Right time, right place, good luck

Donald J. Savoie has written an excellent book about an entrepreneur who deserves to be celebrated. The book, Harrison McCain: Single-Minded Purpose (McGill-Queen’s), tells how Harrison and his brother Wallace, built McCain Foods from a rural startup in backwater New Brunswick to a global powerhouse that makes and sells one-third of all the french fries in the world. “One world, one fry,” was the company motto. From a profit of $1,822 in its first year of operation in the 1950s, McCain Foods has annual revenues of more than $6 billion today. Savoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Public...

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Borderline personality

I have a confession to make. When I was bureau chief (and all the Indians) for The Financial Post in Washington, D.C. from 1989-93, there were occasions when I would make news happen. Here’s how it would work. If by 11 a.m. I couldn’t see an obvious story that would interest my editors, I’d phone around. There were three sure-fire calls. One was a guy I knew at a U.S. organization that had a long-standing trade fight with Canada. I won’t name him. It’s OK to embarrass myself, but I’m not going to snitch on someone else. I’d ask him...

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Direct import

There must be no other country in the world that publishes and broadcasts more news and feature articles holus-bolus from a single foreign source than Canada does from the United States. If KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City has footage of a tornado near the tiny town of Broken Arrow, CBC and CTV will run it on their national broadcasts. Wildfires in the Hollywood Hills are another favourite. The footage is so easy; the fires just keep burning. And the cost is low to fill one-minute-thirty in the newscast. Some Canadian newspapers even have special package deals. The Sunday edition of the...

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What’s in a name?

Of all the crusades under way, surely the silliest must be the one against the names of certain teams. Native Americans and their supporters complain about Chief Wahoo, the cheerful image of the Cleveland Indians. This season, such forces made progress – if it can be called that – when the Chief was officially replaced on batting helmets by the most mundane C ever designed. For the time being, his grinning face still appears on the shirt.  Now the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has dubbed the name of the Washington Redskins “disparaging.” What next? Will someone try to outlaw the war...

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Flagged out

With the World Cup starting today, excitement has reached such a fever pitch that the New York Times Sunday Magazine couldn’t decide which soccer star to put on the cover. So they printed three versions using Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Neymar of Brazil, or Lionel Messi of Argentina. (I got Ronaldo on my copy.) I must admit that soccer is lost on me. It’s down there with cricket, a game that can go on for five days without declaring a winner. In soccer, sixty minutes can drone by without a goal. And don’t get me started on the corruption. How can...

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The clinical view

I had occasion recently to see a doctor at a clinic. (Spoiler alert: I’m fine.) Because it was a teaching hospital, the doctor was accompanied by another doctor and four residents, all eager to learn. You feel like a bit of a guinea pig, sitting there in your socks and hospital gown that’s impossible to tie up, while the doctor uses you to show the residents symptoms you do or do not have. Finally, he gets around to what you came for: the diagnosis. Afterward, I got thinking, why don’t other institutions and corporations follow a similar methodology? We have...

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The newest billionaire

Canada’s newest billionaire is Frank Hasenfratz, founder and chairman of Linamar Corp. Linamar share price at the close of trading today was $65.41 which means his 15.3 million shares are worth $1 billion. The number is all the more remarkable given that those shares were worth $750 million just three months ago. Hasenfratz, the focus of a book written in 2012 by Susan M. Papp and me, Driven to Succeed, founded Linamar in 1966. He had a lathe, for which he paid $1,000, that he operated in the basement of his home. As the sole employee his first contract was...

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Globe trotters

As a former winner of the National Business Book Award (1997 for Who Killed Confederation Life?) I always keep a close eye on the annual prize. The award has been around since 1986 and the belief always was that it was rigged in that you couldn’t win twice. This year’s winner proved that old shibboleth wrong. The award went to Jacquie McNish and Jim Leech for The Third Rail, a book about pensions, not the sexiest topic ever. McNish previously won in 2004 for Wrong Way: The Fall of Conrad Black. She had a collaborator then, too, in Sinclair Stewart. It’s...

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