2013 Top 50 CEOs

Posted on April 30, 2013 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

Check out any number of online media sites, and the most popular items invariably relate to celebrity ‘news’. What does it say about our society when our ‘celebrities’ are people who regularly behave badly? And we reward them for it with our undivided attention?

When Atlantic Business Magazine launched our Top 50 CEO awards 15 years ago, we did so with the idea of recognizing real stars: leading corporate citizens who were successfully growing their companies, advancing their industries, and enhancing their communities. By definition of the selection criteria, winners had to be decisive, forward-thinking and enthusiastic innovators who were resolved to improve the quality of life in the region. The selection process was deliberately intense. Nominations were open to the public. Nominees had to submit detailed personal and financial information. Judging was entrusted to a panel of seasoned executives rather than performed in-house. And judges had to endure a two-part process that included proof that they had followed the selection criteria (showing their point allocations per nominee across five separate categories) and a conference call (to defend their choices).

They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Bromides don’t always hold true, but we’re proud to say that Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO awards have never deviated from its founding principles. Then, and now, our intention in recognizing the Top 50 CEOs is to give worthy individuals the recognition they deserve—and hope that their example inspires other Atlantic Canadians to strive for similar success.

They are our A-listers. And they deserve your attention.

Mario Allain
President, FundyPros Specialty Construction

Leadership is about more than understanding the marketplace and formulating a vision, says the president of Dieppe, N.B.-based FundyPros Specialty Construction. He believes that follow-through is equally important. “We all need to be kept accountable for our actions and inactions, including myself.”

It’s a mature leadership philosophy, one that has evolved in step with the company itself. When he founded Allain Drywall in 1993, it was a small subcontractor business and Mario Allain was responsible for sales, HR, accounting, business development—plus the actual work involved as a professional drywaller.

Today, thanks to the wisdom in surrounding himself with competent experts who are also a good cultural fit for his company, as well as Allain’s willingness to take on challenging projects, the business has grown from strength to strength. It outgrew its modest roots to become Fundy Drywall and, more recently, FundyPros Specialty Construction—an entity its proud owner describes as “the largest specialty construction firm in New Brunswick”.

“The Pros part of our new name refers to the commitment we’ve made to raise the standards, expertise and expectations in all we do.”

Paul Antle
President & CEO, Pluto Investments Inc.

When he learned China had spent over $450 billion in 2010 developing environmental infrastructure, Paul Antle—a Newfoundlander with more than 25 years in the business in 15 different countries on four different continents—was eager to “position our environmental business for major success in the years ahead.”

In addition to creating, developing and selling more than his share of environmental businesses over the years—Pluto, his private equity company, is currently majority shareholder in West Mountain Capital Corp., a leading Canadian waste management and remediation company—Antle’s entrepreneurial tentacles extend to everything from ship repair and maintenance (St. John’s Dockyard) to auto sales (Humber Motors Ford).

He credits Harvard Business School’s OEM Executive Education program (he graduated in 2007) with broadening his skill set and increasing his confidence.

China? Oh, yes. Overcoming physical distance, time zones, language hurdles, cultural divides and banking complexities, this three-time Atlantic Canada Top 50 CEO quickly secured his first commercial project in China in August 2012. It was generating real revenues by December.

He says he’s driven, in part, by “fear of failure”. No fear, Paul.

John Atkins
President, John Atkins & Co. (JAC)

John Atkins knows all about doors, closing and opening. The Mount Pearl, N.L.-based digital entrepreneur was having the professional time of his life as the marketing director of a major international company, overseeing flagship brands and travelling the world. Then came that fateful year for so many businesspeople and entrepreneurs: 2008. His employer went into receivership and he had some thinking to do.

“This proved to be a pivotal moment in my life when I realized that I wanted complete control of my career,” he says.

Two days after losing his job, he founded JAC and started all over again, building his business around three principles: trust, transparency and knowledge. Within a year, he had five people working for him and 75 clients requiring JAC’s online marketing, website design and development, social marketing and mobile application services. Last year, he expanded to Halifax, signing a partnership deal with MT&L.

Today, Atkins looks forward to settling even more solidly into the driver’s seat. He anticipates his company will essentially become one of its own clients, launching new ideas and applications into the marketplace. Stay tuned.

Cathy Bennett
CEO, Bennett Group of Companies

She discovered her entrepreneurial drive as a 16-year-old working at a local McDonald’s. By the time she was 33, she was a joint venture partner with the mega-chain, eventually operating nine Newfoundland McDonald’s restaurants with 350 employees.

Although it’s sold one of its restaurants, the Bennett Group—which has since diversified into commercial, industrial and residential construction, developed turn-key executive offices, even acquired an international recruitment agency—now employs more than 800.

