2018 Top 50 CEO Award Winners

Posted on April 12, 2018 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

When we launched Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO awards back in 1999, we wanted it to have a larger purpose than most business recognition programs. You’ll typically see “biggest companies” or “fastest-growing” or “best places to work”. Our awards program encompasses
all of that—and more.

Just to be eligible for consideration, you must lead a company or organization whose head office is in Atlantic Canada, or who is in charge of a provincial/regional head office that has significant decision-making and organizational autonomy. That’s the easy part.

Transitioning from nominee to Top 50 CEO status requires excellence across multiple categories. The selection criteria stipulate that winners must:

• show measurable growth in revenue and staffing;
• be an acknowledged and respected industry leader;
• be an effective manager, problem-solver and team builder;
• work towards improving the quality of life in Atlantic Canada; and,
• donate personal time and resources to community causes.

Our goal now is the same as it was 20 years ago: to give exceptional individuals the recognition they deserve, and hope that their example inspires other emerging leaders to follow in their footsteps. Are you ready to be inspired? Read on…

(Charlottetown, P.E.I.)

With almost 30 years working in the post-secondary arena, Dr. Abd-El-Aziz’s scholastic evolution took him from chemistry professor on the prairies to university president on ‘the island’ after immigrating to Canada from Egypt in 1985.

SCIENCE IS GOLDEN Failure on the road to success is commonplace for scientists, and Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz is no stranger to experimental procedure. In fact, he considers them “wonderful things” because they offer the greatest opportunities for learning. “These setbacks prompt you to re-examine your work and determine a new course of action—this is applicable to life, whether work or personal, in so many ways!”

SUSTAINABLY GEARED The School of Sustainable Design Engineering is the apple of his eyes these days. The $26-million state-ofthe-art facility opened last year, but the project took years of conceptualization. “It is built on industry partnerships, providing students the opportunity to work on real-world problems, benefiting from experiential learning—including a second-year group of students who have started a business and patented their work!” Abd-El-Aziz finds inspirations in his students. “For me, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing them a few years later doing exceptional things in their life.”

INTERNATIONALLY INCLINED With a 200 per cent increase in international student enrollment since Abd-El-Aziz joined UPEI, he sees the potential for the Atlantic economy in supporting the population’s growth strategy. “Immigration is affecting UPEI in extremely positive ways and with our leadership in attracting highly skilled and qualified students, faculty, and staff, we are in turn supporting the Island’s population growth and ability to fill employment needs.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

Dustin is an entrepreneur who believes in the power of team work, accountability and developing a strong corporate culture. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his kids and learning guitar.

FEAR FACTOR Dustin Angelo’s career is a testament to embracing opportunity. From moving his family to Kentucky to help start a coal mining business (a four-year lesson in timing that ended with the global financial crisis), to winning the opportunity to lead TSX-listed Anaconda Mining at a young age, stepping outside his comfort zone is his modus operandi. He hasn’t always been successful, but he says failure is also rewarding. “I’ve made poor investment decisions, failed at effective communications and hired the wrong people. But, the silver lining in failures is the immense amount that you learn from them. Without my failures, I would not have been able to achieve what I have done in my career so far.”

MOTHER LODE What he’s done for Anaconda is help it grow into a gold mining, exploration and development company with projects in N.L. and N.S. (specifically, the Point Rousse and Goldboro projects). Like CEO, like company: their enviably strong corporate culture thrives on innovation. “We are working on several projects that are progressive and environmentally friendly,” he says.

SOCIAL LICENCE This year has seen social movements insisting on more respectful behaviour in the workplace and equal access to opportunity. “Rightfully so,” says Angelo. “At Anaconda, it reminds us of the importance of retaining our core values (Safety, Integrity, Reliability, Responsibility, Respect and Resourcefulness) and never compromising them as our company grows.”

(Dartmouth, N.S.)

Cory went straight from his Engineering degree at TUNS to Lindsay Construction in 1999; nine years later he became president and CEO. His children take precedent in his life; supporting the community and entrepreneurial engagement are also priorities.

GOLD STANDARD Lindsay Construction—active in civil, industrial and building construction throughout Atlantic Canada—has been listed as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for more than four years on Canadian Business Magazine’s Gold List. With Bell in the lead, the company has made significant investment in leadership programs for their office employees, as well as initiatives to support work experience and career growth of Indigenous community members. “I am proud that we have created strong leadership in HR, IT/IS and Finance, which is invaluable in terms of grooming talent and succession planning.”

SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE Bell aligns the major successes in his career with the expansion of Lindsay Construction throughout the Atlantic provinces. “I would highlight re-establishing our presence in New Brunswick and making a key acquisition there, as well as entering Newfoundland at a pivotal time for our business.” The revitalization of their industrial presences in Nova Scotia has also led to annual revenue growth.

MYSTERY MENTORS “Throughout my career, I’ve been inspired by a number of “unknowing” mentors; leaders with whom I’ve had great conversations.” Bell looks back on the small moments he’s had with both senior leadership and fellow workers, recognizing the importance of them as informal mentors. He takes time to meet with young entrepreneurs in hopes of fostering the unknown mentorship relationship with the future generations of leaders.

(Summerside, P.E.I.)

Jim started working at Amalgamated Dairies over 30 years ago with a passion for P.E.I. agriculture (and co-parented five kids while doing it). As CEO, he has led the largest expansion in the company’s 65-year history.

THE BEE’S CHEESE Bottom of the barrel takes on a whole new meaning with Jim Bradley—with more than 30 years at Amalgamated Dairies he is still grateful for the chance to understand the business by working from the bottom of the company to the CEO position. “My ability to speak passionately about agriculture and the need for farmers to have a strong voice and influence in processing and marketing their product made up for what was lacking in business experience on my resume.”

DAIRY CHALLENGING Sales for the nationally recognized leader in aged cheddar have increased by 85 per cent since Bradley took over as CEO in 2005, and while employees have increased in number as well it hasn’t come without its challenges. “The greatest risk would have been building a business case, to ensure the continued support of the board of directors, that ADL must and should remain independent.” Because ADL is one of the only large independent processors left in the Atlantic provinces, they stand alone when it comes to pursuing new projects coming into the region.

ISLAND LOVE For Bradley, the biggest success of his career has been there right from the beginning. “There is no occupation that I have witnessed that has more passion, commitment and dedication for what they do than the dairy farmers of P.E.I.” His passion for island agriculture has helped him thrive in the company, a cooperative fully owned by the dairy producers of Prince Edward Island.

(St. John’s, N.L.)

With a background as a registered nurse, Charlene witnessed first-hand a struggling health care system. To relieve the burden, she uses innovative technology to provide the care where it should be provided—at home.

LEAP OF FAITH In 1999 Charlene Brophy walked away from a government pension and the bedside nursing position that she loved to join a brand-new startup telemedicine company. Today, Fonemed is a telemedicine company with global reach. Their core service is the provision of 24/7 clinical telehealth and biometric monitoring services to well over two million people using their proprietary software platform. “It was the greatest risk I have taken, it was the most rewarding risk I have taken.”

CAREER HIGHLIGHT “I’m proud to say we are not only making a difference in the delivery of healthcare but I have had an opportunity to give back to the province through job creation. Fonemed has grown the company’s presence in N.L. from nine staff members in 2000 to well over 100 employees in NL alone, the majority supporting our international operations.”

STRONG MEDICINE While business survival is a significant challenge in the current economic climate, Brophy is more worried about the cost of healthcare. Newfoundland and Labrador, she says, spends more per capita on healthcare than any other province in Canada—without seeing stronger results in health outcomes. “In some areas, our health indicators are worse. That is the challenge. That is also the opportunity for innovative companies like ours to offer remote cost-efficient means of providing health services.”

CEO, Stella’s Circle
(St. John’s, N.L.)

Social justice and community involvement are core to Lisa’s values, so being CEO of Stella’s Circle is an ideal fit for her, along with a strong drive to do good.

HUMANE HUMILITY Even though Lisa Browne considers last year’s Top 50 win a career highlight, she frames it within the context of social justice. “It was a real validation of all of my work and resulted in some great exposure and opportunities for Stella’s Circle.” Browne says community organizations like hers are critical to finding innovative and flexible solutions to many social problems. “Even issues specific to individuals are also societal issues, if only because no solutions or bad solutions hugely impact our economy.”

