Would you pony up cash for a ski resort in a desert?

What does the billions of dollars bust of Dubai mean for North Americans? First of all, it is a reminder that our global economy is still fragile and interlinked. Secondly, it is the British banks who were one of the main lenders to the troubled, slowly deflating, glittering and formerly fabulous Dubai. So North America will be relatively unscathed.

Finally, for North American business, a strong message is to get back to basics where you know your clients.

The important question to ask is who is the customer? British banks made assumptions that the Dubai sheiks had oil, that the price of oil would continue to climb and so sure, they would be good to pay back the loans. These bankers did not do sufficient risk analysis.

The other critical question to ask is use of proceeds. Did these bankers ask, “What are you going to use the loan for?”

"Hmmm...let me see, you are going to build a ski resort in the middle of the dessert? How good will the pay back be for that expensive project?”

A little bit of market research would have helped. If a ski resort in a hot place was such a good idea, I’m sure Vegas would have done it already.

I also recommend the last question to ask is if you, the loans executive, personally, would make the loan. This is not in the manual. However, by briefly contemplating whether you would give your own money to the project idea does push your thinking to a more sensible place. This artificial question perhaps, but briefly gives an alignment of interests. Perhaps if the loans executives were asked to assign some of their bonus to the loan repayment, it might have saved the British tax payer (who are now the proud owners of said banks) yet more pain.

For North Americans, check your executive compensation packages. Study how these British bankers were being paid for the amount of loans they made. Were they made into mercenaries, more interested in getting paid a bonus than watching for clear signals the loan might not get repaid?

Now the British tax payer is backstopping these defaults, but they do not have a ski resort in the middle of the desert as compensation.

Dubai should not affect Canada too much. Canadian bank stocks have gone up and we have a commodity backed currency.

Is it time to invest in property?

Not a chance, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation is creating a Fannie Mae, Fannie Mac house disaster. This impending crisis should be front-page news.

Low interest rates and the government Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) dramatic increase in mortgage backstopping for people who put only 5% down is creating a Canadian housing bubble that will echo that horrible popping sound of the USA housing market.

In January, CMHC was allowed to insure up to C$600-billion in mortgages, up from C$450 billion the year before. This was done in the dark days

Making housing affordable is a noble cause for any government or bank, however doing it by allowing for easy lending does not work at all and we see it in the US. All it does is let people borrow more ultimately as we are seeing right now, it is driving house prices skywards. It is a well meaning government program but it is distorting the markets. What it means for any tax paying Canadian is that housing risk is carried by the taxpayer here in Canada.

If you compare average salaries to average house prices it just doesn't add up, especially in bubble cities such as Vancouver. Clerks and baristas buying shoe box condos for over 300K is a disaster waiting to happen. In Vancouver it is going to end particularly badly, whichever way it pans out.

The CMHC has disturbing similarities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which helped set up the US housing bubble. The issues raised were solvency because of the ease of credit, market distortion as well as the fact that CMHC represents an indirect and increasing bailout to Canada’s profitable banks.

In the end, someone ‘always’ has to pay. Otherwise, the result will be similar to the US with increased foreclosures and taxes. That someone is the tax payer. I don't want my children to have to pay for our train wreck. While I do enjoy the company of my sons, I don't want them living with me until they are in their mid-thirties.

The CMHC is a sacred cow and it needs to be barbequed.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

The Billionaire List is out again - any surprises?

The billionaires list is out again and any surprises?

When I looked at the Canadians who made the Billionaires list, I was blown away by how many self-made entrepreneurs made the list. You know they had start-up ventures, went out begging for money, took big risks and had sleepless nights.

Many people think billionaires are tainted and got their money through corrupt means but in Canada you can see that is just not true. The billionaires are Canadian entrepreneurs who figured out how to take their product outside of Canada to the world.

The Canadian Billionaires are so accessible too. It is remarkable that I have met so many of them in person, they were not surrounded by an entourage seen in other countries; and it’s not because I am some big wig. Far from it!

Jimmie Patterson started as a bell hop at a hotel and says that is what taught him how to do business and who mentors young business people whenever he can.

