This story and video are part of our Investor Insights series, a regular feature showcasing how YES! Winnipeg investors innovate in the face of challenges and work to grow Winnipeg's economy. Throughout the pandemic, all interviews were conducted socially distanced and observed provincial health orders around COVID-19.
Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) CEO Barry Rempel has some advice for Winnipeg businesses who continue to struggle through the pandemic.
“It is fundamental to keep your team inspired, in line to understand your 'why?'.” Simon Sinek said years ago, ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe',’’ says Rempel, referring to a Ted Talk the inspirational speaker, former ad expert and author gave in 2013.
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What Rempel believes is that by focusing on the ‘Why?’ the WAA has been able to be resilient and shift during a very difficult time.
“We’re an industry where 95 per cent of our revenue relies on the number of people travelling. Ninety-five per cent of people were not here, yet on the expense side—cleaning runways, that doesn’t change. Eighty-five per cent of our costs are fixed, we clearly have to bridge that gap,” adds Rempel, who notes there are ongoing negotiations with the federal government to provide support to Canadian airports.
“We actually started 2020 in a period of growth. It was indeed a shift. We realized our world was about the change. The very first thing we looked at was how do we keep our passengers safe? We put UV protection on rails... We made sure we had good HEPA filters, touchless travel.
While Rempel estimates it could take four or five years to fully recover, he is seeing a rise on its cargo side with the uptick in e-commerce demand. He says the pandemic has dramatically changed supply chains but in that, he sees opportunity for growth.
“We see Winnipeg being a really important part of that future supply chain,” adding if the WAA wants to continue to be resilient, 2021 will be the year to focus once again on the ‘why?’ that drives the WAA.
“We’re here to serve this community by leading transportation, innovation and growth. It’s pretty simple. I have no doubt having everyone on the same page, understanding [that] is critical.”