White Lines

•June 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Not those white lines.   I’m talking about the white lines on our Montreal roads.  They seem to be disappearing faster than the Javan Rhinoceros.  Like many things in Quebec that other Provinces and States take for granted, I don’t know when the white lines on the roads became optional?  Why is it that we seem to make signs on roads, lines on roads, and road themselves seem like ground-breaking ideas and technologies? And please don’t say it’s because of our harsh winters because the last time I checked, there were other cities equally North and with equally harsh winters that still managed to put down some white lines so they didn’t give the drivers panic attacks trying to figure out if the road is supposed to have one, two, or three or even four lanes.  Drivers in Quebec are just so used to this stupidity, we don’t even think twice about it.  Take a drive on Highway 20 going East, and try to get to the 520 going East – two major roads in the city.  You don’t have much of a chance of achieving this challenging feat since the only sign for the 520 comes after 2 splits in the road with absolutely no indication.  So simple math will tell you that have 25% chance of making it on the first try.  Now think about those friendly, money spending tourists, that are now stressed out of their minds trying to return their rental car and make their flight.  They’re cursing this city because we don’t have proper road signs and proper lines on the road.  So next time you’re driving to work and realize you need to move over because the right lane is actually the middle lane, you should also realize it’s costing the tax payers money because it’s just another reason for businesses and tourists to spend their money elsewhere.

Open Letter to Air Canada regarding Rouge Service

•March 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Mr. Rovinescu
President & CEO
Air Canada

Mr. Rovinescu,

For as any years as I can remember, I’ve been a loyal Air Canada traveller. In my early days, back in the late 80’s, as I was starting my business career, I simply liked and enjoyed the  simplicity of Air Canada in terms of direct flights, easy luggage check in, the comfort of the seats, etc.  I was smart enough never to be angry with Air Canada over the taxes and additional charges as I understood it was a government issue, not something to be blamed on my favorite airline.

In 2001, when you gobbled up Canadian Airlines, I held my hands up in victory because I knew the better airline won the war.  And with less (or no) competition, I naively assumed AC would simply get better and better.  And under Robert Milton, I felt that happened.  I didn’t kick and scream as you moved to changes in service, like charging for food, blankets, and plastic pillows (I did laugh at the plastic pillows).  I actually applauded the moves as I felt it was the best way to remain competitive and continue to offer a high-class of service.  And then around 2005, the in-flight entertainment came!!  Could it get any better?  It did – one of the consequences of 911 was the tightening of security, but if you held some sort of airline ‘status’, combined with NEXUS, I was able to fly through security and customs with a pre-printed boarding pass that I printed at home.

And even though I was frustrated at your loyalty program which rewards miles and legs flown over profitability, I stuck with you.  I think the stupidity of your loyalty program probably has more to do with your archaic systems that don’t allow you to track profitability of a passenger.  Why else would you prefer to reward someone flying to China on a deeply discounted ticket over little old me who may fly on a $900, last-minute fare to Toronto?

Sure we’ve had our ups and downs over the decades, but there’s no reason to dwell in the past.  Let’s look at the here and now.  Rouge.  It used to simply mean a color to me.  Now the mere word reminds me of how much I’ve lost with my favorite airline.  Allow me to itemize:

1. Seats with less legroom
2. Tablet entertainment with shows from the 80’s and 90’s
3. No more Business Class to aspire to.

I’m having a very difficult time understanding the continued benefits of flying AC?  Much of my travel is in North America, and I fly your Rouge routes often.  Unfortunately, there’s no choice – it’s Rouge or nothing.  I can’t pick a ‘non-Rouge’ flight. I wish I could.  And I can only image the look on the faces when those that happened to upgrade, or worse – pay for “Rouge Premium” saw the identical seats as in economy, with a little more legroom, and a middle-seat blocked out.  Must be a hell of a meal in Rouge Premium for the additional $299.00 one-way fare from Montreal- Orlando! On that note – here’s some free advice.  Stop showing what looks to be the “old business seats” when you preview seat availability when choosing a Business Class Fare on a Rouge Flight. It doesn’t border on misleading, it is absolutely misleading, maybe fraudulent.  If you’re proud of your Premium Rouge  class, show off those economy width seats!

Did you really thing a cute fedora and sweaters on the flight attendants would make us forget about the lack of comfort we now experience? I don’t recall hearing anyone say “Who cares that I have to lean sideways because my knees hit the seat in front of me?  Look at the cute hats!”  However I do recall the man on  left who must have been 6’2″ cursing for the first 20 minutes and wondering WTF happened to the TVs!  And I also recall the lady next to me from Halifax swearing never to fly a ‘Rouge’ flight again. One more tip – if you want the flight attendants to be ‘whimsical’ like Southwest Airlines, it can’t be the same lines over and over again.

As for me, well I’m hoping that someone at AC comes to their senses.  Why on earth would you anger the business travelers and make us fly in what you’re calling your “leisure airline”?  There’s nothing leisure about it.  Let’s call a spade a spade, or more specifically, let’s call a “discount airline” a “discount airline”.

