Embracing Office Romance

Why bosses need not fear love among the cubicles

IT’S THE INFAMOUS DISASTERS THAT PRESERVE the chill around workplace romance: Bill Clinton and the intern, David Letterman and his assistant, former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and the communications staffer. Even here in the real world, there’s no shortage of gossip about the CEO and the underling, shunted to a dreary regional outpost under mysterious circumstances. But what about a 25-year-old marketing manager and his colleague down the hall? They’re around the same age, they’re into the same music and they understand each others’ lives better than any outsider could. Need their employer fear these flying sparks in the vicinity of the serious business of work? Continue reading

Maple Leaf Foods Goes Lean

After surviving the kind of tainted-meat tragedy that brings companies down, Maple Leaf Foods is now fighting to stay alive in a par-dollar world.

IF MAPLE LEAF FOODS WAS A SCHLUBBY middle-aged guy, he would have recently told his buddies he was finally going to lose that 20 pounds, move out of his mother’s house and take control of his life. It’s the sort of bold and overdue makeover the food giant announced in October that will see it shed aging meat factories, modernize operations and catch up to its leaner, more productive U.S. competitors. The $560-million investment—the largest in the Canadian food industry—is the third and final phase of a sweeping $1.3-billion restructuring strategy the company launched in 2006, which has since reached every corner of operations, from hog rendering to baked goods and now, finally, prepared meats. Continue reading

Getting the Most Out of Perfectionists

Perfectionism is that unoffending weakness oft-cited in job interviews, but managers beware.

THERE’S ONE IN EVERY OFFICE: the guy who’s forever working but struggles to meet deadlines; someone who nitpicks her colleagues’ work but won’t let anyone near her own until it’s gleaming. Perfectionism is that unoffending weakness oft-cited in job interviews, and a quality lately glamorized by all the frothing tributes to today’s most famous perfectionist, the late Steve Jobs. Continue reading

Investing in Oil & Gas Juniors

How to pick stocks in Alberta’s jumping junior sector

BEFORE FOUNDING Oil and Gas Investments Bulletin, a subscription-based newsletter about oil and gas juniors, Keith Schaefer worked for 20 years in the mining sector, helping public companies raise exploration capital. Now, on the other side of the fence, he spends his days reading charts and analyst reports in order to decide which, among the hundreds of juniors, he’s willing to throw money at. Schaefer prides himself on his plain-language approach, characterizing the current investing climate as “a little crazy.” “There are so many juniors right now, so many management teams and so much money being poured into this sector.” Continue reading

How Bosses Really Feel About Mat Leave

Employers talk honestly about parental leave

TEN YEARS AGO, WHEN OTTAWA INCREASED parental leave from 10 weeks to 35, bosses across the country quietly panicked. Combined with 15 weeks of maternity leave, the legislative change meant that companies would have to reserve a mother’s job for a year. In an anonymous survey conducted in Alberta at the time, anxious employers predicted heightened workplace tensions and potential discrimination against young job seekers. “People in childbearing years will be at a disadvantage when it comes to new positions opening up,” warned one, while another admitted, “We have learned to avoid hiring people we feel will be having families.” Continue reading

The Rise of DavidsTea

Has a pair of Montreal cousins created the Starbucks of tea?

FOR PURVEYORS OF A TYPICALLY SOOTHING, grandmotherly beverage, the DavidsTea head office is buzzing with young, overly cheerful go-getters marching around with purpose. Periodically, they congregate at the office’s fully stocked tea counter to brew their favourite blend or discuss the merits of matcha, a powdery green tea that must be whisked like a French sauce. Currently, there is more staff than office space, so the company is spilling into another building nearby, while expanding its warehouse for the second time. Since launching its first tea shop in 2008, DavidsTea has been consistently bursting its seams. Last year, the chain went from eight to 40 locations across the country, from Vancouver to Halifax. This year, at least 20 more will open, signalling a concerted push in the company’s quest to dominate the burgeoning retail tea market. Continue reading

Better Working Through Living

How companies are luring staff with new work-life balance perks

AS THE CORPORATE WORKPLACE GETS YOUNGER and more mobile, companies are figuring out that keeping staff happy will require more than simply good pay and vacation time. Increasingly, employers are also ensuring their people are exercised, well-fed, entertained and given ample autonomy – all in the name of work-life balance. Along with flex-time and parental leave, today there’s on-site gyms, massages, concierge services and even rules about after-hours email so people don’t feel tied to their Blackberry. Continue reading

Oil’s Inevitable Climb

Looking beyond recent unrest in the Arab world, a veteran energy analyst predicts $300/barrel within a decade.

A REVIVING GLOBAL ECONOMY AND MOUNTING UNREST in the Arab world are stirring renewed fears about a long-term spike in oil prices. Earlier this month, as protests in Egypt peaked, oil hit a two-year high, prompting anxiety about a return to the $100-a-barrel days of 2008. And with Egypt not quite out of the woods, and uglier protests igniting in Bahrain, Libya and Iran, the oil market remains understandably jittery. (Last week, oil prices hit $90 a barrel.) Continue reading

Saving American Apparel

Can American Apparel’s newest executive rescue the company?

LAST WEEK AMERICAN APPAREL NAMED A NEW chief financial officer, the latest in a string of short-lived executives tasked with saving the sinking clothing chain once heralded for its ethical manufacturing and trendy cotton basics. John Luttrell is a seasoned retail CFO who previously held posts at retailers Old Navy and Wet Seal Inc. But the veteran faces some extraordinary challenges at American Apparel. The shakeup comes one week after the company negotiated a break on loans with some of its lenders, narrowly fending off bankruptcy. Continue reading