April 18, 2018

Real estate turns to tech to fill in labour market gaps

App manages labourers’ hours, pay and job performance for construction companies

Faber Technologies’ CEO, Sebastian Jacob, and chief revenue officer, John Reid | Chung Chow

Limits on the federal temporary foreign worker program, strains on the region’s transportation network and high housing costs for workers are putting the region on the path toward “crisis levels in terms of labour,” according to third-generation real estate developer Mike Bucci.

Conditions have gotten so bad in the past year the vice-president of Bucci Developments Ltd. is bringing in workers from his Calgary operations to finish up work on condos dotting the Metro Vancouver landscape.

But Faber Technologies CEO Sebastian Jacob isn’t counting on most developers to truck in workers from other provinces to meet deadlines.

“That trial-and-error process [of hiring new workers] doesn’t really need to happen,” said Jacob, whose startup is seizing on the local labour shortages to become an online cupid of sorts for construction companies in need of labourers.

But instead of connecting users for romantic pairings, Faber is using an online platform and mobile app to play matchmaker between developers and workers.

“This is on a flexible model,” Jacob said. “It may be people in school who may only want a couple of months in the summer to work who may not have a network in construction.”

The company has a pool of about 1,000 workers, mostly unskilled, that can connect with construction companies’ HR departments when they need labour on short notice.

Pay is determined on past experience and skills, which Faber verifies.

Non-skilled workers start at $18 an hour; skilled workers can make up to $36 hour.

Faber takes a percentage on the logged hours, and chief revenue officer John Reid told BIV the company is exploring removing the maximum limits on pay.

Meanwhile, the app tracks workers’ hours, skills, projects they’ve worked on and performance reviews from past contractors.

Companies then review the billed hours and pay an invoice at the end of a week.

Faber’s entry into the Vancouver market is a culmination of the CEO’s own job experience.

Jacob helped launch the restaurant food delivery app DoorDash in Vancouver beginning in 2015. Prior to that he worked for the leasing team at Bosa Properties Inc.

He said time spent with both the San Francisco-based tech company and the Vancouver real estate developer lent itself to understanding marketplace supply and demand for his current venture, which has been in development for about a year.

The Vancouver-based company got its start in the Silicon Valley, where Jacob and Reid began building the product and raising capital from American investors.

“A lot of them pushed us to stay out there and build it out of the U.S. and launch it from San Francisco,” Jacob said, “but we were pretty adamant that Vancouver was the market we wanted to help the most.”

Faber plans to expand to Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto by the end of 2018’s second quarter.

“There’s quite a scalability to their model in terms of opening up in other cities,” said Bucci, before adding that Faber still needs to build out its roster of workers to make it comparable to other temporary-labour agencies.

He said Vancouver’s labour shortages have forced him to get creative, which is why he’s using Faber in addition to bringing in workers from Alberta.

Although Calgary isn’t facing a shortage of temporary labourers, Bucci said he’s open to using the online labour marketplace when Faber launches in Alberta later this year.

“There’s some efficiencies to be wrung out of the temp-labour budget. We will spend, gosh, easily $1 million per project on temp labour,” he said.

“So if I can dial in 10%, 15% efficiencies on the temp-labour turnover and of course the management of their hours and all this fun stuff, that’s very worthwhile.” 


West Van designer follows father’s fashionable footsteps

Kwantlen fashion school graduate Emmanuelle de Raucourt wants to be shoe designer like her father | Photo: Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

A West Vancouver fashion designer is following in her father’s sartorial footsteps.

Emmanuelle de Raucourt’s ultimate goal is to become a women’s shoe designer.

On the heels of her graduation from Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Wilson School of Design, de Raucourt is dreaming big.

“I see myself as the third generation to enter the footwear business,” says de Raucourt, who graduated from West Vancouver Secondary in 2011.

Her grandfather had shoe factories in Spain and wholesaled his product around the world, while her father was the owner and designer behind Stéphane de Raucourt Shoes on Robson Street for two decades and now works for John Fluevog Shoes.

“Footwear, I guess you could say, is in my blood,” says de Raucourt, who would hang around her dad’s store as a kid. “I was definitely in awe of all the shoes, looking at the detail. I would wear them even though they were too big for me.”

De Raucourt’s Parisian-inspired clothing designs will be unveiled at the Wilson School of Design later this week, billed as B.C.’s biggest student fashion show.

“The Parisian culture and historic European architecture greatly inspired my collection, says de Raucourt.

“My clothes are designed to bring out the confidence and empowerment in the women who wear them.”

