Take a walk

They still call it MBWA – management by wandering around.

We hazard to guess the more successful companies and institutions in our midst make it a habit of checking in with staff. On that walk around the office or plant, you might hear about a nuisance that is affecting productivity or an idea for sales. Plugging in with staff, from the front desk through to management, keeps the big boss aware of what is going on.

Unfortunately, plenty of enterprises, often those with either a monopoly or a guaranteed stream of revenue, rarely feel compelled to chat with the minions. Customers?  Well, that’s a whole other story when the market is sewn up.

News that Manulife was walking back its plan to reward Loblaws with exclusive rights to sell certain drugs to preferred members caused us to pause and wonder: who comes up with this stuff?

This isn’t the first time we have scratched our head at boardroom decisions. It happens every day in business where choices are made on high, sent to lower tiers to enact and only when someone makes a stink does it get attention.

This Manulife/Loblaws deal had a whiff to it off the start. Two market-dominant actors appeared to be divvying up the spoils. That was obvious enough to Innovation Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne to tell reporters as the news broke that we need more competition in this country – more options, more choice, not less. 

Insurers and pharmacies in this case acted in their own interests, forsaking the true purpose of the effort, which is to provide access to prescription drugs.

A walk around town so to speak might have helped those charged with getting help out to needy patients across the country. Along with Shoppers and Loblaws, there are numerous independent and smaller pharmacies that provide a great service to residents. 

In fact, many of those are great community people as well, whether donating their time or funds to community betterment. Park improvements down the street from our office are a great example of good deeds by an independent operator.

This isn’t meant to classify all parties as villains, but it is high time business leaders show respect for customers and competitors. Executives and decision makers need to get out of the boardroom more often. 

Rather than focusing on simple math/profits, there are many other factors to consider as well. The most striking to us is an economy that works for many and has customers’ best interests at heart.