Looking Back at 2018… and the Year Ahead


As shorter days mark the conclusion of another year, one can’t help but take stock of the many events, accomplishments and lessons 2018 had to share.

All in all, it was a good year. An excellent year for businesses, many markets and the community. Hopefully, a remarkable one for each of you.

In North America, we experienced what’s been reported to be the longest bull market in modern financial history. The Dow hit a record high in October, and corporations have recorded profits.

Sectors of our economy are operating at full speed. We experienced record low unemployment in Canada. In fact, throughout most of the year, unemployment in Canada was steady at 5.8% — and we began the year at the lowest unemployment rate since data first become available in 1976. Labour scarcity is now an everyday challenge in many industry segments.

It became even more clear to me this year just how crucial entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit is to the Canadian landscape and our mutual successes. As I noted recently, a high tide raises all ships, and we need steady-yet-impassioned hands at the helm guiding those ships.

We need to collaborate and work together with our suppliers, retail partners and customers alike to nurture respect and transparency in today’s turbulent times. Trust is the cornerstone of business, and together we can navigate the changing business climates better than we ever could alone. There is much to be learned from each other when looking through the lens of achieving mutual benefit.

For entrepreneurs, building that trust is the foundation of creating a customer experience that communicates your brand and fosters loyalty. Great customer experience guarantees loyal customers who become advocates, while poor customer experience drives them elsewhere.

Your brand — what makes your business unique — is the key to your success. Focus on your people and the success of your employees. Success will follow. Entrepreneurs have a fire in their belly that drives them to succeed. Their success is built on trust, through relationship building with their customers and vendors. You can’t fake this commitment. You have it or you don’t!


Looking forward

While there’s never a crystal ball, it’s our nature to scan the horizon and have concerns about a global slowdown. The use of tariffs to bully your trading partners rarely works as a long-term strategy. It leads to retaliation and often escalates into costly trade wars.

Government debt, red tape and restrictive policies may hinder business and drive up costs. As we investigated this year, governments cannot spend their way to success — although that hasn’t stopped them from trying.

Climate change continues to be a growing concern affecting all of us, everywhere, on every continent, in every neighbourhood. Balancing the needs of our economy and the realities of our environment deserve more than political pandering and protests.

Politics, news media and social communities are experiencing heavy tribalism that divides us, when our real strength comes from cooperation and understanding. Overcoming these challenges will require collaboration and civility. If we want to better understand the issues, we need to listen, be empathetic and alert to the things that divide us. I believe, there are more things that bind us, and if we work together, we’ll come out the other end of 2019 wiser and better for it.

The good news

As Canadians, we are particularly well-positioned to tackle whatever the year ahead brings us. We live in the best country in the world; we are free to make decisions that enrich our lives. The world frequently ranks Canada as the best country in the G-20 in which to live and do business. We have unmatched natural resources, top-notch universities, colleges, trade schools and we possess a highly educated and multicultural workforce. It’s no wonder we’re world leaders in research and innovation.

We’re also a famously tolerant people, culturally adept masters in the skill of listening. We care about one another, our environment and the citizens of the world — and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Whatever surprises 2019 throws at us, I predict that Canadian business will captain their ships with predictable vision.

As we plan for a New Year with anticipation, anxiety and a desire to succeed, remember how fortunate we are in what we have. During this time of year I hope you stop, reflect and give thanks to those who have enabled your journey.

Wishing you all the very best of the season with health and happiness in the New Year.

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Ken has worked in the LBM business for over 17 years, including senior management experience in the manufacture of building products. He has a keen understanding of the relationship among vendors, manufacturers and the independents, as well as a thorough understanding of the contractor and consumer base in every region of the country. Ken's highest priority for Castle is to "buy competitively day to day" in order to keep its independent dealers competitive. "The result is that Castle shareholders enjoy greater returns today than ever before. There can be no greater testament to the strength of the team we've built," says Ken. "My job is to make them stronger and stronger."