Hey, guys! Remember me? It’s Lance.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

Lance Armstrong appears to have garnered more headlines in the last few months than he ever did as a winner. If fame is important, he has it.

Of course, with fame comes worry. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice last month declined Lance’s offer to settle any little issues like fraud and conspiracy for $5 million, if only the DOJ would let him keep the bulk of his wealth and walk away.

Think about that … How would you feel if you were one of the many people Armstrong destroyed by branding them liars? How would you feel if you invested your career in the LiveStrong cancer survival organization, and now find yourself chained to a fraud equal to that of Bernie Madoff? How would you like to be one of Armstrong’s kids? Would money make up for what other kids thought?

It would seem like waking up some Sunday morning in Las Vegas, and finding yourself married to Karla Homolka. Somebody did – maybe not Vegas and all – but the Globe & Mail reports she lives in Guadeloupe – an overseas region of France – and has three kids and a husband. Reputation must not rate high on hubby’s list of virtues to expect in a wife. When the happy couple’s kids reach their teens, they will have issues. Quote me.

Reputation is everything. Wolves have a reputation for being cagey, Confucius has a reputation for being wise and Canucks have a reputation for being reputable. It showed up big in WWI, when the otherwise diminutive member of the Commonwealth gained fame on the battlefield, but it chugs along under the surface like a nuclear sub – lots of power, keeps to itself but works best as part of a team. Can be relied upon.

The Canadian secondary wood sector had a reputation for having value during the ‘90s through 2008. We were trading on the high American dollar, for sure. However, money, alone, does not describe value. If money was all that matters, everybody would be driving a Lada. Did you know the Lada was highest-selling automobile to be produced without major design change? That really begs the question of who was second. Edsel?

Canadian wood products in the U.S. had value because of the dollar exchange, but there was more. Canada could be relied upon. In fact, it still can.

If you look at the most recent issue of Wood Industry, you will see a section from Statistics Canada that shows economic performance over the past five years. In brief, all the indicators dropped together during 2009 and the American-led recession. Then, like NFL players after a bruising play, each sector picked itself up and either walked or staggered back to its place in line. Each sector, that is, except domestic, secondary wood-products production. That one was still injured on the field.

The dollar is easy to blame, but other Canadian sectors related to the “occupied space” (homes, offices, institutions and factories) area also sold to the U.S., and are recovering. Imports are a factor, but only at the same ratio as before. The fact is, our sector, as of 2011, halted, while others were back in play.

This is significant. The fans want us back in the game. The bookies in Vegas are heating up their calculators. The opposition is frozen. The announcers are reading from the stats book to fill time….

Where’s the coach? Has anybody seen the coach? Oh, yeah. He’s been vacationing in Vegas. Lost sight of the game. Says “please send money.”

Meanwhile, the game goes on. I happened to watch CNBC during the World Economic Forum last month in Davos, Switz. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and c.e.o. of Goldman Sachs, spoke about the U.S. outlook: “I do think there’s room for optimism in Europe, but not as much as in the U.S. The place that’s in a much better position right now is the United States, with housing stabilized and probably going back up, with the amount of cash on the side, with the blessing of the energy situation that none of us anticipated but somehow it’s just happened and low interest rates … I think the U.S. environment is very good.”

That is a fairly high recommendation. You can add to that the American’s fascination with good stuff. Americans were not a good market for the Lada. All things combined, we have every reason to believe the Americans will be looking for good stuff when they buy their new homes and build their new institutions and stores, and the Americans know Canadians can be depended upon.

Of course, somebody has to wake up the coach. I hear salted coffee works. Our reputation is ours to lose, but the best way to lose it is to be seen in bed with the wrong partner.

In his January interview with Oprah, Armstrong looked stunned. He knew he had been bad, but could not figure out why. All he did was tell one, little white lie, he said. His attitude was, “Can’t we all still have fun? Can’t I keep my money? Can’t you see I’m still good-old Lance ‘for the children?’”

Sorry, Lance. Reputations are not for sale. Not for $5 million, and not for a resident card in Guadaloupe.

Reputations attach to individuals, to companies, to regions and to countries. Canada has it all. No sense chatting. It’s time to make hay, not roll in it.

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