Despite Bennett Group’s exponential growth, Bennett says “the challenge for me as CEO as we grow is to equally look at what we need to say ‘no’ to, while carefully adding business lines and growth activity that have synergies and grow value.” In 2012, she says, she turned down “an amazing opportunity” because the timing wasn’t right.

Still, she anticipates that, within five years, her company will have a best-in-Canada reputation for smart profit earnings and revenue management, expertise in managing complicated industrial projects and smart service businesses built through innovative partnerships.

“And most importantly, our team will love what they do, be happy doing it and feel rewarded for the results.”

Ken Bennett
President, The Johnson Corporation

For the past four years, Newfoundland-based Johnson— an insurance and benefits company with 1,500 employees and 70 locations across Canada—has been one of Canada’s top 100 employers, one of Atlantic Canada’s top employers, one of Canada’s top family-friendly employers and one of the 50 Most Engaged Workplaces. And been recognized by the St. John’s Board of Trade for its contribution to community and community service, and its workplace excellence.

Bennett is quick to share the glory. “These are fantastic recognitions that the entire team can take much pride in.”

When you ask what motivates him, he talks up his “team.” Prior to last year’s Tropical Storm Leslie, he points out, “the team put a proactive plan in place,” emailing 50,000 customers prior to the storm and making sure the office had back-up power to keep serving customers in the event of outages.

But Bennett deserves credit too. Before he joined Johnson, Bennett worked with a “difficult leader. I often reflect on that experience and what it taught me about effective relationship building. That… has driven me to be as motivational and effective as I can be.”

Dr. Eddy Campbell
President, University of New Brunswick

Eddy Campbell does not sit still and, so, does not rest on his laurels. Asked what he—the president of New Brunswick’s largest university—considers his biggest accomplishments, he declares that they are ahead of him: “Ask me again when UNB has been recognized as the best teaching and learning institution in Canada, the overarching goal of our strategic plan.”

In fact, that plan is his singular administrative preoccupation, especially as it relates to the broader implications for Atlantic Canada. “Our university can and will do more to advance the social and economic development of our regions,” he says. “We are working hard to enhance existing, and find new ways to bring our expertise to the world.”

Indeed, this active researcher (Campbell’s specialty is the invariant theory of finite groups) is working hard, with others, to ensure that “innovation” is no mere word, but rather a functional description of his university’s economic and cultural niches. He credits leaders such as Richard Currie, Desh Deshpande and Gerry Pond for motivating him to leverage UNB’s resources for the future—a future which, he might say, remains both tantalizing and unwritten.

Donald Clow
President & CEO, Crombie REIT

It is, perhaps, not unreasonable that Donald Clow—who led a publiclylisted company that owns 170 properties collectively worth about $2.5 billion and comprise a total of 14 million square feet of grocery and “drug-anchored” retail space through the end of one of the worst financial crises in history and lived to tell the tale—identifies Winston Churchill as the historical figure with whom he’d most like to chat.

“I would like to talk about what it takes to persevere and communicate in the face of insurmountable odds,” he says. On the other hand, it’s likely he already knows the answer.

Despite the inevitable effects of the global downturn, Clow has managed to provide Crombie REIT’s shareholders with an astounding 75.7 per cent return since becoming its CEO in 2009.

Still, he says, “growing our company’s portfolio of properties by approximately 20 per cent or $400 million” in 2012 wasn’t easy. Neither was “growing our portfolio by approximately $750-million of assets during the last three years and building a strong national operating platform with teams throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.”

One imagines that Winston Churchill would have approved.

David Cudmore
President & CEO, Scotian Gold Co-operative Limited

David Cudmore doesn’t mince his words. Life at Scotian Gold Cooperative Limited—a producer-owned collective of apple growers based in Coldbrook, N.S. —has not always been easy. So, naturally, his greatest “feeling of success has been to bring the company to financial stability from the brink of insolvency.” In fact, he says, when he accepted the organization’s lead role in 1987, becoming its fourth manager in four years, Scotian Gold was “technically insolvent”.

A major downsizing and realignment helped restore its financial health. And a subsequent expansion encouraged growers to improve their productivity and move into premium apple varieties. In recent years, Scotian Gold has managed to double its production.

Today, the organization is on solid ground, representing 50 per cent of Nova Scotia’s apple crop. It’s also diversifying outside its immediate market area, as well as into other crops and products.

What motivates him? “Moving forward,” he says. “Doing something new or different or better. In five years’ time, Scotian Gold will be approaching a 50 per cent growth from today’s levels.”

The future is shaping up to be bright, indeed, for the apple of Cudmore’s eye.

Henry Demone
President & CEO, High Liner Foods Inc.

It was a confident, young Henry Demone who—as the storm clouds gathered over the Atlantic fishing industry just as he assumed the helm of National Sea Products (NSP) in 1989—declared that while things may have appeared bad along the Canadian east coast, there was still reason to believe in the future.

