Being A Business Owner: The Ability to Pivot

Being A Business Owner: The Ability to Pivot

If nothing else, the one thing that Covid has really taught me as a business owner is the importance of the ability to pivot.

I had big plans for 2020.

I was supposed to be going away to the Mediterranean for the first time that summer.

I had several big projects scheduled for my company.

I was interviewing for a board that I was very excited to join.

Things were looking good for 2020!

Then, the world shut down.

I was suddenly doing damage control in every aspect of my life — navigating a new world where the Canadian government was making changes to our lives on a daily basis.

In my company, I was making decisions based on the most up-to-date data available.

Then, sometimes only hours later, I was having to pivot because of more changes.

I was lucky - my business was considered essential.

In theory, my gas stations could all stay open — ensuring that vehicles received the petroleum products they needed.

Ensuring that essential workers were able to get to work.

But, there was so little traffic, that it didn’t make business sense to keep all the sites open.

So, just like many of my colleagues, I shut sites down, temporarily laid off staff, and reduced our operations as much as possible to adjust to the limited revenue coming in.

Working with my team, we were able to pivot quickly and consistently, making and executing decisions to ensure that the business survived.

There are many other businesses that didn’t, and I am so sorry for that.

It’s still not over, and we may have to pivot again.

It’s not an easy task.

The decisions I make affect the lives of almost 100 individuals and their families. I take that very seriously.

But, if being a business owner was easy, everyone would do it. It takes thick skin, confidence, and teamwork to make a company successful.

I intend to continue to make the tough decisions, with the most recent information available, and be a consistent, respectful, responsible leader.

I’ll pivot when necessary.

Until next time………………………………….. XO-JGF


Living Wage Employers - A Decision to be Supported

Living Wage Employers - A Decision to be Supported

Recently, Ontario celebrated "Living Wage Week" - a week dedicated to celebrating Living Wage employers, promote paying a Living Wage, and announce the coming years newly calculated Living Wage. 

Two years ago, I made the commitment to become a Living Wage employer. It was a big decision, one that I debated for a number of months. However, ultimately, it fell in line with the vision, mission, and core values that I had developed, embraced, and advocated for over the previous five years - ever since I took over as the third generation owner/operator of my family's petroleum company. 

I remember when I first heard about Living Wage. It was simply an email that had come to my inbox one day. At that time, I was already paying my staff of 100 over minimum wage, and offering a small benefits package. I quickly looked at what was required in order to obtain the designation of Living Wage Employer, and felt that I may not be far off fulfilling the requirements already. I gave the task of reaching out to Ontario Living Wage to my Human Resources Manager, to gain more information.

Together, we further perused the requirements. Unfortunately, we were still a ways off of what the calculated Living Wage for my area of Ontario was. Far enough off that the financial investment would be significant. This wasn't a small decision. I sought the advice of others - my accountant, lawyer, and controller. I reworked budgets, and spoke with my benefits provider about a plan for my part-time employees.

My time leading the company had been anything but boring. Challenges had been plentiful, but with every challenge I had grown more confidant in my ability to successfully navigate through. I knew that investing in my staff was something that I would always be proud of, and that it fell in line with my personal goal in life of making a positive impact on the world. 

I took a lot of time to make this decision. I knew that by committing to being a Living Wage employer, I was making a decision that would significantly impact my company, and there was no truly measurable return on that investment. I knew that there would be people that would not understand what I was doing - and there are many. Other business owners who question why I would pay so much for a gas attendant, customers that question why my fuel may be a bit more costly than others, community organizations that are disappointed when I have to refuse a donation or sponsorship to their organization. 

However, I believe that by paying a Living Wage I am helping Canadians at the most basic level. That, by paying a Living Wage, I am helping families put healthy food on their tables, clothes on their backs, and heat in their homes. I am helping to keep Canadians OUT of the assisted living cycle, helping them to be proud of who they are and what they do - and who they work for.

I hope, when I am old and gray, that I look back on the company and the years that I was the owner/operator and know that this was the right decision. That Niagara is a better place because of the commitment that I made.

Now, it is in the hands of my community of Niagara. Every time someone fills up their vehicle at a Gales Gas Bar they are choosing to support a member of their community - a friend, family member, or neighbour. They are choosing to support a company that invests into their employees as no other in Ontario does - I was, and am still, the ONLY Living Wage Champion in the petroleum industry in Ontario. I know there are many that support Gales because of this designation, and I thank them for it. They are helping to make a difference. 

