In 2012, while Reece Tomlinson was majority owner and president of M&L Construction in Winnipeg, two customers didn’t pay their bills totalling $13 million.
“That represented 40 per cent of our business that year,” said Tomlinson, who now lives and works in Kelowna.
“It was a horrible situation. There were lawsuits and the company went into receivership.”
If there was one good thing to come from the mess, it was that Tomlinson learned lessons.
“As a result, I started to get calls asking what to do and what not to do, to be successful,” he said.
“I realized this was a real opportunity to help others.”
So, Tomlinson used his initials and founded RWT Growth, a consulting firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs get out of sticky situations.
That generally means refinancing, debt restructuring, operational restructuring, product and services refining and repricing and leadership coaching.
Basically, anything and everything that has to be done to increase cash flow.
Of the 30 companies he’s helped out so far, 95 per cent are on their way to success.
“Yes, you can call me a turnaround specialist, because that’s what we do – help businesses turn the tide from failure to success,” said Tomlinson.
As a certified professional accountant and MBA, Tomlinson’s expertise is applicable to virtually any industry, which is why his customers so far have run the gamut from those in construction and building maintenance to medical and manufacturing.
The scope isn’t geographically confined either, as he’s had clients from the Okanagan, Vancouver, England and Australia.
In fact, business has been so brisk in England that RWT has a London office with a consultant who help find capital for companies.
All of RWT’s clients have been referrals from companies happy with their turnarounds.
Tomlinson is also the chairman of Intraline Medical Aesthetics, which has its offices on the fifth floor of the Okanagan Innovation Centre in downtown Kelowna.
RWT’s office is on the same floor.
Although it hasn’t officially been calculated, it’s estimated the living wage in the Okanagan is $18.21 an hour for a household with two parents and two kids.
Yet, the minimum wage is $12.65.
That means there’s a lot of people who work full-time who can’t make ends meet for their family.
That’s where the Living Wage for Families Campaign comes in.
The non-profit organization is a coalition of businesses and unions that advocate a living wage and promise to pay it or more to all their employees and contractors.
Unions that have staff and members in the Okanagan are members, such as the Hospital Employees Union, B.C. Government Employees Union, B.C. Teachers Federation, Canadian Union of Public Employees and United Food and Commercial Workers.
So far, 130 B.C. businesses are Living Wage certified.
However, there’s only two employers in the Okanagan that have joined – Osoyoos Credit Union and Modo Car Share.
Modo Car Share only has one employee in Kelowna and a few contractors.
While the Living Wage campaign still has a long way to go, it has made an important start.
Even a living wage of $18.21 an hour doesn’t go far.
That works out to about $37,000 a year based on full-time, which isn’t a lot when you consider the price of house, food and transportation, let alone any extras or little luxuries.
The provincial minimum wage of $12.65 translates to about $2,100 a month or $26,000 annually based on full-time.
That’s hardly enough for a single person to survive considering the average monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment is $1,170, groceries run a minimum of $214 a month per person and utilities, transportation, clothes, insurance and taxes have to be paid for too.
The living wage in Vancouver has been set at $20.91 an hour and in Victoria, $20.50.
A Kelowna entrepreneur is banking on customers wanting to pay with the new Flashcoin digital currency.
Brandi Knezevich owns and operates two businesses.
Eyes on You on Kelowna’s Lawrence Avenue is a salon specializing in eyelashes, hair extensions, permanent make-up and waxing.
As the name indicates, Van Isl Apparel is Knezevich’s line of casual clothing for men and women flaunting the Vancouver Island lifestyle.
Most sales are made at VanIslApparel, but items are also for sale at Eyes on You.
With the Flash app, shoppers can load an online wallet and pay in a flash at stores and websites that accept it.
The benefit for businesses is that there’s no middleman like Interac, Visa or Mastercard.
Therefore, retailers get their money instantly with near-zero fees.
“Customers were asking if they could use digital currency, so I decided to start accepting Flash,” said Knezevich.
“It’s good for both them and me.”
Of course, Eyes on You and Van Isl will continue to accept Interac and credit cards for payment as well.
Steve MacNaull is The Daily Courier’s business reporter and columnist. Reach him at [email protected]