There’s Guy Laliberte who bankrolled Cirque du Soleil by walking across Quebec on stilts eating fire and asking people to invest in him. He’s now keeping Vegas going.

Gerry Shwartz, a highly thought of private equity leader who acts with great integrity, growing companies with a positive spirit. He’s no Donald Trump or Goldman Sachs type.

Michael Lee-Chin, classic entrepreneur story from Jamaica and he is donated $30M to ROM demonstrating responsibility to the community.

Jim Balsillie of RIM and the Blackberry, was the Angel investor who stayed. He and Mike are creating an Ontario technology powerhouse with their work with universities and start-ups. Jim gives his time to talk at conferences for start-ups and the early stage market. He coaches young entrepreneurs too. I remember seeing him at a conference where he was urging young entrepreneurs to get up and ask him questions, to be more pushy. He also gave me time for a book I was writing on technology.

There’s Jeff Skoll, of e-Bay, creating an out of the box Internet service which started with him just trying to be helpful to his girlfriend.

It is all achievable for every Canadian. You don’t need connections. You don’t need to be corrupt. You do not need to be born into the right family. You do not a costly university degree.

It also shows Canadians taking their brand to the world – eBay, Cirque du Soleil, Rim. Every Canadian entrepreneur should be excited and inspired by this list.

Canadian Billionaires

The Thomson family (The Thomson Corporation) $24.41 billion[1]

Galen G. Weston, George Weston, W. Garfield Weston (food/fashion) $7.7 billion [2]

Arthur Irving, James Irving, John Irving (natural resources) $5.45 billion[3]

Jim Balsillie (Research in Motion) $5.6 billion[4]

Edward Samuel Rogers, Rogers Communications Inc $4.54 billion (Deceased December 2, 2008) [3]

Paul Desmarais and family (Power Corporation of Canada) $4.41 billion[3]

James (Jimmy) Pattison (founder of Jim Pattison Group) $4.17 billion[3]

Jeffrey Skoll (eBay) $3.93 billion[3]

Mike Lazaridis (Research in Motion) $3.6 billion[4]

Saputo Family (Saputo Inc.), Montreal: $2.78 billion[3]

Michael Lee-Chin (AIC Group) $2.6 billion[3]

Bernard Sherman (Apotex Group of Cos.) $3.23 billion[3]

David Azrieli $2.44 billion[3]

Fred and Ron Mannix $2.38 billion[3]

Daryl Katz (Rexall Pharmacies / Edmonton Oilers) $2.37 billion

Gerald Schwartz (Onex Corp) $1.57 billion[3]

Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil) $1.5 billion

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

Horror movie

This little video is actually frightening to watch. It is the unemployment trends of America as the recession takes hold. Interesting how the center of the country is impacted less - is that because of population or types of jobs?

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

Take a leaf out of Wal-Mart's play book

Wal-Mart’s growth got everyone excited until you see that the increase in revenues is from their growth in Asia. Before you get all depressed, learn from the winners in business. That translates to - Take a leaf out of Wal-Mart’s book.

Your strategy needs to include Asia.

Now again, do not get in a panic because this seems so enormous. Start by planning to take a Chinese or Indian business connection to dinner. Talk about your business. Could this person tell you about a similar business in China? Could they introduce you to someone there? You do not have to fly over there either; you can use Skype video conference.

Maybe explore if you could set up a relationship where you could list their phone number on your brochure? You might never do any business or get any referrals, but think about how your brochure would look with “Offices in Toronto – Beijing – Bombay”. Then if your clients needed a connection in those countries, you have a referral point and at the same time, you are beginning to have Asia in your company.

Business is baby steps.

A client of mine, manufactures and distributes light bulbs. He lives in Montreal and twenty years ago he did just that – took a Chinese buddy to dinner. This contact introduced him to a manufacturer in China and the business relationship grew. The Montreal business owner began small. Today, this Montreal light bulb company is the largest supplier to Wal-Mart of green light bulbs. See...baby steps. Make a call today and have dinner with an Asian buddy.

