key investors, Sir Thomas Smythe. Hudson had concluded his journal entry for August 3, 1610, with: “Then I observed and found the ship at noon in 61 degrees 20 minutes with a sea to the westward.” Hudson was about to steer the Discovery into a vast subarctic bay. It was a cul­de-sac from which he would not escape with his life.

Once Hudson turned south into the great bay that would eventually bear his name, he ceased to exist in flesh and blood. The pages of his journal beyond August 3, like the man himself, would go missing. Their publication was likely prevented by censorship imposed while the passage search continued. The suppressed pages were then lost altogether, robbing him of his own voice and reducing his final months to hearsay and anecdote, difficult to define against the scheming and pleading of the voyage’s conspirators and apologists and the self-serving statements of the survivors. The story of how and why Hudson and his companions were lost would never be his to tell. And those who did do the telling had much to answer for.

The story of the Discovery’s final voyage is also one of storytelling. Different people attempted to preserve observations for posterity. But words were discarded, destroyed, suppressed, selectively edited, and lost. Not everyone who lived would be heard from in the end. Not everyone who died would be kept silent.

The story of Hudson’s final, fateful voyage might fittingly start not with the Discovery’s departure from London in April 1610 but with words set down on paper, written months beforehand. They captured Henry Hudson en route from the unfathomable to the unknowable, with both life and career in the balance.

Three

One never quite knew what would creep into, or slip out of, a port like Dartmouth. This major centre of the English cod fishery was a hub of activity on a span of the English Channel that was notorious for bad behaviour. Foreign agents could move in and out of the country through the coast’s myriad bays, coves, creeks, and estuaries. West Country ports like Dartmouth also had a disreputable standing among London’s merchant adventurers. They were places beyond their administrative reach, havens for pirates, who were a threat not only to ships but also to ship’s masters as they lured crewmembers away with promises of easy riches. The letter of commission to Sir Henry Middleton, the general, or commander, of the sixth voyage of the East India Company, which would sail from London in April 1610, firmly directed: “To prevent disorder either on the outward or homeward voyages, the General is forbidden (unless compelled by necessity) to allow any of his ships to touch at Falmouth, Plymouth, or Dartmouth.”
The arrival that Dartmouth’s mayor, Thomas Holland, observed in the lower reaches of the river Dart on November 7, 1609, was a genuine curiosity, and he promptly placed her under his personal surveillance.

The ship was under the flag of the Verenigde Nedelansche Geoetroyeerde Oostindische Compagnie– the United Netherlands Chartered East India Company, better known by its initials as the VOC, and to the English as the Dutch East India Company. However one referred to it, the VOC was the most powerful and profitable commercial entity in the world, the main engine of prosperity for the Dutch Republic.

A typical VOC merchant vessel, a plodding hauler of trade wares that might have wandered into Dartmouth’s riverine harbour on a return voyage from Java, would have been of passing interest to Holland. But this VOC ship was a special case. She was a small, well­armed, nimble vessel: a jaght, or hunter, designed for chasing down pirates and capable of conducting piracy of her own. As the crew came ashore, Holland determined that sixteen people were aboard. Most were, predictably, Dutch, and some of them were ill, battling the onset of scurvy after six months away from home. But Holland discovered that her captain, or master, and two other crewmembers were English. Holland did not know that there had been a fourth Englishman, whose life had been cut short two months earlier by an arrow through the throat.

The ship wasn’t going anywhere soon. There were fresh provisions to secure, sick men needing rest and recuperation, and doubtless some odds-and-ends repairs to effect after a long ocean passage. Holland had the opportunity to chat up the ship’s master about where he had been and what he was intending to do next with this wayward Dutch vessel. The mayor was then compelled to set down what he had learned in a letter.

Holland explained that this ship out of Amsterdam called the Half Moon, “of 70 tons or thereabouts,” had just arrived, “whereof one Henry Hudson, an Englishman late of London, is master.” English masters and pilots in the service of the Dutch were not unusual, but the voyage Hudson was close to concluding with this penultimate stop in Dartmouth was without precedent, and in many aspects seemingly without logic.

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Race to the New World, The

Race to the New World, The

Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and a Lost History of Discovery
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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The Cottage Ownership Guide

The Cottage Ownership Guide

How to Buy, Sell, Rent, Share, Hand Down and Retire to Your Waterfront Getaway
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : real estate
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