RISK MANAGEMENT Stella’s Circle has an $8.5-million budget with a staff of 117 people helping over 1,000 participants attain “Real Homes, Real Help and Real Work.” She garners inspiration from her family and the people Stella’s Circle works with on a daily basis, striving to mirror their resilience. “My parents and brothers all have an incredible work ethic and my twin brother’s fight with depression and subsequent suicide drives me to make a difference.”

MIS-STEPPED OPPORTUNITY Failure is not a word Browne considers when calculating the wins and losses in her life. While leaving a more stable job as a civil servant may be seen as a risk to some people, it wasn’t for Browne. “When I was learning to downhill ski, a friend of mine said if you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough. That lesson applies in life.”

(Halifax, N.S.)

When Lydia entered law school, firms didn’t have CEOs, but now as the first woman to lead one of Atlantic Canada’s biggest firms, spanning six cities, she’s part historical figure, part role model to young women.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS Lydia Bugden’s “TSN turning point” was when she was headhunted by The Consumers’ Gas Company Limited (now known as Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc.). She pinpoints this career boost, at an early stage in her career, as giving her the confidence to do something beyond practicing law. In 1998, she and her husband moved back to Atlantic Canada from Toronto. “We have reaped the rewards of living in a city where we have raised two terrific kids while pursuing challenging careers and engaging in the fabric of our community.”

PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE Stewart McKelvey is an historic firm—it dates back to Confederation and is now one of the top 20 largest firms in the country, with 220 lawyers across Atlantic Canada. Bugden asserts that it’s also a progressive firm that is inspired by movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and immigration to create a culture of awareness, appreciation and respect.

BECOMING A ROLE MODEL Bugden identifies becoming a CEO as one of her biggest successes. Her daughter, however, wasn’t so sure. Upon hearing of her mother’s new role as the leader of a large Atlantic Canada law firm, the then-13-year-old exclaimed: “Anyone can be a CEO, my mother is a lawyer!” The comment made Bugden realize that she was making demanding, and traditionally male-dominated, c-suite roles look attainable for young women.

(Halifax, N.S.)

Don is passionate about the transformative power of education. It’s what drives him as president of NSCC. He believes there is an entrepreneurial spirit in all of us, waiting to be unleashed.

LIFELONG YEARNING As president of Nova Scotia Community College, Don Bureaux is immersed in education on a daily basis. After starting his life as an educator, he joined the RCMP when he was 28; it was there he realized his true passion was learning. Decades later, he oversees the education of more than 24,000 students at 13 campuses across Nova Scotia.

EDUCATION DEMOCRATIZATION As a former teacher in Russia at a time when their post-secondary system was rapidly changing, Bureaux witnessed the ability of higher learning to democratize society. “I believe education is a true equalizer as it levels the playing field by removing barriers and setting people up for opportunity.” NSCC’s accessibility mandate is a case in point: “By considering the perspectives and challenges our students and communities face, we better understand individuals and their broader cultural and social environment.”

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE Atlantic Canada’s economy is a major focus of programming at NSCC. “We need to change the narrative by embracing our strengths and assets so we see the region we want to see when we look in the mirror.” Bureaux believes in preparing students for economic trends barely on the radar and evoking the entrepreneurial spirits of students so they stay in the province—in a recent annual NSCC survey, of the 87 per cent of students who found jobs, 92 per cent were in Nova Scotia.

(Halifax, N.S.)

After working with the Toronto and Halifax municipalities for two decades, Richard shifted gears into the private sector. His grateful attitude towards the leadership and management skills he developed have propelled him to presidential status.

THE PUBLIC’S SERVANT Twenty years ago, Butts had just begun his career in the public sector. He describes it as a “surprising foreign environment” where the measures of success were “so different, so counter intuitive, to a neophyte. This may surprise people but it was like drinking from a fire hose. It took several years and much learning but I believe I finally became a very effective public servant.”

THE PRIVATE PLANNER Clayton Developments—part of the Shaw Group of Companies (founded in 1861)—is a builder of master planned communities in Atlantic Canada. “Our success is embedded in our history,” says Butts. “Deliver value, think like a customer, meet your commitments and stand behind your product. We build communities not houses.”

THE YOUTHFUL THINKER Asked what Atlantic Canada’s small population means for future growth, Butts says it indicates a need to be on the lookout for new opportunities that align with core competencies. “We need innovators and risk takers to embrace the economy of the future and understand that everything we do today is a stepping stone towards tomorrow.” He’s particularly inspired by young people. “They work together in a much more collaborative way and they generally don’t seem to acknowledge limitations. They challenge me to think creatively, to look more broadly for solutions, and to listen more intently to people with different perspectives.”

(Enfield, N.S.)

As a young girl, Joyce dreamed of being a flight attendant. Inspired by watching her parents run a business while she was a teenager, the flight path to making a difference in the lives of others was formed.

TAKING FLIGHT As employee number two at Halifax International Airport Authority, Carter was working as VP of Finance before they were even allowed to fly planes (HIAA took over the management, operation and development of the airport from Transport Canada in 2000). Since she became CEO in 2014, there’s been tremendous growth in both passenger and cargo numbers. In 2016 alone, the airport contributed $2.8 billion to the Nova Scotia economy. “Halifax Stanfield and the other airports in Atlantic Canada play a significant role in helping grow the economy,” says Carter. “The opportunities are endless, as we leverage our growth to meet the economic growth demands.”

GATEKEEPER As the largest airport in Atlantic Canada, Halifax Stanfield has become a gateway to life on the East Coast for immigrants and international students. “We are today’s modern-day Pier 21, with the airport serving as the entry point for many newcomers who arrive in Canada.”

SELF-EVALUATOR Throughout her career—from the security of a government job to real estate to HIAA—Carter has worked with, and learned from, a number of great leaders. “I have been able to study their leadership style, learn the considerations they take into account, and see firsthand the decisions they make. Each and every situation has taught me about myself, and prepared me to take on the leadership responsibilities I have as CEO of HIAA.”

(Charlottetown, P.E.I.)

World traveler, brewer and family man. Mitch is passionate about community
development and extraordinary beers and believes that business can be used as a force for good.

BALI BUSINESS In 2007, after the stillbirth of their daughter, Mitch Cobb and his wife quit their jobs and took their then two-year-old daughter Leila backpacking through 12 countries. “It was a year of discovery for both of us, and it was on this trip, in Bali to be exact, that I became interested in entrepreneurship and decided that when I returned, I was going to start my own business.”

UPSTREAM After several entrepreneurial false starts and a teaching stint in China, Cobb travelled his way to a full-time instructor position at Holland College. By 2015 he was ready for a new business endeavour. Cobb co-founded Upstreet Craft Brewing with Mike Hogan and Joey Seaman. With record profits and a whole lot of suds produced, the company has expanded into craft sodas and a second location in just three years.

ATLANTIC-LY APT In 2017, Upstreet Craft Brewing became Prince Edward Island’s first B Corp certified company—meaning they live up to the rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency as deemed by non-profit B-Lab. Cobb is excited about the opportunities to do good in all avenues of business and is excited about the possibilities on the east coast. “I think young people are starting to recognize this and are looking at Atlantic Canada as a great place to start businesses, build careers and grow families.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

Mark has benefitted from great mentors throughout his career. Today, he’s
paying it forward: working with his partners at Killick Capital, he invests in companies to help them reach their full potential.

WTR (WHAT’S THE ROI?) Killick Capital is a fund manager that invests in aerospace companies and technology companies as well as more traditional industries in N.L. In aerospace, they’ve combined organic growth with strategic acquisitions to maintain a 50 per cent annual growth rate over nine years. Meanwhile, their investee companies in tech and N.L. have created over 500 jobs in Atlantic Canada.

STOCK FLUCTUATIONS While he’s had notable success growing Killick from unproven concept to respected investor partner, Mark Dobbin hasn’t always had the golden touch. He’s lost investments and key contracts, even been chair and CEO of a company that lost a hostile takeover battle. Fortunately, he learned very early in his career how to regroup and strategize. In 1986, Sealand Helicopters was facing insolvency with the collapse of the offshore petroleum industry in Atlantic Canada. Mark’s father, business legend Craig Dobbin, responded by negotiating two acquisitions that would increase revenue tenfold and set out on an extended roadshow for the IPO. “It was a battlefield promotion that gave me great experience years before I otherwise would have.”

FUTURES MARKET Dobbin is a strong advocate for both the retention of young people in the region and increased immigration. Youth inspire him with their energy, maturity and strong social conscience. Immigrants, he notes, are significantly more entrepreneurial than typical Atlantic Canadians and “make excellent partners for investment.”

(Moncton, N.B.)