Jacoline Loewen, strategy consulting, Loewen & Partners.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

Does OPEC mean Canadian busineses should shift away from the USA?

OPEC is holding a big summit this weekend. Does this mean Canadian companies should swing away from America and look to Asia as their main trading partner?

America is still the largest economy in the world and will continue to be a great marketplace. No question, American entrepreneurs are beaten down psychologically right now. I am working with clients to do acquisitions there and they are keen to do business. it is worth taking a re-look.

But also, no doubt that Asia must be in every business owners’ strategy. That can mean the business owner plans to have on their "To Do" list to make one Asian connection. This could be by using Linkedin (Facebook for business) to chat with Asian connections or join an Asian Business Group.

All big business started with one single human conversation.

Tell your City councellor to organize a summit – call it Asian Business Summit.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays. Loewen, Money Magnet - How to Attract Investors to Your Business

Do we need a job summit?

With the job loss figures out, does Canada need a Job Summit? Obama will be holding a job summit, what about here in Canada?

Turns out that our Our Canadian government has been doing a great deal to support job growth for years. Obama needs a better marketing expert because it should be called Entrepreneur Summit or Small Business Summit because these are the sustainable jobs that grow a country’s future wealth.

Our government is sending junkets to India where our entrepreneurs can meet Indian business owners interested in Canada and the trade consulate to smooth the way. In addition, we have the Export Development Corporation (EDC) which helps even further.

One of my clients has begun to sell motors to China and it is stretching his cash flow. His bank would not take on that risk. Quite right. The EDC, though, worked with the business owner and his business plan and backed 80% of the loan. Then the bank was confident that the risk was better and gave the loan. The entrepreneur has the comfort that the risk of doing business in China will not bankrupt him and now he can take the small steps to grow.

The government gave CYBF $20 million. I work with this foundation and we give loans of $10,000 to young entrepreneurs along with a mentor. Many of those entrepreneurs went on Dragons’ Den and got deals with the Dragons and those create good jobs for businesses.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

Does our Canadian Government need to do a job summit like Obama?

With the job loss figures out, does Canada need a Job Summit? Obama will be holding a job summit, what about here in Canada?

Turns out that our Canadian government has been doing a great deal to support job growth for years. Except our government recognizes that jobs come from small and mid-sized businesses, not government. Obama needs a better marketing expert because his Job Summit should actually be called Entrepreneur Summit or Small Business Summit because these are the sustainable jobs that grow a country’s future wealth.

Our Canadian government is sending junkets to India where our entrepreneurs can meet Indian business owners interested in Canada and the trade consulate to smooth the way. In addition, we have the Export Development Corporation (EDC) which helps even further by guaranteeing 80% of bank loans for export cash flow. Entrepreneurs appreciate the risk being carried by government, and banks love it because they can continue providing cash but with an 80% reduction in risk. Canadians appreciate it because this government support means jobs for Canadians. How great is that synergy?

One of my clients has begun to sell motors to China and it is stretching his cash flow. His bank would not take on that risk. Quite right. The EDC, though, worked with the business owner and his business plan and backed 80% of the loan. Then the bank was confident that the risk was better and gave the loan. The entrepreneur has the comfort that the risk of doing business in China will not bankrupt him and now he can take the small steps to grow.

The government gave CYBF $20 million. I work with this foundation and we give loans of $10,000 to young entrepreneurs along with a mentor. Many of those entrepreneurs went on Dragons’ Den and got deals with the Dragons and those create good jobs for businesses. Thanks to our government. I was at a business summit in Toronto and heard Tony Clement say, "We in the government want to help business and then get the hell out of the way."

Sounds good, Tony! I think the government s doing a great job and this is one entrepreneur who appreciates it.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity, Toronto.

When do you raise capital?

A big decision for business owners is whether to take outside capital. Let's assume you've decided to go ahead and raise outside money. When do you do it?

Here's the short answer, which is written in stone for all private equity people on Bay Street: Raise money when you can, not when you have to.

What does that mean?