Called Heartstop, de Raucourt’s collection plays with textures and mixes bold colours that push the envelope. The line will be revealed over seven fashion shows at the new Wilson School of Design building on April 19 and 20.

One look de Raucourt designed marries a military jacket with a knit velvet body suit and a wool skirt.

“I’m kind of playing around with a lot of different fabric and textures,” she explains.

De Raucourt developed Heartstop as part of her final project before graduating from KPU’s four-year fashion design and technology program, which includes rigorous studio-based design education and a capstone project involving extensive market and design research.

“A of people think fashion is like you get to come to school and just sketch all day,” says de Raucourt, explaining the program is more complex and intensive than that.

After graduating from fashion school, de Raucourt will get back on her feet and look at exploring the production side of the industry in Europe.

North Shore News


Tim Hortons: the decline and fall of an iconic Canadian brand

The bad news keeps piling up for Tim Hortons.

Leger and National Public Relations recently released their annual report ranking Canada’s most admired companies.

Google and Shoppers Drug Mart topped the rankings of most-respected companies, regardless of where the company resides. Google has been No. 1 for six years. Kellogg’s, in eighth place, is the most respected food company in Canada. Campbell’s and Kraft, two other food companies, closed out the top 10.

Despite bread price collusion accusations, Sobeys went up 10 places and remained the most admired grocer, while Subway was recognized in the food service category.

Other food companies were on the move. Heinz, affected by the closing of the Leamington, Ontario, plant and subsequent ketchup wars a few years ago, rose from 23 to 13. All other companies in the food sector either remained static or dropped. Retailers Costco and Loblaw barely moved this year, while General Mills, McCain Foods and McDonald’s all fell in rankings.

But Tim Hortons’ year was just plain awful.

It went from No. 4 to No. 50 in just 12 months. This free fall can be linked to the very public spat between Tim Hortons franchisees and the parent company, Restaurant Brands International (RBI).

RBI has been at war with Tim Hortons franchisees since 2014, when the holding company was created, and things have got progressively worse. While franchise owners – family businesses, really – were committed to serving communities, RBI swooped in with an efficiency-driven agenda.

Menu changes, royalty structure modifications and higher costs of supplies to operate outlets were all changes designed to serve RBI’s shareholders, and they paid off. The share price hit a record high in October 2017 at $85.

RBI’s ultimate commitment has been to its shareholders and not necessarily to the Canadian public. This year’s Leger-National rankings confirm that Canadians have been keeping tabs.

But RBI’s profit-driven agenda has started to work against it. The $15-an-hour minimum wage campaign made Tim Hortons a public target across the country. Leaked memos suggested that in Ontario, where the minimum wage increased by 22% on January 1, some Tim Hortons employees were asked to pay for uniforms and cut out breaks. While other food chains were adapting well, the rift between RBI and its franchise owners in Ontario became even more evident to the Canadian public.

However, even though RBI’s strategy has been all about profitability for the holding company, its share price has taken a hit since its peak in October 2017. Sales are slumping, and RBI’s share values have fallen to nearly $70 from $85 and could drop further.

RBI’s response is to invest $700 million over the next four years to change the interior design of Tim Hortons restaurants. But most franchise owners will be required to pay more than $450,000 per outlet toward renovation.

Given that the average Tim Hortons franchisee owns three outlets, the cost to support RBI’s new redesign strategy will be well over $1 million for a typical franchise owner.

RBI’s message to franchisees is quite simple: pay up or leave.

RBI clearly wants to renew its portfolio of franchisees and deal with operators who are more inclined to buy into the parent company’s philosophy.

It’s not a great move on RBI’s part, if reputation is a metric it cares about.

The Leger-National survey looks at perceived financial stability, corporate social responsibility, honesty, transparency, quality and innovation. It might not measure how nationalistic ideals affect Canadians’ perception of companies at home, but this factor clearly skews rankings. In Tim Hortons’ case, the brand is inherently linked to our perception of how it honours Canadian values. Canadian Tire, for example, remained third in the survey, arguably because the brand is so entrenched with how respondents perceive their own country. It’s as simple as that.

Essentially, the survey tells us that Tim Hortons is no longer seen as a Canadian company by the public.

Franchisees have known for a while that RBI is disconnected from Canadian beliefs and has distanced itself from Canada and from the restaurant business. Most RBI executives aren’t Canadian, and most employees at head office have never owned, managed or even worked at a restaurant, let alone at a food service facility in Canada.