At that time, NSP posted operating losses of $40 million. Today, the Nova Scotia company, now known as High Liner Foods, is North America’s leading supplier of frozen, valueadded seafood with almost $1 billion in annual revenue.

Guiding that transformation was, he says, his biggest accomplishment. And he’s not done yet. “During my career, I have gone through three phases. That’s turnaround, transition to a branded, value-added focus, and growth. High Liner has the potential to increase sales and earnings by at least 50 per cent over the next five years.”

Thanks to Demone’s recent acquisition of Icelandic USA— the company’s main competitor for the U.S. market—High Liner is already achieving higher than anticipated financial results. In other words, what motivates him is nothing less than to be the best and, of course, to keep his sea legs strong.

Doug Doucet
President, rcs Construction Inc./ Mill-Right Woodworking Inc.

To Bedford, N.S.-based Doug Doucet, the secret to success boils down to one thing: the ability to exceed your customers expectations. That’s a lesson he learned early from his friend and mentor, Pete Luckett of Pete’s Frootique.

“His Sunnyside store was our first project as a contractor, and what I learned in working with him closely for that period was priceless,” he says. “He always preached that you must make a positive experience every time and (customers) will always come back for more.”

Clearly, they do for Doucet. His rcs Construction is a contracting firm (established 1996) that builds and renovates spaces for a who’s who of Atlantic and national clients, including Sobeys, Wal-Mart and Sales Force. His Mill-Right Woodworking (1999) is a 20,000-square-foot, award-winning architectural millwork shop that produces high-end cabinetry, casework and custom fixtures.

Asserting that very few companies become the best in their field, this competitive business leader notes that those that do make the fewest mistakes and learn at the fastest pace. “Being best is my number one motivator—second best just isn’t good enough.”

Never argue with a man with a hammer.

Yves Doucet
President & CEO, Dovico Software Inc.

For Yves Doucet, nothing is more humbling than running a business. Nothing, that is, other than family. “My wife, my father, and my father-in-law have given me guidance and advice, but most of all, they have made sure that I protect what is most important,” he says. “Strong morals and kindness to others.”

That may sound like a strange recipe for commercial success, but more than 20 years of continuous growth says Yves Doucet is on to something. Since founding Dovico Software in Dieppe, N.B. over two decades ago, the company has become a leading developer of timesheet and project management software for companies like Allianz, Aon, National Geographic, and Bayer. Currently, it boasts more than 100,000 users of its products in 80 countries.

Asked to share his greatest success, however, and Doucet references a gift of Belgium chocolate. “Why would anyone send us chocolates? Because we care about our clients and everyone at Dovico shows it. That’s the difference between a company that sells software and a company that helps people get work done with a smile!”

Perhaps, success does come from strong morals and kindness to others. Who are we to argue?

Nora Duke
President & CEO, Fortis Properties Corporation

In 2003, the VP of Hospitality Services for the Fortis Group of Companies was offered a one-year secondment to its wholly-owned subsidiary, Fortis Properties, which owns and operates 23 hotels as well as 2.7 million square feet of commercial and retail space.

Since accepting that CEO challenge six years ago, Nora Duke has presided over more than $277 million in acquisitions, including last year’s purchase of the StationPark All Suite hotel in London, O.N., and construction of Fortis Place, a $50-million, 150,000-square-foot Class A office complex in downtown St. John’s.

Although she’d worked at Fortis Group for more than 20 years before joining its properties subsidiary, Duke says switching roles “taught me the importance of taking chances and getting out of one’s comfort zone. It’s a message I now emphasize with my team and encourage them to take on new challenges and projects and stretch their skills.”

Duke’s accomplishments have been recognized with a 2010 Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women award, a 2011 International Association of Business Communicators’ award for excellence among organizational leaders, and now, induction into Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Hall of Fame.

Roxanne Fairweather & J. David Grebenc
Co-CEOs & Co-owners, Innovatia Inc.

For Roxanne Fairweather and David Grebenc, teamwork is not just a word; it’s an operating principle. Of course, as they are the co-owners and co-CEOs of one Atlantic Canada’s leading knowledge management companies, it would have to be.

Since buying the Saint John-based knowledge management and training services company from Bell Aliant in 2009, the two have raced to the top of their field. Not only have they grown to employ more than 200 people in New Brunswick, plus 200 more throughout Canada, Ireland, India and the United States, but last year, they landed a five-year, multimillion- dollar contract and restructured their India operations model.

“At the end of the day, the results have been really quite amazing,” Roxanne says. “We are now creating a new company focused on new software.”

Adds David: “Our company is in the best financial position it has ever been in, with a 2013 plan that is assured to continue our success.”

As for the future, continued teamwork for the two is in the cards. “My goal is to continue to grow as a leader,” Roxanne says. Ditto, says David.