Once upon a time, Lilia was a captain with the Kazakhstan secret police. Then she moved to Canada. Her husband talked her into opening a brewpub and she’s been living happily ever after.

LAW ENFORCEMENT TO LAGER MAGNATE Danger was inherent in Lilia Fraser’s job back in Kazakhstan, but leaving her family and moving to Canada with her daughter was riskier still. “I had to start anew in a new country with a new language and adapt to countless cultural differences.” Her next risky business was just that: In 1999, with no previous entrepreneurial experience, Fraser and her husband opened Pump House to introduce Moncton to local craft beer and wood-fired pizza. The gamble paid off—they were named Canadian Brewery of the Year in 2005.

TALENT ACCEPTED With the explosion of the craft brewery scene, finding professionally-trained brewers anywhere in Canada has been a challenge, even more so in the Atlantic provinces. “We are currently working through immigration services to fill two positions from international candidates. The process is highly bureaucratic and time-demanding.” Fraser is optimistic about recruiting talent to the East Coast, despite the difficulty in matching wages with Toronto breweries. “Inversely, our advantage is having more affordable and spacious living conditions.”

FISCAL BEER It’s been almost 20 years since the taps at Pump House started flowing and Fraser has her sights set on world-wide shipping, as well as a vineyard and distillery. Through these expansions Fraser has become adept at course-corrections. “There are always multiple solutions that emerge from challenges we face in a continuously growing business.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

He’s a father of three, a husband, an orthopaedic surgeon, an educator, a
volunteer, and the founder of Team Broken Earth. Andrew believes we can improve lives at home and around the world through innovation and collaboration.

HUMANITARIAN GROWTH CULTURE Andrew Furey is grateful he was born to loving, nurturing parents in a caring, supportive community in a province full of compassion and empathy. But that doesn’t mean he takes his good fortune for granted; he sees it as a responsibility to do better. “Leaders,” he says, “must take firm action to correct inequities in
our society.”

A TURN FOR THE BETTER When he turned on his television back in 2010 and saw how Haiti—the poorest country in the Americas—had been devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, Dr. Furey was compelled to do something. He flew to Haiti to provide emergency medical assistance, an experience he says made him “a better surgeon, a better husband and father and, I think, a better person.” It also led him to found Team Broken Earth. This one-of-a-kind Canadian (now growing globally) medical aid charity provides full teams of voluntary medical professionals offering multi-disciplinary care and training to communities and people in Haiti, Bangladesh, Nepal, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

GOOD FOR WHAT AILS US Asserting that challenges are opportunities to grow and diversify, Furey sees the current economic climate as a chance for change makers, causes and charities like Team Broken Earth to create innovative, collaborative solutions. “Team Broken Earth is a small example of how Atlantic Canadians working together can bat above our weight and turn challenges into opportunities.”

(Halifax, N.S.)

Jennifer has been passionate about the rights of women and children since childhood. The Irish-born feminist and social entrepreneur is leading the charge to build world-class health facilities for children and women in Atlantic Canada.

VOCATION, NOT OCCUPATION Working at the IWK Foundation is more of a calling than a job for Jennifer Gillivan. This non-profit leader heads a group of passionate social entrepreneurs tasked with raising millions of dollars annually to support and create the physical space for the provision of world-class health care at the IWK Health Centre. “Our women and children deserve the best and nothing less!”

HONOUR ROLE From her Top 50 CEO win to being named Business Person of the Year by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce to being featured in the Canada 150 Women book, 2017 was a big year for Gillivan. However, the accolade that resonated most was her inclusion in the 2017 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant award winners. “The biggest risk I personally took was immigrating to Canada, leaving my Irish family and everything that was familiar to me and starting a whole new life.”

LIFE AFFIRMING As if she wasn’t already sufficiently family-motivated, Gillivan is finding fresh inspiration these days in her new grandson, Franklin. “As a grandmother, I want to give Franklin and any other grandchildren we may be blessed with, the best I can give them. That starts with access to world-class health care, but also the opportunity to join in a society that supports you—no matter what you look like, where you come from or who you love.”

(Fredericton, N.B.)

Brian started working in beverage-alcohol as a part-time employee with no plans to stay in the industry. Twenty years after working as a Budweiser Summer Special Events rep, he has changed the face of New Brunswick’s liquor corporation.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION Around the time Atlantic Business was launching the Top 50 CEO awards, Brian Harriman was working for Labatt Breweries as the Budweiser Summer Special Events representative in Northern New Brunswick and about to graduate from Mount Allison University. He was also discovering “what it was like to no longer be on Mom and Dad’s payroll. #welcometoreality” Two decades later, he’s leading the province’s publicly-owned alcohol retailer with its 41 corporate stores, 90 agency stores, 60 grocery stores selling wine, and over 40 local producer stores.

RISKY BOOZENESS Harriman has made a career of taking on stretch roles and pushing businesses outside their comfort zone. At ANBL, that translated into lowering their beer prices to match Quebec’s. “It required a significant cut to our margins and would require tremendous growth to keep our P&L whole.” His gamble proved successful, resulting in higher sales, growing profits and happier customers.

ATLANTIC ASSOCIATION While admittedly challenging, Harriman doesn’t believe that the Atlantic economy is all “doom and gloom.” There are bright spots and opportunities, he says. To that end, he’d like to see more attention paid to stories about businesses growing and prospering across the region. He also advocates for more regional collaboration to improve Atlantic Canada’s global competitiveness. And, he believes increasing the number of skilled immigrants would enhance both the labour force and customer base.

(Saint John, N.B.)

Greg is an impact storyteller who has built a business using film to create positive change in the world. His company, Hemmings House, is building the love economy by supporting triple bottom line companies.

I HAVE A TEAM One of the highlights of Greg Hemmings’ career is the team who work with him to produce original content that inspires positive social change. “We have created a corporate culture that helps individuals grow into their passions, and helps the company grow into its market position.” As a certified B Corporation, Hemmings House is committed to an “Inclusion Economy” and has been measuring gender ratios in leadership positions. “We are working hard to change the culture of the film industry,” he says.

BEYOND THE WHALE Hemmings attributes much of his production company’s global success to landing a major television series—a project that almost broke them. “We put too much of our resources into the delivery of this 14-month project, which took our eyes off our recurring corporate and commercial work.” While it came with a lot of challenges, it also had a happy ending: proof that they could deliver larger scale projects on time, on budget.

BRING HOME THE BACON New Brunswick is nowhere near the epicentre of the film industry, but Hemmings deliberately chose to set up shop in Saint John. “Home is our biggest asset. There are a lot of world class entrepreneurs and talent who have stayed here or come back. Hemmings House has pulled talent from Toronto and New York to work with us here…at home.”

CEO, Frontline Investments
(Eastern Passage, N.S.)

Tom is a serial entrepreneur and active investor who has launched 24 startups since 1995 with zero failures. He’s also a huge supporter of female hockey who has
coached his daughters for the past 12 years.

HIS WINNING FORMULA Frontline Investments, Tom Hickey’s holding company, actively looks for business opportunities with startups or succession-plan businesses that have scale, a niche and a strong operating partner. Frontline will typically invest money in the enterprise and Tom will take on an active role for the next two to five years of operations. He currently owns 14 companies and has operating partners in each.

SCORING LEADER Even when a business didn’t make money, Hickey says he’s never gone bankrupt and never not paid someone for work completed. “Never failing” has been great for his head game, as was selling his first business, going public and being warmly received on both Wall and Bay streets. But when his business interests saw him spending too much time away from his children, Hickey revised his game plan. He committed to local startups only (until the kids are in post-secondary) and, no surprise, he scored big again. “Helping the local economy, working with local entrepreneurs and getting profitable is fun!”

THE RINGER Back in the day, when he was “young and aggressive”, Hickey had the presence of mind to hire Laurie Taylor: “Laurie was mature, he had credibility and knew all of the right contacts. He filled in the gaps in my weaknesses. He stayed with the company, from the day I hired him until the day I sold, and we are still great friends.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

Cheryl was born into a family of entrepreneurs so it was only a matter
of time before the Juilliard graduate started her own company. As director of Atlantic Canada’s only professional opera company, she believes art should be accessible to everyone.

THE BIG BREAK As if graduating from The Juilliard School wasn’t big enough, Cheryl Hickman considers being hired by The New York City Opera and Canadian Opera Company right out of school the turning point in her career. Now, as owner of Opera on the Avalon, she’s got everything in tune: the organization has grown more than 1,000 per cent in the past nine years, contributing more than $1.7-million in indirect revenue for the Atlantic region.

