In Review: Windsor Day – CEO Dialogues & Facilities Tour

On June 9, the OG100 membership gathered in Windsor for an exceptional day hosted by two of our “West-Side” CEOs – Mike Pilato, CEO, Jamieson Wellness Inc., and Michael Beneteau, CEO, CenterLine (Windsor) Ltd. Each host spent a generous and incomparable hour with our group, offering inside-baseball accounts of their industries. After our discussions, we toured the Jamieson soft gels plant and the CenterLine campus.

Jamieson Wellness

Jamieson Wellness is Canada’s leading branded manufacturer, distributor and marketer of high-quality natural health products. Jamieson is in 45 countries today, and the company is expanding its presence in the US market with the recent acquisition of Nutrawise, parent company of the youtheory brand of supplements. Acquiring youtheory ties Jamieson to a successful brand that has already built trust and confidence with its US consumers and will allow the company to export its world class capabilities and portfolio of ~1,000 products.

Jamieson has a consumer insight led strategy for understanding consumer behaviour and earning their confidence. The move is to obtain data from every possible source – learning everything there is to know about consumers.

Jamieson introduces many new products each year in Canada, and Mike says understanding consumer data and trends gets the company 60 per cent of the way to a product decision. The remaining 40 per cent of decision-making being led by experience, gut instinct, and having the right team members around the table.

A big part of Jamieson’s success in international markets comes from their competitive “Made in Canada” advantage. Canada is noted as a high-quality manufacturing country for natural health products as it has a complex and strict pre-market registration system, versus a post- launch system in the US. This puts Jamieson at an advantage to enter countries like China that have similar requirements to Canada.

Mike and Jamieson have had great success in establishing themselves in China. Mike has 3 tips for success in China:

  1. In a consumer business, build your brand with consumers as big as possible and do it quickly.
  2. Build strong partnerships in the country: Ensure you have some people on the ground, strong strategic partnerships, and in the Jamieson example have a board member on the team who lives in Shanghai. It is imperative you have strong talent that know how to move through a very large and complex country with a level of agility and speed.
  3. As in all countries, stay out of politics. It is a brand’s job to live up to and represent its values at all times, but let governments manage geo-political issues.

“MADE IN CANADA is the crack in the window we use to break through in many countries, including China. Made in Canada has value, it means something.” – Mike Pilato, Jamieson Wellness

CenterLine (Windsor)

Mike Beneteau

CenterLine (Windsor) is a Canadian-based, privately held corporation specializing in advanced automation processes and joining technologies that satisfy resistance welding, metal forming and cold spray applications. Their primary customers include OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers in the automotive, mass transit, aerospace and defense industries. CenterLine is in 8 countries and has over 65 years experience with state-of-the-art technologies and processes that help customers maintain their competitive advantage.

CenterLine has an amazing origin story involving two guys, one garage, $2000, and an amazing piece of machinery being designed on the back of a napkin and ultimately selling to Magna. Two men with innovative spirit pulled off a crazy project that allowed them to buy 25 acres in Windsor and build what is now the CenterLine headquarters. One of these two men was Michael Beneteau’s father. A major part of the culture at CenterLine is sharing legendary stories about the history of the company, rallying the team around amazing victories and building the ethos of the company.

If I see the same problem come up again and again, I try to solve it. My job is to move barriers.

CenterLine has always been centered around innovation – the company pours resources into product development. On the team, there are nine designers dedicated to product development. On our facility tour, one designer spoke with pride about waking up each day, looking for a problem. “If I see the same problem come up again and again, I try to solve it. My job is to move barriers.” This is the mindset of the CenterLine team.

What camp are you in?

When it comes to talent strategies, Mike Pilato and Michael Beneteau are on opposing ends of the spectrum:

Mike Pilato believes that imposing back-to-office mandates on office staff right now will result in a failure to retain top talent, a key issue right now for businesses. People are tired of forced mandates, and more requirements will not be well received. Mike believes that office culture is important, and that people will return if the in-office experience is positive, valuable, and worth coming in for. The team is working through how to make the office experience something that people will return for, because it is valuable. He believes that productivity has never been higher as a whole, and if you force people in, you are creating an entire strategy to manage a few bad (unproductive) apples. Mike is a firm believer of the “work from anywhere” freedom and believes that while some things are better face-to-face, we are in a world where people are quite comfortable and proficient at collaborating and engaging remotely. This is a unique time for businesses to modernize what office work looks and feels like within their culture, and to maximize productivity.

Michael Beneteau is of an opposing mind: earlier this spring, Michael and his team implemented a back-to-work mandate. Within his employee base, the leadership team witnessed fear amongst the staff regarding the looming return to “normal work life”. Without a mandate to go back to the office, Michael believes many would never have returned. With a gentle nudge from the company, the staff was forced to face their fears and experience a work environment that they haven’t seen since March 2020. Once the employees returned to the office, they quickly overcame fears associated with the return, and many of them were reminded of how much they do in fact enjoy the office dynamics. Michael is not discounting the learnings we’ve made throughout the pandemic – in July, his team plans to unveil a hybrid work plan to incorporate virtual along with in-person work environments. Michael maintains that forcing employees outside of their comfort zones and into the office was the best move for his team, which resulted in the loss of only 2 employees out of a pool of nearly 1000 skilled trades and professionals.

Are back-to-office policies a topic you would like to cover in more detail in fall of 2022, or is it too late? Let us know:

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