Shelley Fleckenstein
Regional manager, mainland N.S., CBI Health Group
Owner & director, Kings Physiotherapy Clinic Limited

Shelley Fleckenstein has never had any trouble anticipating the future, if she does say so herself: “Setting goals and achieving them is what I do best, and accepting change has naturally been part of the process.”

Take, for example, Kings Physiotherapy Clinic, which she owns and manages. A physiotherapist by education and training, she launched her operation in New Minas, N.S., in 1995, with her mother at the front desk and a part-time physio to round out the staff to two-and-a-half. Today, her clinic manages more than 200 patients and employs 26 multidisciplinary health care professionals in nine areas of expertise.

As director, Fleckenstein says she primarily inhabits the “30,000-foot zone”, overseeing the operation and leveraging resources. The organization’s success she credits to the quality of the people around her.

“I am now in the midst of executing a succession plan that has seen four co-workers join me as partners in steering one of the largest clinics in Atlantic Canada,” she says. “Affiliating the Clinic with CBI Health Group, a national network of rehabilitation providers, has been another major facet of the process.”

It is, after all, all part of anticipating the future.

Malcolm Fraser
CEO, ISL web marketing & development

ISL was a mess—swimming in debt, a demoralized workforce, desperate market conditions. ISL founder Malcolm Fraser wasn’t much better. He’d just returned after shutting down the company he’d left ISL to launch four years before. Stress led to pneumonia, which led to three months in bed. “It was clear my unbalanced life … caused my body to react in a way that was unhealthy.”

That was 10 years ago. Today, ISL is Atlantic Canada’s largest web marketing and development firm, with offices in Halifax and Vancouver, ISO 9001 certification and is both a Microsoft Certified Partner and a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant.

And Fraser has learned to better balance life and work even as he turned the company around.

Not that he’s resting on his laurels. While more and more companies are migrating their marketing dollars online, traditional brand and ad agencies are squeezing the market. Having just completed a strategic planning process designed to “position our business to be five steps ahead,” Fraser is keen to push into more competitive markets.

And perhaps complete an item on his personal bucket list: “taking a month off to take my family skiing or sailing.”

John Griffin
President & general manager, W.P. Griffin Inc.

John Griffin is unequivocal on the subject of moving forward. “Last year,” he says, “was a great year.” At a time when competitors were holding the line on expansion, Griffin’s Elmsdale, P.E.I.-based potato growing, packing and shipping operation invested approximately $2 million on capital upgrades and new property.

Proving that you reap what you sow, John now sees the future somewhat more rosily than his less successful competitors. Winning a 2012 Ernst &Young Atlantic Entrepreneur award doesn’t hurt either. Nor does landing a year-round food service account with OSI (Outback) restaurants, a recent deal to be the exclusive grower/packer in Eastern Canada for Europe’s most successful potato variety, or this year’s launch of new and proprietary potato varieties in Sobeys stores across Atlantic Canada.

In five years, he sees his company continuing on its growth curve, acquiring new customers and introducing new products. The biggest change, he predicts, is that his business partnerships on the product development and marketing sides will become more integrated. In fact, that’s what motivates him: “New customers, new products, new technologies, new or improved facilities. We like to keep moving forward.”

Mike Hachey
CEO & executive producer, Egg Studios

“If you don’t like choosing between horrible and cataclysmic,” jokes Mike Hachey, “don’t become a CEO.”

Inspired by his father, a contractor who “pushed through” adversity after a car accident left one of his arms paralyzed, Hachey says his dad “pushed his kids to … never let anything stand in our way.”

Nine years ago, Hachey, a film-editor-turned-producer, hatched Egg. Today, it’s Atlantic Canada’s most successful commercial and content production house. It hasn’t been easy. He’s currently fighting a union certification drive in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. “This case has tested me repeatedly,” he says, “but it has never broken me. It has made the company stronger, and me more focused on success.”

When he isn’t busy with his company—and often when he is—Hachey supports charitable causes, including the Nova Scotia Mental Health Association and the Hearing and Speech Foundation. He was part of the “Dream Team” in the Relay for Life, raising a record-breaking $118,000 for cancer research.

Within five years, Hachey plans to be competing against larger, more established companies in Toronto, New York and L.A. He adds, “I’ll be here pushing us into the next five after that.”

Greg Hemmings
CEO, president & executive producer, Hemmings House Pictures Ltd.

“Ship-shape and Bristol fashion” is the phrase that comes to mind when reviewing Greg Hemmings’ lengthy list of achievements. This multi-talented entrepreneur, filmmaker, content marketer and master storyteller is also a dad, a husband, a musician, snowboarder and aspiring surfer.