ACCESSIBLE ART Last year, Opera on the Avalon was named the ArtsNL BMO Artist of the Year; the award celebrates contributions to the cultural life of Newfoundland and Labrador. “OOTA is starting a conversation about how we see ourselves and the world around us, and how those stories are brought to life by transforming beautiful music into powerful, engaging theater,” says Hickman.

OPERATIC CLIMATE The economic climate in the Atlantic provinces isn’t always kind to the arts, but Hickman is devoted to showcasing local talent—which may be why OOTA is one of the largest employers of artists and artisans in Atlantic Canada. In 2016, they premiered an opera commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel and in 2019, the company will present Shanawdithit. “Our most important resource continues to be our creative and resilient people—they are our most important asset.”

(Halifax, N.S.)

Fresh from university, Roger entered banking, aspiring to become a branch
manager— it never happened. Instead, he went on to run RBC’s six advice centres and now oversees the entire Atlantic region.

BIG TIME Working for Canada’s biggest bank (one of the largest in the world based on market capitalization) for more than 20 years, Roger Howard has worked his way up through RBC from commercial account manager in the late ‘90s, to regional president in Halifax. “I’ve been fortunate to work for a company that took chances on me and stretched my skills, thereby setting me up for long term success.”

HONESTY ASSURANCE Howard has learned the value of trusted advisors. Earlier in his career, he was about to refuse a job offer for the third time when a mentor convinced him to reconsider. “He challenged me to think longer term and see different (sometimes unappealing) jobs as a way to upskill.” For Howard, moving laterally was a major contributor to landing his role as regional president.

ZONING-IN Howard has learned to push boundaries working with RBC, a company that believes leadership is built outside the comfort zone. “It’s a concept I fully endorse, but when you’re in the situation it’s more than uncomfortable; it can be terrifying.” For example, he sees Atlantic Canada’s stagnant population as a way to become masters at innovation and resiliency and loves the opportunity it affords the bank. “Not only do I have my dream job, but my family gets to live in one of the best parts of the country!”

(Paradise, N.L.)

Terry is a straight-shooting engineer turned entrepreneur who loves to help others and leads by example: As a teacher, a realtor and an executive, running a business is a cog in the larger machine.

CUT AND RUN When Terry Hussey left a well-paying tech job in 2010 to launch his own business, he did so with his modest savings and the support of his wife—but nothing in the way of a plan or clients. “I believed I could run a business in a different way, putting people first, while finding a way to solve real problems.” In eight short years, this fast-learning CEO has grown Vigilant Management into the leading provider of independent project management services in N.L.

KEEN SPIRIT With his wife as his spirit guide (“She has taught me so much about compassion and empathy and I try to be more like her every day of my life”), it’s no surprise that Hussey welcomes social movements like #MeToo. “I am happy to see the progress we are making as a society toward a more equitable and fair way of life. I am trying to lead my company to treat people with respect and compassion and the social values of these movements will hopefully permeate throughout our culture.”

TEACHER STORY In 2014, Hussey won the Memorial University President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching, a humbling experience for the MUN grad. As an instructor, he believes the future needs big thinkers with “bold ideas” and “real solutions”. He says N.L. is facing an “existential crisis” that can’t be solved without meaningful change.

(Sussex, N.B.)

Blair’s first job was stocking shelves in a grocery store when he was 10 years old. Today, his company’s fresh baked goods can be found in every grocery store and many restaurants in the Maritimes and Maine.

FIFE GOALS In 2014, after 30 years of yearning, Blair Hyslop and his wife Rosalyn were finally ready to fulfill their dream of owning a business. (The pair had met through Junior Achievement and spent their first date talking about their business goals.) Together, they bought Mrs. Dunster’s Bakery and have been growing it 30 per cent annually ever since. Still, they’ve had their challenges: failed product launches, bad hiring decisions, moving too slow to make hard decisions. “As long as you learn from them, failures are necessary for success,” says Hyslop. “Every successful CEO has a certain amount of road rash.”

DOUBLE RISE The Hyslops must be fast healers: the company has doubled in size over the past three years and is on track to grow another 50 per cent in the coming year. Mrs. Dunster’s is the largest family-owned and operated bakery in Atlantic Canada with bakeries in Sussex and Moncton, N.B. and Borden, P.E.I. Its fresh baked goods are distributed to more than 800 retail and restaurant customers in the Maritimes and Maine.

STARTING FROM SCRATCH Looking back at his corporate days, Hyslop recalls reading Atlantic Business Magazine and being inspired by the profiles of successful local companies and business leaders. “Nothing pleases me more than the thought of our story in this 20th anniversary issue, hopefully inspiring the next generation of Atlantic Canadian CEOs.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

Kevin became interested in real estate while working as superintendent of a small apartment building in St. John’s, a position that helped finance his education. The knowledge gained provided a great base for developing the KMK Group.

ACCOUNTING REAL ESTATE Kevin King went to school for accounting and grew a successful CA practice, but the turning point was walking away. He sold the company in 2000 to concentrate solely on the real estate company he’d founded eight years earlier. “The ability to focus all of my attention on the real estate business resulted in rapid growth that far surpassed the years when I was devoted to the accounting business.” Today, KMK Capital Group of Companies is a vertically integrated real estate development firm involved in land and building design, construction, ownership, sales and management.

TOWERING RISK When King purchased Elizabeth Towers in 1996, the scale of the project outweighed his net worth. “I had only been in the workforce for five years at that point and had no equity.” The gamble paid off. Ten years later they sold the building to National REIT after re-purposing it to become an assisted living facility.

RESOURCE ECONOMY For King’s company, there is a close relationship between resources and real estate. “The Atlantic economy, particularly Newfoundland, is resource based and very cyclical due to its dependence on the price of commodities.” His challenge is to match the pace of real estate development with the ebb and flow of the resource sector, but he believes in being ready for the opportunities when the tide is high.

(Dartmouth, N.S.)

Roger went from a single mall kiosk to Canada’s “Supplement King”. A passion for fitness in school turned into a retail empire, growing from coast to coast over the past five years.

KING SIZE When Roger King launched his sport nutrition and performance supplement retail store, he pooled all of his “meagre net worth” and personal credit to flip on the open sign. To conquer the castle and become one of the only franchised brands based in Atlantic Canada, he had to start small and think big. Now the company has 23 franchisees operating 42 stores in nine different provinces. Their popular franchise program offers a turn-key solution that includes site selection and real estate transactions, store construction and outfitting, POS and operating systems, training and support plus a full marketing program including curated content across all social platforms and volume leveraged media buys.

MUSCLE MEMORY Expansion plans call for a disciplined regime and Supplement King’s rapid growth was no accident. For King, a pivotal moment in 2015 was selling his three founding corporate stores in Halifax, a sacrifice made for the good of the company. “This allowed me to focus my time and resources on the national growth of the company. That next year we doubled in size.”

ONLINE SUPPORT Supplement King’s latest endeavor is an e-commerce platform. By allowing licensees to become hybrid brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers, King anticipates the website will allow a larger inventory for customers all over the country. “This powerful tool sets the stage for exciting new retail growth.”

(Hampton, N.B.)

In high school, Erik lost the student council president election by one vote. Now he does everything with overkill. He used to think 100 chiropractic clinics would be enough; now he’s looking at 1,000.

BACK CRACKERS Helping people be healthy has always been Dr. Erik Klein’s mandate, but by creating a reproducible clinic model with the help of other massage therapists, physiotherapists and chiropractors he’s changing the understanding of whole-body care. “We’re leading the movement to change the public’s perception of chiropractors from back crackers to team leaders in problem solving and finding solutions.” The results speak for themselves: Town Chiropractor has grown more than 37 per cent over the past year—and they have plans to expand across North America.

BACK FLIP At the beginning of his expansion plans, Klein says one of his associate chiropractor’s quit—and told Klein his personality was the cause. While he took it hard, he used the lesson as an incentive to learn more about relationships and management. “I came out much, much stronger than I ever envisioned myself being. I thank that person every single day for quitting,” he says.

BACK PACK Klein says he’s inspired by the “mythical entrepreneur” who is “truly there” for their family without sacrificing their professional dreams and opportunities. “The highest echelons of business are filled with workaholics, deadbeat dads and happy divorce lawyers. Without my family, I am a shell; without my business, I am rudderless. As a society, I believe we need to celebrate those who reach the top by remaining whole. Those who do it truly are inspirational.”

