Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Buy Local - Not Rubber Lobsters

"...phenomenon called the 'Briefcase Syndrome' - it is an unfounded and almost laughable belief..."

So much has been touted about supporting local business, but it appears that this whole movement has us conditioned in thinking if we purchase a rubber lobster at a mom and pop souvenir shop that we have done our part. Or picking up a jar of strawberry jam at the local market is what all the hoopla is about. 

I do my best in my writing to keep my professional career out of my editorials, and I will do my best to keep my thoughts as generic as possible.. but I am near at the END OF MY ROPE with the hypocrisy of Provincial Governments and Large Privately owned local businesses.

Large Businesses - I don't think I need to name them, but my disappointment is focused on those multinational employers of thousands of people that have germinated from New Brunswick family enterprises into world leaders. I wont bother googling and putting links up here of endless press releases from their owners, leaders of "being proud to be a New Brunswick (or Atlantic) business", and the value they hold on being a local business. The pride of the people that helped them grow to world industrial leaders. How they tout government (and utility) grants and discounts under the flag of being a New Brunswick Company. They ask for our support and understanding as they steer local political directions. 

Provincial Government - We (as it really is our money) pay millions on retaining our local workers, grow tourism, "buy local" campaigns.. Millions and Millions of our dollars are spend annually based on the pride we have to live and work in New Brunswick.

All good right? Well, simply put, these folks standing making speeches (for both private and public enterprise) CLEARLY do not speak to the actual decision makers in their own organizations. Or, and hopefully this is not the case, have set a mandate to those decision makers inside their organizations to disregard all of their wordage and philosophy on supporting New Brunswick.

I work in a business that started with 3 entrepreneurs that ran the risk and went on their own into a very competitive market. A true success story - and now exists as a healthy Mid Sized Organization. Virtually every dollar of profit, is either spent or reinvested in New Brunswick.

I (in my line of business) count on business from these above mentioned Private and Public Clients. A New Brunswick company - offering goods and services to organizations that very loudly proclaim supporting New Brunswick Business. Seems a pretty good model. But it is a severely broken model.

NEVER would I suggest that ANY organization when selecting vendors for good and services, even consider choosing a vendor that is more expensive or in any way a lesser quality - as business is business and I cannot support that fact strong enough. I am not in the least bit irked when we are provided an opportunity to do business with the our New Brunswick customers, and for ANY reason are not the best pricing or the best quality. That is a free market and the way it should be.

HOWEVER, almost weekly I am made aware of contracts being signed, purchases being made, services being procured from the government or these Local Enterprises that we were not even invited to show our wares, provide a price, detail or offerings. And although difficult to gain access to the nature of these awards - on the occasion that I do find details, we can offer a much less expensive and higher quality product. But we were never invited to even be aware of the opportunity. I could even sleep at night if these awards were made to other New Brunswick grown companies.. But almost without exception they are awarded to US based vendors, or Central Canadian Vendors. 

HOW, HOW, HOW can these back room procurements of good and services be awarded endlessly by both Private and Public Enterprises without even making the slightest of efforts of considering a local vendor as a viable option. Again - not for a second am I suggesting favourable treatment.. I am suggesting that local companies are at the very least invited to state their offerings and costing.. If we cant compete, we cant compete - that is fair ball.. BUT PLEASE let us compete,

To listen or watch a CEO make a tear jerking presentation on how proud they and their family are to be New Brunswickers, and at that exact moment back in their corporate offices - procurements are being made from foreign suppliers, without providing any opportunity for local companies to even bid. 

I have (not to be too specific) worked for months making Public Sector Decision makers aware of lines of business that are available a 5 minute drive away from their offices.. Only to find out at a later date that they awarded a contract of the exact lines of business from a US based company without even making me aware that they were making the purchase. This is not a single occurrence -this is habitual.. and 180 degrees counter to what our elected officials are saying about supporting New Brunswick Businesses. 

THE QUESTION: Why do these purchases for goods and services get negotiated and awarded to foreign vendors. Primarily because of a phenomenon called the "Briefcase Syndrome" - it is an unfounded and almost laughable belief, that if good or services come from a bigger business hub (Toronto/New York/Japan etc) then they MUST be better. If a consultant gets off a plane, carrying his briefcase, then he is clearly more skilled and knowledgeable that a consultant that you may run across buying groceries at your local store. THUS, clearly if you want the best - then you better have the best come in from the airport. 

This belief as ridiculous as it is, is engrained in our government, and local multinationals. How would it ever be possible that New Brunswicker have same or better skills than someone from New York? So therefore our Industrialists born and raised in New Brunswick have no other choice than not even consider a New Brunswick business to do business with, and not even inviting them to the table... but my sarcasm is wearing to read so I will stop.

So what is there to do - I think reluctantly we need to let our Government and Large Enterprises continue with their hypocrisy, and begin to personally act on this. When we in our professional roles require good or services, certainly shop the International Vendors, but source a locally owned business and provide them an opportunity to compete. They may or may not be able to  - but providing them the chance is all that is needed. I would suggest, that as a local business, with a much more limited geographical base with provide much superior commitment behind their products - and a company who appreciates your business with almost always offer the most aggressive pricing and attention to detail. Give it a try. I do.


  1. The consumer is driven by purchase price and quality. Buying local could effect the provincial economy, boost job markets, and impact how corporations treat the environment. Generally it should improve our homes and the quality of our food.
    Should we always buy local? Yes, and we should give them a break. Maybe they cost more but they employ you brother? Maybe they laugh at your jokes when you go to their store on the wrong side of the river? That partnership is built on connecting and that can only happen in a community. We should personally market our communities’ products in conscious social media product presence. Help your neighbourhood business in heavy feedback about their products improvement.

    The exceptions to buying locally.

    - You get crossed off my list if you pollute.
    - I cross you from my friend’s list if you take your wealth off shore.
    - Any business that slips into heavy politics gets red flagged in my patronage system. Politics is contrary to keeping your eye on the ball and producing the best product available. Politics makes you do business with bureaucrats. Bureaucrats have become confused by their employers (politicians) lack of moral direction. Confused bureaucrats have started awarding contracts and political favours for reasons other than price and quality. Avoid this quagmire of spinning tires, business ethics have no traction here.
    - Buy with your heart. The same intuition that makes you able to decide on a person’s virtue instantly will guide your buy local list. Use pencils with erasers.

    1. Jeff - what a great comment!! I agree whole heartily, I do think local business have to strive to offer the best possible product. I sit on the fence on weather we should have a purchasing act that favours local vendors - as govt has an obligation to spend our money as frugal as possible, but a small percentage advantage on the public purchasing act, would actually be more responsible - as awards to local company means local income, local investments - ipso facto local taxes.. so the return to the local govt would offset a few percent advantage on the tendering process. Private companies have NO excuse to to provide an opportunity to bid on purchases... NO EXCUSE.. and more than that - they should be very willing to pay more.. as they get many benefits from Provincial Governments, that we pay very heavily into..