It means raise money when economic conditions mean that private equity investors or lenders are pitching you. Raising money means selling a piece of your business (equity) or making a lender confident that you have the cash flow to pay back a loan (debt). You will find the situation much more pleasant in a seller's market rather than a buyer's market.

As with every other kind of market, capital markets go through cycles. At the peak of these cycles, such as 2007, so many investors are trying to put cash to work that money is cheap and terms are good. At the bottom of these cycles, meanwhile, such as from October to last spring, investors can tell you whatever terms they want because you need the cash.

Similarly, the attractiveness of investing in businesses goes through cycles. Nothing is more attractive to an investor than a company that doesn't need money. Then the investor feels privileged to be “allowed” to invest. I hear from prospective clients that they do not need money and that is exactly when to bring in private equity and boost your bottom line while taking risk off the table.

Bob Roy, Roynat, used to say, “Go and ask for money when you have a tan.” Along the same lines, nothing is less attractive than a company that needs money desperately and is talking up a storm to anyone.

So, from the perspective of a business owner, the best time to raise money is in a white-hot capital market when you do not really need it. In these periods, you should raise more money than you think you'll ever need.

The worst time to raise money, meanwhile, is at the bottom of the cycle when you're running low on cash. If you wait until then to start fund-raising, you will be forced into needlessly painful situations. Perhaps you will take debt at a higher rate or you may have to give up part of your business you did not plan to give. This is not a position of strength.

Of course, when times are good, many entrepreneurs make a common mistake: They plan the revenues for the year ahead based on the past few years growth. In doing so, they base their outlook for future cash requirements on this past success, instead of asking what would happen if, say, their revenue got cut in half. So, when the cycle turns, they get shocked and cannot believe their good times have stopped and they suddenly need money just to survive. We saw this unhappy situation with more than a few clients who could have avoided their cash squeeze.

Raising money when you can instead of when you need to means avoiding this mistake.

Never assume that good times will continue forever - because they won't. Instead, when everything is going smoothly, ask yourself how much cash you would need if the economy suddenly collapsed. And if someone is willing to give that money to you on reasonable terms, take it.

With the markets running now and interest rates unlikely to rise, now is a good time to raise capital. Give Loewen & Partners a call to help you raise capital.

Tim Hockey, TD Canada Trust, says stock options makes mercenaries of us

The SpencerStuart panel on executive compensation warmly applauded Tim Hockey and humanistic approach to executive compensation. Here are a few of Tim's key points:

Tim Hockey, Group Head, Canadian Banking, President and CEO, TD Canada Trust, says that executive compensation needs to be carefully balanced or else it can make mercenaries out of us all. Tim used the scale of “Patriot versus Mercenary” as a range of behaviours exhibited by management. In banking circles, a retail banker is a Patriot who does it for the community and on the other side is the investment banker who seeks revenue in the same manner as that of a Mercenary. Tim says that human capital must be made to be worth more.

What is the role of a business? As Peter Drucker says, it is to fulfil a customer’s unmet needs and get rewarded. At TD, every executive is compensated on customer satisfaction. If an executive is "incentivized" only on the stock price, that would not fit the TD culture. At TD, executives are to act in a Patriot way.

Jacoline Loewen, private equity expert, author of Money Magnet, panel of CBC show - Dollar Signs with Dianne Buckner on at 1:30 Saturdays.

David O'Brian says CEOs must be trustees of a business

More from the SpencerStuart Executive Compensation panel. Here is David O'Brian:

David O’Brian, Chairman of the Board, Royal Bank of Canada and EnCana Corporation, said in his time as CEO of Canadian Pacific that executives were more like trustees of a company than the types to "game the game" just to drive up the stock price. It is better to align management with shareholders interests and that although stock options have not worked well across the board, it would be foolish to throw out the baby with the bath water. David disagreed that CEOs would hype the stock although he did agree that the stock market could be a bit of a casino.The method of pay and the level of pay both play a part of it, and CEOs have been divided about it. How much do you have to pay to attract talent? This is a societal issue too.When looking at compensation, you want to reward for performance and judge it by net income before tax, level of employee engagement. At EnCana, customer satisfaction will not play a role but oil price and low costs of production is key.