(Truro, N.S.)

Darrell is known as a devoted husband and father as well as a principled and compassionate individual. He’s also a calculated risk-taker and transformational
leader, developing industry-leading initiatives for Community Credit Union.

BLUE CHIP INVESTMENTS At Community Credit Union, a locally-owned and progressive financial services business, Darrell Kuhn has led his team in investing in a new standard of financial services. While some innovations are predictably technological (such as a self-service platform with in-branch tablets and an online self-assessment tool), others show creative thought leadership. Examples include in-branch community rooms to support not-for-profits, a financial tips center, an entrepreneurial sponsorship fund for women, and a ‘Tuition Trust’ bursary program to assist underprivileged kids in furthering their education.

INTEGRITY YOU CAN BANK ON Earlier in his career, after uncovering a significant compliance breach at a financial institution, Kuhn took appropriate action despite political, community and public opposition. He knew he would ultimately lose his job—which he did, without cause—but he’s never regretted his decision. Vindication would ultimately be his: several years later, his actions were publicly supported by the Auditor General’s independent investigation. “As the leader of the Regulatory Agency, I acted with the highest level of integrity and conviction, with my decision in the best interests of all key stakeholders.”

LEVERAGING EQUITY Darrell believes the private enterprise brain trust is a valuable and underutilized tool in the region. “It is important that the private sector be permitted to be more engaged in creating solutions, rather than depending on governments to take the lead.”

(Dartmouth, N.S.)

From an early age, Allan’s father taught him to build with precision and take pride in his work. Today, as president of one of Atlantic Canada’s largest general
contractors, he’s creating fascinating architecture and innovative, sustainable buildings.

UNSURE FOOTING In 2003, Allan MacIntosh left a stable job with an established construction company to partner with Christopher Hickman and expand MARCO beyond Newfoundland. The result? More than
800 per cent growth over the past 15 years and the transformation of MARCO into one of the largest Atlantic Canadian construction firms, operating in the retail, commercial, recreational, multi-residential, entertainment, health care, educational and light industrial sectors as design builders, construction managers, and general contractors.

QUALITY MATTERS In construction, many more bids are lost than won. “In our head office we have a painting of two gentlemen down on their luck,” says MacIntosh. “When one asks what brought the other to this point in his life, the response is ‘I was low bidder on every project.’” MacIntosh has learned not to be distracted by the race to the bottom: he and MARCO are more interested in leading the industry in innovation and quality, sustainable construction.

CONSTRUCTED FOR LIFE In 1999, MacIntosh was part of the team working to convert the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge from a two-lane to a three-lane structure with a pedestrian walkway and bicycle lane. At the same time, he says he was also adjusting to family life with two small children (they were one and two at the time). “That was the beginning of my struggle for work/life balance, a struggle that continues today.”

(Halifax, N.S.)

Laurie is a self-proclaimed recovering accountant. After 11 years working in international finance in Bermuda, she returned to Nova Scotia in 2008. Having had the entrepreneurial spirit since a young age, she and her husband bought Backman Vidcom in 2014.

HOMEWARD BOUND While Backman Vidcom was a well established company when Laurie MacKeigan and her husband, Tom Murray, bought it in 2014 (it was founded in 1976), it required both time and TLC to establish their vision for the firm. Under her presidential guidance—aided by updated systems, policies and marketing—this commercial audiovisual design and integration services provider has experienced 18 per cent growth annually. “We optimize technology so our customers can achieve greater business results,” says MacKeigan.

SURROUND SOUND In large urban centres, audiovisual companies typically find their competitive advantage by specializing in a particular area. By virtue of Atlantic Canada’s market size and economy, Backman Vidcom has to be experts in multiple areas. One day they might be outfitting a videoconference boardroom and the next they might be installing
a theatre’s surround sound. MacKeigan welcomes the diversification because she says it makes them better. “We have partnered on projects with some national entities that were both surprised and impressed with our expanded capabilities and talents since we come from a small market.”

TUNED IN A strong social advocate, especially for women and girls, it’s no surprise that MacKeigan finds support from her peers in the Women Presidents’ Organization (members are all c-suite women). She credits the female entrepreneurs in the group for providing her with the wisdom and inspiration to grow her company.

(Halifax, N.S.)

Stuart is passionate about making a difference in the lives of working Nova Scotians by reducing the impact of workplace injury. He is inspired by fellow safety champions and the workers in his family.

SAFETY CONSCIENCE As the province’s workplace injury insurance provider, WCB Nova Scotia delivers security for workers and their families, and helps injured workers return to work in a safe and timely manner. While proud of their successes, CEO Stuart MacLean says there is always room for improvement. “Any time there is a serious workplace injury or a fatality, I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed; our organization failed, and the system failed…We can never stop trying to prevent injuries and build a safety culture. Because there will always be risk. But I don’t believe those risks always have to result in injuries.”

DECLINING NUMBERS MacLean is ecstatic when his numbers go down. Such as, down 30 per cent in time-loss workplace injury claims (from 8,200 to 5,800), and down to 11 per cent in their unfunded liability (it was 73 per cent back in the ‘90s). “Our goal of achieving full funding is within reach. That’s good news for workers, employers, and for our economy.”

RISKY BUSINESS Five years ago, the commercial fishing sector had the highest rates of injury and fatality in Nova Scotia. MacLean was determined to end the tragic legacy. He and WCB teamed up with government and safety champions in the fishing industry, engaged their board, made investments and watched a safety culture begin to emerge. Today, injuries are at an all-time low.

(Halifax, N.S.)

Travis is a self-described high energy risk taker, proud dyslexic, youth sports worshipper, insomniac, over-the-hill athlete, business mentor, and proud father of
three with salt air in his blood. He believes leadership belongs to those who take it.

FAIL FORWARDTravis McDonough confesses he has had many fears in his life—fear of failure, of regret or even of fear itself—but the turning point in his career was realizing everything he had every accomplished that was worthwhile came only after passing through an area of intense fear. “I have failed academically, as an aspiring athlete, as an entrepreneur and in many relationships. At least, however, I have failed forward.”

INVESTMENT CAP Kinduct, the company McDonough founded, collects data from wearable devices, analyzes it through a “complex labyrinth of technical plumbing, artificial intelligence and sports science” and provides feedback that can improve a person’s athletic performance. Just over 18 months ago, they made the jump from startup to ‘scale-up’ when they took on a large outside investment. These investors included a group of VC companies, industry experts and local businessman John Risley. “Opening up our cap table definitely pushed us in the ‘discomfort zone’—in a good way,” says McDonough.

LAND OF OPPORTUNITY The proud creator of 50 full-time jobs in downtown Halifax, McDonough predicts the city is on the verge of becoming a smaller scale East Coast Silicon Valley. “Between the momentum in the tech startup world, to the new accelerators and incubators, our concentration of quality academic institutions, and influential business leaders such as Gerry Pond and John Risley…our future is bright.”

(Dartmouth, N.S.)

Norm started delivering newspapers around his neighbourhood in Sudbury,
Ontario at age nine. His strong work ethic—like completing a PhD while working full time—has brought success in his current role with Big Erics Inc.

ENGINEERED FOR SUCCESS From completing his doctorate while working full time to launching several new beers and malt beverages to growing market share and employee engagement while at Labatt, Norm Mensour has found success at every stage of his career. Most recently, at Big Erics, he has successfully grown sales by over 40 per cent in the last two years while transforming their go-to-market strategy and implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning system—setting the table for future market growth.

TURNING UP THE HEAT Superficially speaking, Big Erics provides businesses across Atlantic Canada with restaurant and janitorial equipment and supplies. But Mensour says their true mission is threefold: to transform the dreams of restaurateurs into beautiful and efficient kitchens; to help institutions maintain clean and safe work environments; and to provide information that helps customers keep on the cutting edge of their industry. A highly educated sales team working collaboratively with customers and suppliers is, he says, their best selling utensil.

FAMILIAR INSPIRATION A hearty appetite for hard work is a Mensour family trait: Norm Mensour’s parents immigrated to Canada from Lebanon as young adults knowing nothing about the culture, climate or language. “They worked hard to raise a family of six children who all went on to complete university degrees. They made us believe we could do anything if we were willing to work hard for it.”

(Mount Pearl, N.L.)

Dallas is a member of the justice league—for employers. She started DMC to help businesses add efficiency to their workers’ compensation and sick leave processes. She now has offices in N.L., N.S. and N.B., and clients across the country.