Professionally speaking, he has worked on Hollywood films, shot a documentary on a Caribbean cargo ship and spent three years as the broadcast manager for Celebrity Cruise Lines. Today, his eponymously-named film and photography production company has sold its shows in over 60 countries, earning both revenues and prizes (including the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Vision Award for his film PAPIKATUK).

And the future? “Hemmings House Pictures is already laying roots in Los Angeles,” he says. “We have had an adjunct studio in Tokyo for the last few years, and we are looking at building a presence in Florida, Toronto and Vancouver. We want to build satellite studios that will continue to feed projects back to home base in Saint John.

“We will also be one of the top 10 television content exporters in Canada, selling our documentaries and series to the globe, all from New Brunswick.”

Dianne Kelderman
President & CEO, Atlantic Economics; The Nova Scotia Co-operative/Credit Union Council

Kelderman is an over-achiever. She wasn’t just the first member of her family to go to university; she went to five of them, including Harvard, and has two master degrees and a third in the works.

She describes Atlantic Economics as a regional economic development firm: “we build communities, one business, one person at a time.” It adds up. Atlantic Economics currently represents more than 420 businesses that employ more than 11,000 and have $5.2-billion in assets.

Offering everything from economic analysis to business development, finance, marketing and advocacy, Kelderman manages a $60-million portfolio of high risk small business lending, including Nova Scotia’s first Social Enterprise Fund. “Over an eight-year period,” she says proudly, “our loan losses have been less than four per cent. That tells me my intuition was right. Investing in small business and young entrepreneurs is good business.”

Kelderman, who has been recognized as one of Canada’s Nine Women of Influence (the only one from Atlantic Canada), isn’t through yet. In five years, she sees herself “owning and leading at least one more company and still leaping out of bed every day to take on the next challenge or opportunity.”

Steven Kelley
President & CEO, Charlottetown Metal Products Ltd.

He’s not quite a victim of his own success, but business growth does present certain challenges. “Charlottetown Metal Products grew 61 per cent in 2011 and 30 per cent in 2012,” says Steven Kelley. “Growth of that magnitude brings a variety of issues.”

Still, the president of one of Atlantic Canada’s leading steel fabricators is not complaining. From Australia to Alberta, India to the United States, Chile to Ireland, Charlottetown Metal Products has sold and installed equipment for the food processing industry on every continent. Historically, it derives more than 90 per cent of its sales from outside the Atlantic region—20 to 30 per cent of which is international.

“Innovation has been the key to our success,” Kelley says. It’s an interesting comment from someone who had no experience in stainless steel fabrication or food processing prior to acquiring CMP. Instead of experience, he brought an innovation culture to the table— and that has made all the difference.

Kelly’s objective in 2008 was to double sales in five years. He’s managed to better that to 211 per cent. All things considered, it’s not a bad problem to have.

Jack Kelly
President, Bulk Carriers (P.E.I.) Limited

Sometimes, you just have to hit the road to find your perspective. That’s literally what Jack Kelly did back in the ’90s when he was searching for a new direction for his then 20-year-old company.

He had already had success transporting petroleum products throughout P.E.I. and carrying temperature-controlled asphalt cement from Montreal. But with one market drying up, and the other a seasonal business, Kelly wanted better traction for his ambition.

A long-haul driver in his early years, Kelly returned to his roots—the cab of an 18-wheeler. From discussions with other drivers and potential clients, he determined that refrigerated trailers were the way to go.

As a result of that vision, Bulk Carriers—which now transports fresh or frozen foods across North America—has expanded from two trucks and trailers to more than 70: a 3,400 per cent expansion.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any bumps in the road (the severe shortage of drivers being the biggest). But with technology investments, an engaged management team, a committed group of professional drivers and creative recruiting, Jack Kelly has ensured that Bulk Carriers will be rolling down the road for years to come.

Guido Kerpel
General manager, Westin Nova Scotian Hotel, Vice president, Canadian region, New Castle Hotels and Resorts

When his company purchased Halifax’s Westin Nova Scotia—a once venerable railway hotel—it was “boarded up, dilapidated” and just six days from the wrecker’s ball. “It was made very clear,” Kerpel remembers, “that success was our only option and we had six months to achieve this success.”

Today, Kerpel not only manages the Westin (one of only three Halifax hotels to receive a four diamond AAA rating, as well as walking away with The Coast’s Hotel of the Year for 2012), but he is also the vice president of Canadian operations for New Castle Hotels and Resorts. The North American company’s Canadian assets include ownership or management of the Westin as well as Digby Pines, Keltic Lodge and Liscombe Lodge in Nova Scotia, and the Algonquin in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Born in the Netherlands where he graduated from Hotel School in the Hague, Kerpel arrived in Canada in the late 1980s with two suitcases and a Nintendo console.

“I’ve had the pleasure to serve kings, queens, heads of state, the great and the near great,” he allows, “but there is nothing better than transforming a disgruntled customer into a loyal believer.”