I'm proud of my decision. I believe that I am making a positive impact on my employees, their families, and the future of Niagara by committing to be a Living Wage Champion. 

When you see that green emblem, designating a Living Wage employer, stop and think about it. That owner has taken the time to invest significantly in the future of their employees. To commit to paying a Living Wage because they believe it is the right thing to do - not because they have to, but because they want to.

It means a lot. As does every customer who chooses to support that business.

Until next time....................................................                                XO-JGF

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What it’s Like to Go Viral

What it’s Like to Go Viral

If you read my blogs regularly, you already know that I’m a business owner. 

I’m in petroleumgasoline retail and delivery.

It happens often that I have customers complaining about the price of fuel. I totally understand, and try to empathize with them. I don’t want to pay high prices either. 

I am happy to converse with anyone about any concern they have about my businessso long as that is done in a respectful, appropriate manner.

Now and then, though, that doesn’t happen.

I receive phone calls from angry people with raised voices, hurling accusations, and possibly cursing.

That’s where I draw the line. I am not a business owner that believes the customer is always right. The customer is right to a point. That point is where respect and common courtesy stop. Once that is lost, the customer is wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, early on a Monday morning, I received a phone call from a very angry customer. It should be understood that by the time the customer had me on the phone he had already ripped through my store clerk and my receptionist. 

When he started swearing at me, I hung up. I do not put up with that. 

Trying to be proactive, knowing that with rising fuel costs due to the Ukraine War, I put a post out on my company’s Facebook page. Rather than explaining it, here it is for you:

Simple. To the point. Trying to prevent my staff and myself from going through another event like this one.

Now, anyone who markets on social media regularly understands the painstaking process of putting a post together. Taking the time to make sure that every word is exactly right. Taking time to make sure that every image is exactly right. Some posts take hours!

The post above took me a grand total of five minutespossibly less.

I wrote, reviewed, and published immediately.

Throughout the day, I tried to keep an eye on the comments that were occurring on the post. There were quite a few of them, and I just wanted to be sure to respond to any that required a response.

It was late afternoon before I happened to glance at how many views the post had obtained.



That didn’t include the comments, shares, and impressions from those shares.

52,000 people had seen my post.

Immediately I texted that to my best friend with the message, “Does this mean I’ve gone viral???”

Her twelve-year-old son assured both of us that yes, that was enough to be considered going viral.

As anyone knows, if a twelve-year-old agrees you’ve gone viral that is higher praise than any formal organization agreeing!

Hot damn!

I started watching the numbers climb. Every time I would refresh my page I was seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of more views. I couldn’t possibly keep up!

By the time I went to bed that night, my passionate post had accumulated over 100,000 views.

When I woke up in the morning it had another 10,000!

I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I got to work I updated my senior team. We were all flabbergasted.

I was so proud that, if any post was going to go viral, it was that one! One where I posted it. One where I was advocating for my staff about something absolutely crucial.

I was pretty happy.

Then, the unbelievable happened.

I received a phone call from CHCH TVa television news show located in the closest big city to Niagara Falls. They wanted to interview me about the incident, my post, and have it on the six o’clock news that night. Was I available and willing to do this?

Um, HELL YES! I didn’t even have to think about it.

I was about to have my fifteen minutes of fame. Totally unplanned when I had woken up the day before. 

I was suddenly going to be on the news station that my husband, children, and I watch as we eat dinner almost every night. Advocating for something that I am so intensely passionate about.

It was incredible.

It lead to a couple of articles about the incident in local newspapers as well.

It also lead to a plethora of emails and phone callsfrom friends and strangers alike- showing their support for me being so honest. So brave. 

I didn’t, and don’t, consider it brave. It is simply unacceptable for anyone to treat others with such disrespect.

It needs to stop.

That post has now accumulated over 151,000 views, 1.6k shares, and 465 comments. It’s still growing, almost two weeks later.

What I’ve learned is, you can put all the time and effort you want into your social media posts but without honesty and passion you may never go viral.

So go for it. Be brave.

Stand up for what you believe in.

Until next time……………………………………………..XO-JGF