CALL TO ACTION She started her career with the Workers Compensation Board, then moved to the Employer Council about 20 years ago. It was there that Dallas Mercer had her ‘aha’ moment—when she realized that employers “didn’t know their rights, nor how they could affect their workers’ compensation premiums.” This epiphany led to the start of DMC a little over three years later.

TO SERVE AND DEFEND DMC delivers disability management, safety training, safety consulting, and industrial hygiene services to hundreds of employers across Canada. They also work passionately on behalf of employers to minimize lost time and increase productivity. “I measure success by the wins we deliver to our clients,” says Dallas. “That could be getting clearance for a worker, finding accommodation for an employee in a complicated case or saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for a client because of a workers’ compensation rate change.”

NEVER BACK DOWN Last year, says Dallas, was the most challenging year to date for DMC. A number of major projects were nearing completion and the N.L. economy had stalled. Her response? To mobilize her team of “people who are deeply committed to seeking justice for employers.” Together, they seized the opportunity to accelerate their expansion plans. “In under 12 months, we had established a presence in these new markets, hiring staff and opening offices in Halifax and Moncton.”

(Dartmouth, N.S.)

Darren started his career as a CA and went on to hone his entrepreneurial
skills by acquiring underperforming companies and implementing change to increase value. He currently owns 10 companies in a variety of business sectors.

DIVING IN In 1999, Darren Nantes was working as the chief financial officer of a communications company involved in acquisitions and industry consolidation across Atlantic Canada. It was, he says, a formative experience in private enterprise that gave him ready access to key mentors. That corporate exposure, combined with his educational background, the encouragement of his father and the support of his wife, gave him the confidence to become a business owner. Re-mortgaging his house was a terrifying first leap, but he’s been doing swimmingly ever since.

TAKING THE HELM Nantes acts on investment opportunities through his private venture capital firm, Nantes Capital Inc. At present, he holds controlling interests in a number of companies, most of which are in the construction sector: Guildfords; Guild Contracting; Dover Insulation Contractors; MSM Construction; Shelburne Diesel; Metro Burner Service; Thermic Distribution Inc.; Twin City Painting; and, Pineapple Bytes Inc. Nantes Capital also has non-controlling interests in private projects in Ontario and Alberta.

CHARTING A NEW COURSE Asked to describe the Atlantic economy, Nantes didn’t follow the doom and gloom discourse so popular among regional pundits. “Atlantic Canada is a very stable marketplace, with much less volatility than other areas of Canada or around the globe. Our skills and business acumen in Atlantic Canada can compete anywhere. I think we
need more businesses to take greater risks to expand beyond the region.”

(Bonavista, N.L.)

As a boy, John insisted on playing Monopoly numerous times a week. The game has never ended: now he collects unique real estate in his hometown, restoring heritage properties to their original splendor.

REAL ESTATE RECOVERY Because John Norman buys homes that no one else wants (many are condemned or dilapidated structures with strong histories, but little chance for restoration or reuse), he takes a risk with every property he buys. “We have lost on properties, we have gained on properties, but we have never regretted saving a piece of history,” says Norman. His goal is to restore and preserve the built heritage of Bonavista while also monetizing its sense of place.

FAMILIAL GROWTH SPURT In under five years, Norman has increased Bonavista’s average real estate values by 57 per cent and created more than 60 jobs. His most rewarding achievement, however, is attracting dozens of young families to the rural community. “The
greatest success I see around me in Bonavista is the growth in community vitality and consumer confidence. Main street is alive again!” Little wonder he is celebrated as a rural economic trailblazer.

INSPIRATIONAL DOTES When Norman was growing up, he had intended to follow his father into the medical profession. His father, he says, “came from nothing, put himself through university, completing multiple degrees and at age 39 he went back to school to become a doctor.” Norman may not wear the white coat but he certainly inherited his father’s work ethic. “A life of service is a full life. Like him, I work for my family, community and region.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

Barry is a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian from Pound Cove, Bonavista
Bay. His life has been guided by the principles taught by his parents. He brings these values of integrity and sincerity to his leadership at Fortis Inc.

POWER HITTER A big believer in “getting up to the plate and swinging the bat,” Barry Perry says you have to take chances if you want to move forward. For Perry, that’s meant moving to Montreal with Abitibi back in the ‘90s (exposing him to North American capital markets), to returning home as CFO of Newfoundland Power in 2000, to several unsuccessful acquisition attempts while expanding Fortis in North America. You can’t be afraid to fail, he says. “You have to put your hand up for new opportunities.”

GRAND SLAM Under Perry’s leadership, Fortis realized a 67 per cent growth in revenue over the past three years. Today the company has assets of CDN$48 billion, 2017 revenue of $8.3 billion, 8,500 employees and 3.2 million customers in 17 locations throughout the continent. And its investing in its energy grid to meet evolving customer demands. In other words, this electric and gas utility is “Perrying” up.

MOMENT OF VICTORY Seeing the provincial flag flying on Wall Street in October 2016 (when Fortis was listed on the stock exchange), was a “larger than life” moment for Barry Perry. That same month, they also completed the US$11.3 billion acquisition of ITC Holdings, the largest independent electricity transmission company in the United States—further proof that you don’t land the big win if you don’t step up to the plate.

(Lower Sackville, N.S.)

Patricia grew up in rural Nova Scotia, experiencing first hand the challenges with receiving services. Her passion is to help and transform lives by
harnessing the power of technology and highly skilled staff.

HOLD THE PHONE In 2001, Dr. Patricia Pottie joined Dr. Patrick J. McGrath to test a new system of care, now known as the Strongest Families Institute (SFI). Together, they developed an innovative distance delivery system using paraprofessional telephone coaches. This one-of-a-kind distance system of care, supported by their proprietary technology, bridges critical access gaps in mental health services for children, youth and families. It’s cost-effective, can be scaled quickly and delivers services when and where it’s needed. “We are open when others are not,” says Dr. Pottie.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES Developing and maintaining IRIS (Intelligent Research & Intervention Software), the smart technology central to SFI’s infrastructure is both costly and time-consuming. Working with her team, Dr. Pottie has been increasing IRIS efficiencies to create cost-savings that offset its development costs. They need to be as lean and innovative as possible: the bulk of their funding comes from government agencies with uncertain budgets in tough economic times.

BUSY SIGNALS As a clinician from a rural area who has witnessed the stigma created when there are barriers to care (distance, cost of travel, wait lists, etc…), Dr. Pottie is motivated by the youth and families who have been helped by SFI. And even though she and her team have helped 500 per cent more Canadian families in 2017 compared to 2012, they are determined to “do better and help more.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

A veteran in Canada’s heavy civil construction industry, Larry spent his career tackling the nation’s most complex projects and challenging environments. When he’s not building Canada’s infrastructure, he’s playing in its backyard, enjoying hiking, skiing, boating, snowmobiling, fishing, and hunting.

PROJECT MILESTONES Larry Puddister identifies four inflection points in his career: becoming an entrepreneur and launching his own construction company, Northland Contracting, was one; merging Northland with Pennecon was two; becoming an equal shareholder with Ches Penny was three; and buying out his late partner’s interests in Pennecon was four. Now there’s a fifth one on the horizon: “Over the coming months, Pennecon will share with its stakeholders a refreshed brand, representing our strength as a one-stop-shop for tough jobs, and unveiling a new ownership structure that further empowers our employees to deliver the best solutions, service and quality.”

SCOPE OF WORK Pennecon is Canada’s leading provider of integrated solutions across a diverse portfolio of capabilities: heavy civil, industrial, technical services and marine. “Powered by a diverse team from coast to coast across Canada, we are united by our passion and determination to deliver results on the most complex jobs in the most challenging environments,” says Puddister.

CONSTRUCTING CHANGE The lack of diversity in the Newfoundland and Labrador workforce is a challenge for the construction industry says Puddister. “We must help to facilitate change in the industries and communities in which we operate.” One of the ways Pennecon is doing this is its partnership with the Women in Resource Development Centre. “We are encouraging young women to pursue STEM-related careers, and mentoring them through the process.”

(Dartmouth, N.S.)

Michael is a husband and father who grew up in a small town in Cape Breton. He loves to compete, solve problems and build long-lasting, meaningful relationships. Whenever an opportunity presents, it’s time for a bike ride.