Barry Kyle
CEO, Industrial Rubber Company Ltd.

Even if it is a growing enterprise with seven associate companies operating in multiple jurisdictions, you have to admit: The manufacture of rubber products doesn’t seem like the most exciting business in the world. But spend a few minutes with Barry Kyle and you’ll soon be convinced it has secret service allure.

“I have agents set up in Scandinavia and South America,” he says of the company he bought in 1990 (he started working there in 1978—the year he graduated from university). Under Kyle’s direction, Industrial Rubber has competed for National Defense contracts on the international market—and won. And its employee retention rate is to be envied by any employer: with 62 people on staff, only three have left the firm in over 30 years. “This job is fun,” he says. “It’s a great way to spend quality time with quality people every day.”

Though he admits to being highly motivated by the thrill of winning contracts and expanding into new areas (geographically and industrially), he credits his professional success to his family. A globe-trotting CEO, he says he is “blessed” by their support and understanding—particularly his wife’s.

Bruno Lagacé
President, Sparta Innovations Inc.

Enterprise, thy name is Bruno Lagacé. The president of this designer/manufacturer of construction and demolition recycling equipment also sits on the Entrepreneur Leadership Program Board of the Wallace McCain Institute and on the Board of Directors of the Construction Material Recycling Association (among others). Most recently, Lagacé helped grow his company by 300 per cent, even as he studied for his private pilot’s license.

Still, for all his self-actuated brio, leadership, to him, remains a strictly collegial commodity. In November 2012, he invited his support staff to join him in a day of team-building. The outing taught Lagacé two important lessons. The first was that his 25-person team was more engaged than he had realized. The second was that they were all better at their jobs than he was.

That back office bench strength, combined with Lagacé’s trademark innovation, could well explain why Sparta is thriving even as some of its competitors are disappearing. With a new sales process in place that has already resulted in a “never-before seen pipeline of highly qualified leads,” the future of this recycling equipment manufacturer is greener than ever.

Suzanne Larochelle-Bachur
President, Premiere Executive Suites/Atlantic Limited

When a mammogram resulted in a diagnosis of breast cancer, Larochelle-Bachur was caught “totally off guard.” Luckily, the cancer was diagnosed early, but she says she decided “the doctors could look after the cancer; I had a life to live, a family to look after, a business to run.”

Running a business like Premiere Executive Suites ($50 million in revenue from more than 1,200 furnished luxury apartments and executive suites) is a challenge at the best of times. Last year was not the best of times in Moncton, where the company had just invested “a large amount of money” in upgrades. With an accommodation glut in a city feeling the pinch of a slow recovery, Premiere had to adapt.

“We are now challenged to alter our (luxury) offerings to attract clients who have limited budgets.” The trick, she says, is to source more economical units “while not compromising our brand.”

Larochelle-Bachur got in on the ground floor at Premiere, managing the fledgling company’s Halifax office before helping develop its very successful franchise model and branding. Now a member of its national board of directors, she has won many awards for her work, including this thirdin- a-row recognition as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs.

Ron Lovett
President & CEO, Source Security & Investigations, Inc.

After working as a bouncer in Halifax bars, Ron Lovett’s light bulb went on in 2002: There were no local firms providing trained security personnel for bars and clubs. “Hey,” he thought, “why not start my own security business?”

Today, Source Security is Atlantic Canada’s leading supplier of specialized security services, ranging from VIP and corporate and industrial protection, to event security, to private investigations. Though his CEO job requires him to wear multiple managerial hats simultaneously, Lovett still likes carving time to be “working side by side with front-line employees.”

Like many of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs, the leader Lovett would most want to spend time with is Steve Jobs. He’d like to ask the Apple founder how he developed such “a strong corporate culture that permeated throughout [his] business.”

His curiosity is partly the result of his own experience running a “rapidly expanding company… I have come to realize a strong company culture is essential for success.”

When asked to share his greatest accomplishment, Lovett references his years fostering an at-risk teenager. “It was the most positive experience I’ve had in my life.”

Scott David MacEachern
President & CEO, STARK International Inc.; Scotia Aqua Inc./Dartek Transport ; Ashcroft Equipment and Services Ltd.

As someone who dreamed about business as a kid, Scott MacEachern says he loved “the idea of building wealth, infrastructure, processes and procedures.”

He’s done all of that, and more. Eight years ago when he bought STARK International, a New Glasgow, NS-based oil services company, it was “a great little local success story,” but “essentially a mom-and-pop operation” with threeto- five employees and annual sales of $250,000.

Today, it boasts sales of $7.5 million, employs 64 and offers an impressive conglomeration of services: oil diagnostics, oil-filled electrical and mechanical systems, oil processor mobile units, reclaimed oil sales, transformer repair, insulating oil services, transformer commission and oil sampling/diagnostics.

