By my count, I’ve helped produce more than 130 issues of Report on Business since joining the magazine in mid-2006. And without fail, as our deadline looms, the staff goes into something approaching panic: How can we possibly get everything done and to the press on time? This issue was perhaps a little more hair-raising than most (thanks a lot, COVID-19), but we made it, of course—we haven’t missed a press deadline in our nearly 40-year history. But the question always lingers: What if?
Those two words are a bit of a global theme right now. Uncertainty is surging worldwide, according to the World Uncertainty Index. It reached unprecedented heights at the start of the pandemic in 2020, then settled down as we all adjusted to the new reality. But in the first quarter of this year, uncertainty rebounded to levels not seen since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.K.’s Brexit vote in 2016. The war in Ukraine accounts for 40% of the current global angst—not surprising considering the intractability of Russia’s president. But there are plenty of other reasons to feel anxious: rapidly rising inflation, the impact of runaway climate change, simmering tensions with China, the tide of populist unrest sweeping across Canada. Then, of course, there’s the seemingly never-ending pandemic. Who could have predicted it would last this long? And what will the long-term impacts be, not just on the global economy, but on the health of the world’s citizens?
All this what-iffing is enough to make many of us mere mortals freeze up and lose focus. Which is why it’s so encouraging to read about leaders who aren’t letting the hazy picture hold them back. As Jason Kirby writes in his feature on Ottawa-based satellite operator Telesat, its future is fairly dripping with uncertainty as it struggles to launch a constellation of low-Earth-orbit satellites. Yet, CEO Dan Goldberg is forging ahead on the assumption that his team will overcome whatever barriers the pandemic, the dangers of space and the vagaries of Elon Musk put in its path (“Space: the final logistics-addled, billionaire-crowded, costs-skyrocketing frontier,” page 60).
The same kind of determination carries Sheertex founder Katherine Homuth’s story (“Blood, sweat and sheers” by Sean Silcoff, page 72). Though in her case, it’s her self-professed ignorance of uncertainty that has helped her stay the course. Setting out to make unrippable tights while having zero manufacturing or textiles experience should have been impossible. Even her investors—heck, even her own husband—were skeptical. But Homuth plunged ahead, and loyal customers love her for it.
One thing’s for certain: We should all heed the advice offered up in “Give me vacation or give me death” (page 7) and take some time off over the next few months—not just from working, but from what-iffing, too. We’ll see you back here in October.
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