Since the RBI takeover, the traditional uniforms, the successful Roll Up the Rim to Win campaign and the welcoming smiles hid the troubling truth about the Tim Hortons conversion into a foreign company.

RBI, which also owns Burger King and Popeyes, has its head office in Oakville, Ontario, where Tim Hortons’ main operations used to be. Rumours suggest RBI will move to the United States to take advantage of a more fiscal-friendly environment created by reforms there.

But most Canadians already see Tim Hortons as a foreign company.

The brand will survive, but things will never be the same. 

Sylvain Charlebois is dean of the faculty of management and a professor in the faculty of agriculture at Dalhousie University, senior fellow with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and author of Food Safety, Risk Intelligence and Benchmarking, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2017).



Disruption reveals B.C. market full of innovative opportunities

We've seen remarkable change in our lifetimes, but what we’re experiencing now is different. It’s not just evolutionary change; it’s transformative change that requires us to alter our patterns of behaviour and learn new skills.

We recently wrapped up the 17th annual B.C. Middle Market Growth Conference, where we tackled the overwhelming topic of disruption. This concept wasn’t new to our audience, but so much of what we hear and read about disruption is conceptual – about things that could happen, or technologies with disruptive potential.

What’s missing from the conversation is how disruption is already transforming industries here in B.C. and reshaping the lives of the people who do business here. So, we gathered local entrepreneurs, deal-makers, financiers and financial executives – along with internationally renowned speakers – to talk about the trends unfolding in our market right now.

Here’s what we learned.

Transportation has already shifted gears. One of the big highlights of the day was the panel on autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs), which have the potential for a large ripple effect – disrupting other industries along the way. For example: How does insurance work with driverless cars? Or car dealerships: will we still own our cars and SUVs? How will our urban landscape change: what becomes of parking lots? While it might be 10 to 15 years before AEVs become ubiquitous, the technology has already become inextricably linked to city planning, safety and logistics.

Investing requires unprecedented flexibility. Today’s investors have to capitalize on opportunity as the landscape shifts before them. This means client demands are changing rapidly. Mainstream institutional and high-net-worth clients want to explore alternatives to traditional asset management. This means using previously under-represented asset classes like exchange-traded funds, hedge funds and private equity. More traditional asset managers have responded by reassessing every aspect of their business, from fees and operating models to diversifying the products in their portfolios. To stay nimble, firms are relying on emerging technology, including big-data analytics and artificial intelligence to generate higher risk-adjusted returns.

The deal-making landscape is shifting. The role of a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) adviser has not fundamentally changed in more than 30 years. After years of stagnation in innovation, data-room providers are now bringing technology to the forefront of deals. Using big data, providers can “score” the marketing memorandums crafted by M&A advisers. What’s more, these same groups are keeping track of the bidding behaviours of buyer groups – including private equity – providing data on bidding patterns to help advisers qualify potential buyers in the global marketplace.

Financial crime is getting harder to pull off. This year’s keynote speaker was Christine Duhaime, founder of the Digital Finance Institute and partner at Duhaime Law. The discussion began by educating attendees on blockchain and its application in digital currency. Until now, blockchain has mainly been used by those who try to transfer money illegally, but the double-sided ledger will change everything when it comes to fighting financial crime and corruption. The next step, according to Duhaime, is working together on a global set of values that allow for increased protection. She used Vancouver’s fentanyl crisis as a case study to illustrate how blockchain could be used to make an impact beyond serving as an alternative form of payment.

When it comes to disruption, first-mover is not an advantage. While many companies are innovative, few are disruptive. One of our panels featured Matt Switzer, chief operating officer of Hootsuite; Penny Green, co-founder and director of Glance Technologies; and Tony Guglielmin, chief financial officer of Ballard Power Systems – all from disruptive local businesses influencing change globally.

All agreed that, when it comes to disruption, first-mover advantage is overrated. Instead, it’s better to be the ninth or 10th player in the market to learn from what others have done and where they have made missteps. Many first-movers are so far ahead of the curve, they launch before the market is ready for their product or idea. Those who come later are often better positioned to reap the rewards.

The B.C. Middle Market Growth Conference revealed a number of interesting dynamics, but the common thread was that B.C. is full of opportunities to innovate and inspire. We’re not just following the status quo. We have some of the greatest minds and all kinds of companies innovating across different sectors, searching for that disruptive moment. We have a lot to learn from each other and a lot to accomplish by working together. 

Aleem Jinnah is director of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) and chairman of the B.C. Middle Market Growth Conference, the signature annual event put on by the ACG. He’s also vice-president with Deloitte Corporate Finance Inc.