“Currently, we have the largest oil processing fleet in Canada. We will soon have the largest oil processing fleet in the USA and eventually, the world.” MacEachern’s goal is to hit $100 million in sales by 2015.

MacEachern cites the Irvings as having the most impact on his development. “I find they are disciplined, focused, profitable, neat and tidy in their business dealings. I often think of the Irvings and how they might proceed in various business ventures that I am faced with.”

Frank MacIntyre
President, MacIntyre Sheet Metal 2004 Ltd.; CFM Management

Humble beginnings sometimes beget great things. That could be Frank MacIntye’s personal motto, though his wife Mary notes that he has never been afraid to tackle new challenges or move out of his comfort zone.

Still, he must admit he’s come a long way since the day in 1976 when he opened a small metal shop in the garage of his Charlottetown home. Today, MacIntyre Sheet Metal 2004 Ltd. is a diversified mechanical contracting company that specializes in plumbing, oil burners, heating ventilation, air-conditioning, electrical, and sheet metal fabrications— services that are “available 24/7 to our customers.”

Judging from the regular investments he has made in upgrading both himself and his company, it’s clear that innovation has been key to Frank MacIntyre’s success. His personal commitment to continuing education is evident in the numerous business and industry courses he has completed over the past 30 years. On the corporate side, last year saw MacIntyre Sheet Metal adding a computerized plasma table for specialized ventilation and fabrication to its operation.

A lifetime member of the P.E.I. Construction Association, MacIntyre says he hopes to be “semi-retired” in five years. At least, that’s what he says now.

Al MacPhee
President, MacPhee Ford

In 2011, Al MacPhee sold MacPhee Chevrolet Buick Cadillac GMC Ltd., the Halifax-based auto dealership he’d built over 27 years into the largest in Atlantic Canada, and one of the most successful in all of Canada.

Instead of resting on his many laurels—chair of the Canadian Automobile Dealers’ Association, board member of the Victoria General Hospital Foundation and the Halifax Natal Day Committee, chair of the Alderney Landing Capital Campaign, co-chair (with his wife Mary) of the Bridge Centre for Arts and Technologies, member of the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and now four-time Top 50 CEO award winner—MacPhee did what he’s been doing since 1962 when, as the 11th in a family of 14, he first stepped “off the bus from Cape Breton.” He began selling cars again.

His new dealership, MacPhee Ford, is in the “starting over” phase with the “development of a new building and transitioning an existing dealership into this new location.”

Thanks to his previous experience, he says, he knew exactly how he wanted the business to be structured and operated. “Feeling as if I had done all this before made it seem easier.”

Kim Mason
President, Atlantic Canada region, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

When asked who inspired her business interest, Mason doesn’t hesitate. “Unequivocally, my father.” A car dealer who personally called customers after a sale to gauge their experience, he taught her “to value every customer.” Numbers too. By 11, “I knew the daily sales totals of his GM dealership… It was an everyday dinner time conversation.”

She learned well.

In the two-and-a-half years since she took over RBC’s Atlantic district, it has jumped from middle of the regional pack for sales growth to number one. It is now number two in the country in growth of products and services. In 2012, in fact, Atlantic District reported its best sales results ever.

But when you ask about her most difficult recent professional challenge, Mason talks about a seemingly minor decision to merge two of its 113 branches. Only eight kms apart, both small, rural branches were losing business. She knew she had to close one, but she also understood that closing a branch that was part of a community for 97 years would raise concerns. “We put together a communications plan that was very transparent.” The response, she says, was “more positive than I ever could have asked for… We had less than six customer complaints, all of which we resolved.”

Her father would be proud.

Dr. Brian McMillan
President, Holland College

Holland College’s energetic CEO says he “thrives on challenges” especially when the “obstacle or initiative to be undertaken is seen by others as very difficult to accomplish.”

That’s fortunate, for 2012 was not a particularly easy year for any university or college administrator in Canada. In Dr. Brian McMillan’s case, he faced a budget shortfall of $1.72 million, thanks to a three per cent reduction in provincial funding. To respond, he needed a broadly-based solution that spread the impact around. “Working with the senior management team, areas for expenditure reduction, a modest tuition increase and new revenue streams were identified,” he says.

As a result of those efforts, a balanced budget—a legislated requirement of the Holland College Act—was achieved without the usual consequences of unhappy, disengaged staff, faculty and students. In fact, the Aon Hewitt survey has just recognized Holland College as one of Canada’s 50 Top Employers.

“I love the fact that I’m in a position to make a difference and have the opportunity to transform the lives of students, staff and our Island communities,” he says. “It’s not a job, it’s a labour of love.”

Dan Merzetti
President & CEO, DSM Telecom

Dan Merzetti knew he was a good salesman. He knew too the telecom business was in transition as the world converted to IP, VoIP and cloud-based services. And finally, he knew his own “end goal: to build a successful company of my own.”