When I was a CEO, I did not ask myself every day, “How can I maximize shareholder value?” Instead, I would ask, “How can I make this business model work better?” That is the nature of that business in comparison to banking, for example.Stock options can be part of the package but these need to be long term.

As Warren Buffet said, “In the short term, the stock market is a voting machine, but in the long term it is a weighing machine”. Compensation needs to be on the long term performance of the company.Restricted stock and deferred shares are better than stock options which give huge leverage. You can remove stock options but our tax system encourages short term stock options. Long term tax deferred past three years is not allowed and this needs to be changed.Senior executives should have share options deferred, but we also have to realize that they need the benefits of the job while they are in their high spending years of their families and lives.Originally, stock options were created for start up technology firms and oil & gas exploration companies who could not afford to retain the talent of executive they needed. This deferred cash payment was not an expense as there was nothing to expense it against. For executive compensation, as part of the package, stock options should be de-emphasized.

Roger Martin, Rotman, asks whether executives "gamed the game" because of their stock options?

With the US Government’s Pay Czar taking unprecedented action in cutting bankers’ salaries and bonuses, the go-go years seem a faded memory. Executive compensation is now a hot topic. What is fair pay and how should talent be rewarded? What went right and what went so badly awry? SpencerStuart, Canada’s top recruitment company, held a fascinating panel with heavy hitters Roger Martin, David O’Brian and Tim Hockey dissecting the past thirty years of corporate performance and how this will affect executive compensation in the years to come. Roger Martin shifted my thinking on compensation and since I am designing pay for a top CFO and COO in a public company right now, even changed the compensation plan. Here are some random takeaways from Roger Martin:

Roger Martin: The evidence is damning that the stakeholders doing very well from the Standard & Poor top 360 companies listed in the New York stock exchange are not the shareholders but the managers. Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman Business School, ran the statistics of management compensation and discovered that between 1980 to 1990, CEO compensation doubled for each dollar of income produced. In other words, CEOs did unbelievably well.

No big deal, you may say, but how about shareholders? How did they fare in the same time period? The shocking picture that emerges is that, no, shareholders did not do as well. The performance of companies worsened and the returns were worse than the previous period. What happened in this time period was that there was an article written in 1976 by Michael C. Jensen and William H. Meckling, discussing the merits of stock options. This philosophy of aligning executive interests with shareholders caught fire and within years, every Standard & Poor CEO wanted stock options as part of their compensation package.

Why? Don’t stock options make sense?

On the surface, stock options seemed like a great idea but as with many well meaning programs, they had unintended consequences. Jensen and Meckling said that it was good to get employees’ interests aligned with the shareholder interests and that seems to make good sense. However, the CEOs realized that one way to get share price up (improving stock options), was to boost shareholder expectations by raising the dreams of future performance. After all, what is a stock? It is a collective expectation of future performance. This hyping of the stock soon became the top way to raise the price, not through hard work and actual growth. Smart CEOs figured this out.They learned to game the game.

Roger Martin says that this thinking clouded CEOs’ behaviour. A CEO would do a flurry of activities. Do acquisitions that never pay off. Do aggressive accounting to change the value on the balance sheet. Expectations raced ahead of value. The CEOs knew they could not beat the expectations and needed to run up the stock, cash out and get out quickly. Consequently, Roger Martin believes that stock based compensation further diverges interests of shareholders and CEOs, and should be removed as a tool from a CEO compensation. Unless the stocks can only be recouped years after retirement, stocks should not be used as a reward.

Chrystia Freeland, US Managing Editor of Financial Times, thanked Roger Martin and commented that Facebook is a stock that is priced on future expectation. The Facebook CEO says not think of it as a business but as a service, but it has yet to make a profit. I think Rotman will pull ahead to be the leader in the MBA pack because we are fortunate to have erudite and involved Dean like Roger Martin who gets out into the real world and debates with the big hitters in industry. I like Roger's gutsy style and I recommend you buy his books to get more of his views. I changed my actions and so will you.

Death of Macho?