WHEN OPPORTUNITY CALLS A former top performing sales agent for Fortune 500 companies like IBM and General Electric, Michael Reeves wasn’t initially interested in working for MOBIA. Rob Lane, owner of the IT consultancy, systems integration and business process outsourcing company, wanted Reeves to energize their stagnant sales. Reeves turned him down but Lane was persistent. Reeves started as VP of Sales. In year one, he helped redefine the 30-year-old company and rebuild its management, sales and technical teams. In year two, he was named vice president and general manager. By year three, he was the president of the company. The promotions were well earned: In 36 months, Reeves had helped MOBIA grow revenues over 70 per cent, almost double their staff and expand into new markets.

FAILURES? HE’S HAD A FEW. Some failures he attributes to personal uncertainty, others from ignoring his intuition or failing to push back on something that conflicted with his core beliefs. While he doesn’t seek to fail, Reeves doesn’t run from the possibility of it either. “My unwavering commitment for tracking the course that’s fuelled by my passions and values for our company naturally reaps the biggest rewards.”

GUIDING LIGHT Reeves says he continues to be inspired by the memory of his mother. “She never judged, was always committed, always present and unflappable in some very tough life situations.”

(Yarmouth, N.S.)

Speaker, entrepreneur, and industry ambassador, Mandy is redefining the
collar, blue™, and inspiring people to join the skilled trades. Mandy is the Blue Collar CEO™ and founder of Freshco.ca (not the grocery store!) and RennDuPrat.

OH NO YOU DIDN’T! Eleven years ago, Mandy Rennehan was told that U.S.-based Fortune 500 retailers would never do business with a Canadian company. She accepted the challenge and her business has since doubled. Freshco, Canada’s premiere reconstruction and retail maintenance provider, has attracted and retained giant retail clients like Anthropologie, Apple, Banana Republic, Home Depot, Lululemon, Nike, Restoration Hardware, Sephora, The Gap, Tiffany & Co… “They love us!” she says.

DIVERSITY IS US “I am not the norm,” she says bluntly. A successful woman business owner who left home at 18 to build a company in a male-dominated industry, Rennehan defies stereotypes. “I lead with authenticity, honesty and raw personality”—a strategy she credits with allowing her to really connect with people and impact lives. And she encourages all of her employees (60 per cent of whom are female, by the way) to bring their true authentic selves to work every day. “We have zero tolerance for sexuality discrimination, harassment, or racism of any kind. It’s 2018 people, read the f#@$%^’ memo!”

DO WE DARE? What’s holding Atlantic Canada back? “Rigid regulations and static political policy,” says Rennehan. “I would love to bring my global experience and pragmatic (uncensored) approach to a partnership with multiple levels of government and free enterprise to expose the East Coast for the gem it is and highlight the ROI Atlantic investment can have.”

(St. John’s, N.L.)

Jenny is a creative director, an entrepreneur, and a mom (not necessarily in that order). When she’s not making ads, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and vodka martinis.

LIVING THE DREAM Imagine loving going to work every day (even Mondays!). Now fill in that vision with clients who trust and appreciate you… with being invited to judge your industry’s most prestigious awards… with mentoring emerging talent… with having children and making it as a female creative director when only three per cent of creative directors globally are women. Now sigh with the satisfaction of knowing you did it all yourself… just you and your guts and determination and a few martinis. So go ahead and mix yourself another, Jenny Smith—you’ve earned it.

BACK TO REALITY What makes a successful advertising agency these days? At Ray, it’s a small team of ad veterans who know how to listen and create business-building ideas for their clients. “We get right to the heart of the matter,” says Smith, “free of bullshit and hierarchy. Just hard-working people who create great work and like to have fun.”

PINCH HER, IT’S REAL Her timing might not have been the best (launching an agency in downtown St. John’s in the middle of an economic downturn), but Smith was convinced there was an appetite for a new agency model with fresh ideas. Five years later, they’ve earned a solid reputation as one of the best creative agencies in the region with 70 per cent of their business coming from outside the province.

(Malgash, N.S.)

To Carl, business is like a sport. Winning is important but having fun while doing it makes it worthwhile. If the fun leaves, so does he.

POP THE CORK After working as a geologist for five years—and realizing it wasn’t the right career for him—Carl Sparkes headed back to school for his MBA. The move introduced him to marketing, which in turn opened doors to the food and beverage industry. There, he became popular as a “turnaround” specialist. As president of Olivieri Foods, he quadrupled growth in as many years. That was followed by similar results for Canada Bread, Eastern Bakeries, Omstead Foods and Bento Nouveau. By 2011, he was more than ready to pour his energies into a business of his own, so he created Devonian Coast to acquire Jost and two other Nova Scotia wineries.

THE PERFECT POUR The new vintner proceeded to do what he does best: pulling together a talented leadership team, rebranding the business and improving their product portfolio. The predictable results: brisk sales, multiple awards. They even have a 10,000 sq. ft. retail store in Shanghai, China.

SAVOUR THE BOUQUET Innovation is a state of mind for Devonian Coast Wineries. They make wine, yes, but they also create social experiences says Sparkes, whose work and life is inspired by his wife’s joie de vivre. “Our products are ubiquitous companions at any social gathering. We are industry leaders because we think from our guest’s experience back to the vineyard, not the other way around.”

(Halifax, N.S.)

Barb launched The 7 Virtues fragrances on her visa card out of her garage.
Seven years later, her fragrances (that support nations rebuilding), launched with beauty giant, Sephora Canada (USA and Europe in 2019).

LIFE IS A HIGHWAY When a young Barb Stegemann headed off to university on an Acadian Lines bus, five dollars in her pocket and no sheets for her bed, little did she suspect her life was about to be transformed. At King’s College, she was introduced to great philosophers, a network of people who wanted to change the world, and Trevor Greene. The then-student, later military captain, would become not only her best friend, but also the inspiration for her company: The 7 Virtues.

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED Stegemann was the first Atlantic Canadian woman to land a venture capital deal on CBC’s Dragon’s Den. Her company? –a social enterprise that’s helping rebuild communities experiencing war or strife. She sources ingredients in Afghanistan, Haiti, Israel, Iran, Rwanda and India. And she uses them to create hypoallergenic scents with aromatherapy benefits, made without harmful chemicals. Her products are so good and her message so powerful, Sephora USA created a new Clean & Conscious fragrance section to showcase The 7 Virtues and ignite other brands to make ethically-sourced, cruelty-free products.

FUEL FOR THE JOURNEY Stegemann is grateful for, and inspired by, the support of her husband, Mike Velemirovich. “He is the most humble, giving, and wise business person I’ve ever met.” As a woman and an entrepreneur, she says it’s crucial to have a spouse who believes in you and shares your vision.

(Coleman, P.E.I.)

From a young age, Harvey loved to fix things and had an entrepreneurial spirit. His ingenuity and passion to help others succeed has turned Trout River Industries
into the world’s largest live bottom trailer manufacturer.

LOAD AND GO Twenty years ago, Harvey Stewart was building his very first live bottom trailer and questioning if it would work. This self-styled R&D guy needn’t have worried: Trout River Industries is now the world’s largest manufacturer of live bottom trailers, with licensing agreements in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East, and Western Canada. In case you were wondering, a live bottom trailer functions as an enclosed dump truck—instead of the back of the truck lifting to dump the load, a conveyor belt does the offloading. The truck doesn’t stop there: Trout River also manufactures a self-cleaning version for the waste industry (the shuttle floor trailer), so the operator never comes in contact with the load.

PICKING UP SPEED The turning point from small business to global player came when Darrin Mitchell joined the Trout River team. “His knowledge of marketing and business development helped us to steadily grow the business,” says Stewart of his business partner. “We complement each other very well.”

WHY PARK HERE? Geography and human resources are obvious challenges when you’re building a global manufacturing business from small town P.E.I. (Coleman’s population: 290). But there’s a silver lining to the isolation, says Stewart: “They say necessity is the mother of all innovation. In Atlantic Canada, we are fortunate to have people who know how to get the job done.”

(Halifax, N.S.)

Robert is an experienced academic administrator and post-secondary advocate. He is passionate about the value of research, teaching and the advancement of learning for everyone who wants to participate in higher education.

LEARNING MOMENTS In Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray’s very well-educated opinion, there are no failures on the road to success, only a series of lessons waiting to be learned. Having had “many” of these learning moments in his career, he say the key is to “find the opportunity that can be hidden in these challenges.” One such challenge was the development of a strategic plan to articulate the university’s purpose and strengths. Started in 2015, the process took time, and a cultural shift within the institution, but the challenge was overcome. Summerby-Murray knew the process was working when people began articulating ideas in their own words, in ways that were consistent with the university’s broader themes.