One of the reasons I, and many others fly our beloved AC is to score upgrades into Business Class and better service.  Without the Business Class to aspire to, please explain to me why I care what airline I fly?  I used to tell people that I would prefer Economy on Air Canada over Business Class on many other US airlines.  Do you understand the value in that statement?  Now, I couldn’t care less about “Premium Rouge” – so now I would rather fly economy on another airline, than Premium Rouge, especially given the fact you’re charging as if it’s a Business Class seat.  And that leads me to my last point.  If you were taking away all of these comforts, but charging way less for the fares, maybe I would be a little more understanding.  But you’re not – this morning a return flight on Premium Rouge to Las Vegas in mid-April comes in at $1604.  United has a United First class ticket for $1343.

I’ve started to look into other airlines.  Wish I didn’t have to, but I do.  I travel too often and I value comfort and convenience too much.  You’ve taken that away, and left me no options.  Like I said, I can’t fly non-Rouge on certain routes anymore.

I’m sure WestJet and Porter are getting all sorts of people looking at their flights and fares from people that were once AC loyalists – opportunity is knocking for them and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

In the end, I think Rouge is going to put Air Canada in the red.  The irony of it all.

Lorne Schwartz
President & CEO

When No One Cares

•April 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I find myself saying this over and over lately.  Former colleagues from businesses past trucking along, feeling like they’re simply pushing paper around from one side of their desk to the other, with no clear objective in sight.  When I hear these tales of boredom, semi-depression, and frustration, I continuously seem to say “This is what happens when no one cares.”

Make no mistake about it.  As the man or woman in charge, If you don’t give your employees a reason to care, a rallying cry of some sort, of any sort, then no one will give a sh!#t.  And when this happens, forget about about being a good company, much less a great company. When this happens, start to figure out how to divest as soon as possible, because it’s only a matter of time until the tipping point is reached.


High Performers Need Enough Leash to Hang Themselves

•November 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

2 weeks ago, the company I’ve been running for the past four years was was acquired by an American company. I learned quite a lot over the past 3 months while trying to get this deal done, but what I want to focus on in this entry is what I learned since the deal closed.

Although I had turn-over in the past four years at the VP Level, my current slate of VPs going into the close was a group of “high performer” employees.  Once the deal was done, the typical amount of uncertainty set in, as well as the right amount of post-close disorganization. 

High performers kept on a short-leash are liked caged-animals.  They need the freedom to try to affect change, but are more than willing to be accountable for their actions.  That’s a good thing.  If you give any one of my VPs the ability to make stuff happen – they go at it like a witch in a broom factory (Thanks Geico).  But take away this freedom, and they’ll get bored quickly, and start to seek opportunities elsewhere.

What I don’t understand, is why some bosses fail to see this.  It’s a win-win for the company.  If you give an individual the freedom and trust to perform, and they fail – you win because the outcome is that the individual will be fired and the company is better off for not having a mediocre employee.  On the other hand, if the freedom is given and the employee succeeds, the company wins because the employee is now empowered to perform, and you now know with certainty that you have a high performer on your hands. 

So the next time you want to know if your employees are high performers, don’t backstop their decisions with all of your wonderful advice. Find out who’s a high performer in sheep’s clothing and offer up a nice long leash.  You’ll win either way. 


Nothing Says “I’m Thinking About You” Like a BCC

•October 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Being Jewish, it’s that time of year again.  Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur bring a host of good wishes from friends, family and colleagues.  For others, the season will start mid-December around Christmas and New Years.  You know what I’m talking about – you check your email in the morning and sure enough you received some heartfelt good wishes from someone for the holidays.  When you scroll up, undoubtedly you notice you’ve been BCC’d (blind carbon copied).

When did a BCC become enough for good wishes?  In my humble opinion,  it’s silly (and I’m being polite).  If you want to express any type of sincerity regarding your thoughts for or about someone, a blind carbon copy just doesn’t cut it.  Pick up the phone, or how about something absolutely insane – a handwritten note.  Of course you can hit a lot more people by scrolling through your address book and double clicking on names – but I think it’s a waste of time.

I know those people who read my blog, and who have sent me BCC’s will undoubtedly take me off their list next year.  I’m good with that.  If I’m worth calling, I’ll get the call, and if I’m not in that circle of friends, please skip my name when you get to the S’s in your address book.

New Prospect VS. Loyal Customer

•March 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Watch any ad for the cell phone companies, and they give away new phones, TVs, and cars if you sign one of their plans – but that’s only for new customers.  If you’ve been a loyal customer for years and years, you’re out of luck – too bad.  The reasoning is simple – they want to attract new customers. And you, Mr.  or Mrs. Loyal Customer for years and years, you’re not new, you’re old.    And sure enough, if you complain, you’ll probably get that new TV as well.

Have you noticed the same thinking applies in other businesses?  I’ve been dealing with the same accounting firm for years and years – close to 15 years to be precise.  They handle my personal tax returns, family trust returns, and holding company returns.   Recently, I asked an acquaintance who works at another accounting firm to ballpark the price to handle all my stuff.  According to him, I was overpaying by about 30%-40%.