Not since the movie Wall Street, have financial bankers been tarred with such an ugly brush as during this recession. The shock waves have sent cracks into the foundation of the world of finance and there is definitely a great deal of self examination going on in Board rooms, and universities. Some are calling for the end of macho, saying it was this aggressive, male-dominated attitude of Wall Street that took us on this wild and devastating ride.

It is true that 80% of job losses in the US are male dominated roles in manufacturing and construction, leaving women to step into the bread winner role within their families. Reihan Salam believes the end of macho began years ago and that there has been a quiet revolution where power has shifted from men to women in the Western world. He says the Great Recession has sped up this transfer, “The consequence will be not only a mortal blow to the macho men’s club called finance capitalism that got the world into the current economic catastrophe; it will be a collective crisis for millions and millions of working men around the globe.”

Having seen financial instruments level their economy, Reihan Salam points out how the people of Iceland replaced their President with a woman who some say, brings a calmer and more level headed approach.

When it comes to Toronto's finance world, there has always been a wide spread between the type of males who dominate. Tim Hockey, President & CEO of TD Canada Trust, describes the range as Patriots and Mercenaries, with Patriots being the people at the branches working for their communities, while investment bankers need to seek out the revenue which requires a more "Mercenary" nature. Tarring them all with a macho brush is simply not valid.

Financial men are very diverse in character. Sure, you have the macho cowboys; but there are many intelligent, hand firmly on the rudder types too, who are strong, determined and have the energy to do the long hours. Ironically, their positions may be the first roles to get filled by women in the future because in my experience, these men help women get ahead. They want the skills for their teams and are not threatened by smart women. I have also observed that the finance community in Canada does work hard to get women up the career ladders.

I believe the trading floor where the adrenaline flows, will be the last position to be filled for women. It's not because men keep women out, it's because women self-select themselves out of direct sales and trading positions. Again, a trader needs to be more mercenary and aggressive; they are paid to take risks within the boundaries. The ability to take risk is what gives a competitive advantage.

I have two sons so I am very aware of the feminizing of boys in our culture. And I have to work hard to make my boys happy to be aggressive through sports, debating and martial arts, etc. Girls in Canada are now getting sports training too and are encouraged to debate and compete, so young females are changing. There will be female Madoffs in the future too. Women are not perfectly behaved, thoughtful, compassionate creatures who will not want to be greedy. We are just getting going because the birth control pill only started in our life times. Give it a few more decades.

So maybe Reihem Salam is right and that macho is at an end but I think that is a rather idealistic and sexist view and ask if women will prove to be any different in the long run?

blog at http://www.moneymagnetbook.blogspot.com

Jacoline Loewen, (jbloewen@loewenpartners.com) is a partner in a private equity firm, Loewen & Partners, dedicated to raising capital for family business owners and developing their growth strategies.

If a family business wants to remain competitive

Family business is profitable and brings many rewards, but it can also be very tricky when bumping into bottlenecks caused by gaps in staffing.
Family-owned companies present special challenges to those who run them. The reason? They can be quirky, developing unique cultures and procedures as they grow and mature. That's fine, as long as they continue to be managed by people who are steeped in the traditions, or at least able to adapt to them. But what happens when a firm grows to a point that it must hire outside professional help to remain competitive? That can be a difficult task for all involved.
Just ask Melanie Kau.
Stewart Thornhill at
The National Post has a great case study. Read here for more details:
Contributing experts weighing up the case are Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet and a partner with Loewen & Partners as well as Rick Howard of Zodiac Swimming Camp.
http://www.financialpost.com/scripts/story.html?id=2176257

We swaggered and rode high but not any more...

Private equity used to be the Gods of the world of finance but that has changed.
Now, the US Government knows better than a Board of Directors and the CEO how much to pay staff. These changes in public attitude and more about the business world are topics of discussion with Tony James, the head of Blackstone, private equity's leading investor over the past decade.
See Video below:
http://www.ft.com/cms/8a38c684-2a26-11dc-9208-000b5df10621.html?_i_referralObject=11076613&fromSearch=n

Jacoline Loewen