ABT (ALWAYS BE TEACHING) As the president of Saint Mary’s University, Summerby-Murray’s daily task is to help create innovative minds and foster entrepreneurial mindsets across faculties. “We equip the next generation for the depth of knowledge and the breadth of understanding that will drive the future of the economy and society.”

SHARING IDEAS Saying that universities are essential venues for critical dialogue, Summerby-Murray is proud of how Saint Mary’s honours that role. “Movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo help to heighten our understanding of social conscience and how we approach our teaching.” They also work to encourage immigration, noting that the connection between innovation and immigration is clear.

(Fredericton, N.B.)

Gaëtan is a lifelong visionary and innovator who’s full of energy and
deeply passionate about customer service. He’s a proud Acadian dedicated to his family, his NB Power team and the people of New Brunswick.

DARK DAYS Gaëtan Thomas felt the true weight of being in ‘power’ in February 2017 when the province was hit with the worst ice storm in NB Power’s history. More than 600 poles were down, over 130,000 customers without power at a time of the year when heat is essential. While Thomas was responsible for overseeing NB Power’s response and providing daily updates to the media and the premier’s office, he also made time to meet with people in the areas where the damage was worst. Though it was a trying time, he says he will “forever cherish” the efforts of NB Power crews as well as the cooperation of residents, local leaders and many caring volunteers. “I saw the very best in people under very trying conditions.”

CHARGING STATION During his eight years as head of NB Power, Thomas has focused considerable energy on clean, renewable energy. That includes partnering with Siemens (to implement a SmartGrid) and JOI Scientific (to commercialize hydrogen in all electricity applications worldwide). “We are building the utility of the future by modernizing our grid, which could enable net zero carbon energy for the whole region.”

ENERGY SAVINGS Thomas hasn’t allowed his vision of the future to overshadow the demands of the present. Along with the investments being made for their 2040 zero-carbon target date, NB Power is reducing costs and streamlining operations.

(Moncton, N.B.)

Mike is a husband, father, entrepreneur and goal-oriented individual who enjoys a challenge. He strives to be successful at everything he does and reports enjoying hard work. Two of his biggest passions are volunteering and seeing others succeed.

GROSS DOMESTIC POKKET When Mike Timani opened up his first bakery in 1989 he had three employees; almost 30 years later he has a 45,000 sq. ft. facility which employs 70 people. His company, Fancy Pokket is now the largest manufacturer of pita bread, bagels, tortilla wraps and flatbreads in Atlantic Canada. “What was produced in 12 hours in 1989 can now be made in less than 10 minutes.”

FLAT OUT As an immigrant himself, Timani is passionate about immigration advocacy and promotes the hiring of new Canadians. Currently Fancy Pokket’s Moncton plant has employees from 15 different countries. Like many large companies in Atlantic Canada, Timani’s company faces challenges that producers in larger centres would not: “we face a labor shortage in this area with most young graduates leaving the Maritimes.” To stay competitive, expansion has been a necessary part of Fancy Pokket’s success.

SEEING BREAD Timani’s biggest challenge so far has been opening a gluten-free facility in the United States. Because of the strict parameters surrounding the machinery and ingredients used in gluten-free plants, there were delays in opening. The 50,000 sq. ft. bakery is on schedule to open this spring after four years of construction. “Opening this plant will allow us to double our business in Canada by accessing over half the population of the USA in a 14-hour drive.”


At 29, Andy became CEO of the Nunacor Development Corporation and group of companies. He has led them through exponential growth, more than quadrupling revenues in the past five years.

SERVICE SHOCK Andy Turnbull studied French and business in university, but soon after snagging a government job he did a 180. “I needed a more challenging role—one that was fast paced and allowed me the freedom and flexibility to take a project from idea to execution.” He’s found that with Nunacor where he’s leading the only Indigenous-community owned economic development group in the country to hold both ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety certifications.

HOTEL TO ARMS Even though he had no experience in the hospitality industry, Turnbull was determined to purchase Royal Inn and Suites in 2016. “I have a passion for the hospitality industry, for providing high quality customer service as well as an obsession with details—all of which are important in running a hotel.” This enthusiasm paid off: the hotel has increased market share, upgraded its Canada Select rating and is the number one choice in their area on TripAdvisor. Turnbull is also proud of the H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator of the Year Award they received from Hospitality NL this year.

POSITIVE POSITIONING While many CEOs are worried about outmigration and a strangled economy, Turnbull sees his unique position in Labrador as a road to endless possibilities. “The increased interest in partnering with Indigenous organizations and improving relations with Indigenous groups is having a positive impact on our business.”

(Moncton, N.B.)

Bill is a proud New Brunswicker who made the decision to return home after university and create a life in the province. He did it without a roadmap but with a lot of desire and passion.

OUT OF THE BOX There were some sleepless nights when Bill Whalen turned 50, but it wasn’t a mid-life crisis—he purchased Hawk Marketing in 2007 with a partner and it’s been both his biggest risk
and biggest success. He has pushed hard to create a different agency experience by establishing a team of brand, creative, and digital specialists who are delivering persuasive experiences, pushing boundaries and becoming global innovators. “Some refer to us as an ad agency or digital shop but those labels don’t fit in today’s world.”

WITH COMMERCE The Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce has had a major impact on Whalen’s career. At 30, he was chosen to lead the organization, an opportunity which helped him foster many important relationships with entrepreneurs and business leaders in Moncton. “Those four years really helped to establish me for the rest of my career and gave me visibility to some amazing community leaders.”

BACK IN THE DAY In 1999, Whalen was working for Atlantic Business Magazine Top 50 CEO Hall of Famer Steve Parker, running the Moncton office. His children were 13, 11 and 8 and life was extremely busy on both the personal and professional fronts. He had recently finished his time as the first chair of the Greater Moncton Airport Authority and was on the national Government Relations committee of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “Those were great days.”

(Fredericton, N.B.)

Pat started working at LuminUltra at 15, experiencing the growth of the company first hand. When he’s not working on ways to improve the world’s water supply, he mentors entrepreneurs and travels the world with his wife, Jill.

GROWING UP Pat Whalen started working at LuminUltra at the ripe age of 15. As a lifelong employee, he’s watched it grow from an idea to a prosperous, multi-national water-quality testing company with a client list of mostly Fortune 500 companies located in over 70 different countries. His biggest success, he says proudly, is having played a role in its evolution: he took over the company in 2008 when it was in a money-losing position and guided it to today’s high-growth success. One thing that hasn’t changed in the company’s 15-year existence is its mission: to bring awareness of the effects of microorganisms in water, to municipalities and industry.

LEARNED LESSONS Being in charge of an industry-leading company has not been without its obstacles, and while Whalen can’t count the number of failures he’s had, he says they have only made him try harder. “I have taken lessons from every lost sale, every failed research and development project, and every employee departure—and those who know me will say that I take every failure to heart, sometimes too much so.”

WORLDWIDE TALENT With employees hailing from Indian, China, Pakistan and New Zealand, LuminUltra’s lunchroom is a veritable world market. “We would not be where we are as an organization without Canada’s strong commitment to immigration,” says Whalen gratefully.

(Truro, N.S.)

Mike has wanted to be in the advertising world since he was a 10-year-old watching Bewitched. He likes simplicity, both professionally and personally: No more
than two keys on a keychain, four credit cards in a thin wallet.

DAILY BREAD Mike Whittaker’s time as a master marketer has successfully lured a lot of hungry people to his doors. Under his umbrella of food companies, Trucorp, an estimated 10,000 meals a day include food from one of their companies. They are the suppliers of Bonte and Chris Brothers deli meats and sauces, and their restaurant chains cover Atlantic Canada: the 140-unit Greco Pizza system, over 30 locations of Capt. Submarine and 15+ Frozu! outlets. Product lines combined with catchy clever marketing programs (like their 310-3030 jingle) have made their brands household names.

FRESH PI One of Whittaker’s career highlights is all about fresh slices of pizza: in 1983 Greco launched their 30 Minutes or Free marketing program which made the chain the leader in Atlantic Canada. He also spearheaded the iconic ‘90s earworm “310-3030” which is actually Whittaker’s license plate number. “It was an instant success. Greco Pizza became popular and strong investor interest in our franchise concept helped launch the chain into dynamic growth for several years.”

INSPIRITED ATTITUDE While it pains Whittaker to admit it, his executive team often knows the business better than he does. “They work tirelessly and are the most driven people I know. They espouse the culture of the organization and are tireless at working towards market dominance for our companies. They are leaders and I admire them.”

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