When I questioned the Managing Partner on this, he rightfully defended his firm’s position by saying that “We’re not the cheapest and we provide excellent value for the rates you’re paying.”  While that may be true – I’m paying 100% full rates, so I expect nothing less than excellent value.  In other words, there’s no deal for loyalty here – I pay full price and I get full value.  Call me a whiner, but I want better than that.  I refer business to this firm, and I give them new business when I can – where’s my new TV? Where’s my free phone?  Where’s my discount for being a loyal customer for 15 years?

So now I’m looking around and getting quotes.  It’s ridiculous that I’m doing this because the discount I would have been happy with would have been less than a few thousand dollars – and if I slowly move all my business away, it’s easily low six figures over the next 3-4 years.  You would think in a firm full of accountants, someone can do a quick mental ROI calculation and figure it out.  Maybe I should check my tax returns?

Lions and Tigers and Lawyers, Oh My!

•November 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Notice to everyone I deal with in business or in my personal life.  I don’t like surprises in bills, unless of course it’s less than I anticipated, but that’s never, and I repeat, never been the case.

As posted recently on my site, I completed a Management Buy Out of the company I presently work at.  Over the past few weeks, the legal bills started to come in.  I have two questions – Why is it that the legal profession is the ONLY profession where little things like estimates or quotes have absolutely no meaning?  My lawyer friends might argue that quotes or estimates are irrelevant because (say the next words in quotes with a scrunched up face and a deep voice) “it’s impossible to know how much time we’ll spend on a file, it depends on many different factors” .  To this I reply – “exactly like most other Time and Billing businesses including consulting,  accounting, home improvements, etc.

But even if I were to let the first question slide, and I’m not, the next question would be “Does that mean once I engage you, it’s a blank check? ”

Not a single lawyer I know would say “yes, it’s a blank check,” but the reality is that in general, they expect you to pay for their time – regardless of how much time they spent.  All I ask for is the ability to decide how much to spend, be informed, and have the option to make decisions.

When you get the bill at the end of the file, it’s too late.  Imagine if my services people did that with one of my customers.  I’d be out of business in no time flat.  Why is it that lawyers don’t have to operate by the same business standards?  My lawyers argument is “we did the work, you know our rates, so pay the bill.”  All true, but what I didn’t know was the hours they would  spend.  And that is the X factor they seem to not want to discuss.

Why I did the Management Buyout

•November 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In mid-October, I led the group that purchased MEI, the company I’ve been running for 2 years, from the private equity guys that owned it.  Why did I do it?  Because to really move a company forward, the investors and the Board of Directors all have to be rowing in the same direction.

It’s a pure joke when major investors make up the majority of the Board, because while each one of them is supposed to be operating in the best interests of the Company, there is no way that will ever happen.  At the end of the day, they get paid to look after the fund they work for – and will operate that way.  It’s no ones fault – that’s just the way it is.

Now that I own the company, along with a single Venture Capital player, represented by a smart, level-headed portfolio manager, along with 10 members of my management team, we can staff the Board positions with industry players and independents who can really help drive this company forward.  Regardless of the previous Boards varying objectives, we were moving it ahead anyways.  Now, with a new Board about to be put in place that will row in the same direction as management, I can only imagine how much quicker it will be to achieve our objectives.

That’s why I did the buyout.

25 Year Reunion And I’m Golfing

•March 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Next week is my 25th High School Reunion, and I won’t be there.  I’m really disappointed about it.  I don’t Facebook, and I don’t want to.  I enjoy reminiscing about the people I went to school with and wondering what happened to them; did life treat them well, or did they up struggling? 

And next week, I’d be able to find out who did what?  Who got married?  Who still looks good and who, like me put on a few pounds?  But alas, I’ll be in Orlando on a golf trip with 1 of only 2 people I still speak to from high school.

The reunion is kind of my one and only chance to get a glimpse into the lives of all those people I went to school with 25 years ago in the manner I would want to do it – which is intense for about 7 or 8 hours, not in tidbits and soundbites 24/7 like you get in Facebook.

So if anyone reading this is going to the reunion, bring a videocamera for me and find out what Snitz is up to these days, and if Giakoumatis still loves the Stray Cats. Let me know if anyone asks about me.   Also, see what you can do about a 26th reunion.  If there’s another one, I promise to attend.

Are you a “Reacher”

•March 27, 2009 • 2 Comments

First, I’ve taken a sabatical for a while and have been inactive on the site.  Why?  Because now that I’m back in the juice running a new software company, it’s difficult to write about the company I work at. 

Since I’ve been back at it over the past 8 months, have you noticed everyone’s become a “reacher”, as in “I’ll reach out to her” or “Why don’t you reach out to him?”  Where did this reaching come from?

For the record , I don’t reach.  I refuse to reach.  I call – I write – I’ll “get in touch with”, but I don’t reach.   It seems reaching is  now the politically correct method of contacting someone.