Which is how he came up with the idea to transform DSM—originally an agency for Sprint Canada’s Atlantic Commercial Division—into a “full-service phone company specializing in next-generation telephony solutions for business.”

“The first obstacle,” he says, “was maintaining and growing the newly branded DSM products with a small operation while writing the business plan for this major expansion.” The second—and bigger—hurdle was financing. “I can honestly say I underestimated the tenacity it takes to take on a project of this magnitude.”

But, thanks in part to the tenacity he developed as an amateur boxer, he’s making it work. In the past year, the company not only achieved the revenue targets its funders had set but it also expanded service into all three major New Brunswick cities while winning both the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award and being named a finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

Bret Mitchell
President & CEO, Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation

After more than 25 years of increasingly demanding jobs in the low-margin grocery business and a stint as chief merchandising officer at the Forzani Group in the highly competitive sports and recreation business, you might assume Mitchell’s decision to join the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission seven years ago was all about easing into retirement. You would be wrong.

Mitchell’s mission was nothing less than the reinvention of the staid NSLC.

Faced with an aging demographic, a shrinking population and a slower-than-slow economic recovery—not to forget balancing “the requirements to act like a viable commercial enterprise while also respecting the limits of a monopoly environment and regulatory role”—Mitchell’s NSLC has responded “by constantly reinventing our assortments and pushing ourselves to find new ways to enhance profitability and performance.”

Even as alcohol consumption in the province fell over the past five years, NSLC increased its profitability by 31 per cent while improving service levels from 87 to over 98 per cent. “Our customer satisfaction scores are remarkable, especially in a monopoly environment.”

He isn’t done yet. “I see the NSLC in five years as the leading retailer in Nova Scotia and the number one beverage alcohol retailer in Canada, recognized for excellence.”

Tim Moore
President & CEO, Atlantic Signature Mortgage & Loan

After trading in his car for a pickup truck and advertising himself as a mover in 1977, Tim Moore went on to build AMJ Campbell movers into a business worth $125 million a year. “And the rest is history,” he says.

Not so fast.

After selling the last of his shares in 1998, Moore bought two condos in downtown Halifax, furnished them and began renting them under the name Premiere Executive Suites. By the time he sold that company in 2009, Premiere had become the largest extended stay provider in Canada with over 1,000 suites. “And the rest is history.”

Not quite.

In 2007, with his son Chris and another family, Moore launched Premiere Mortgage Centre. It’s now one of the largest independent brokerages in Canada with 60 brokers in five provinces, funding $700 million in mortgages. He and Chris also founded Atlantic Signature Mortgage & Loan, an alternative lending company, which has now placed over $30 million in mortgages. Not to forget Premiere Self Storage, Premiere Car Wash and Premiere Van Lines, another moving company of which he is still chair and which generates $4.5 million a year.

And the rest is… prologue.

Troy Northrup
Principal & CEO, East Point Inc.; ShredGuard Inc.

Of course Saint John, New Brunswick’s Troy Northrup places at the top of his “things to do” list: “Fly into outer space and pilot my own jet aircraft.” He’s done just about everything else.

This self-taught, self-driven entrepreneur and businessman—who has expanded his family’s diverse holdings into an award-winning portfolio of real estate, automotive retail, waste management, confidential document destruction, retail property management and business services operations—doesn’t believe in obstacles. What motivates him is seeing things happen. “At the end of the day, it’s really about seeing new growth, new changes and new projects.”

As for the future, it’s as wide open as the big, blue yonder for which he sometimes pines. “I have way too much energy and am too young to retire,” he says.

The 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient adds that he derives a lot of satisfaction from helping to improve his community in measurable ways. “My belief is that there are still a number of great opportunities for growth in our region and I, and our businesses, would like to continue to be a part of that growth.”

Patrick O’Callaghan
President & CEO, East Coast Catering Limited

Patrick O’Callaghan’s greatest virtue may be his brutal honesty, particularly when he’s talking about himself. When discussing how he deals with the most difficult part of his job, he exclaims, “I’m not a patient person! Luckily, key members of my staff have been with me for many years and understand my personality.”

Patient or not, the Irish-born, St. John’s, N.L.-based president of a company that provides catering services to most of the drilling operations offshore Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, as well as catering and accommodations services to the mining and construction sectors in seven Canadian provinces, has made his mark as an entrepreneur of the first order with a seemingly boundless supply of personal resources. In addition to his regular duties, he’s a full partner in an oil and gas recruiting company, a motel and storage mall, and a modular office/ accommodations installation firm.

His success has been recognized with the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, Atlantic region, and he’s about to be inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Business Hall of Fame. Still, it’s not the laurels he’s after. “I’ve always loved to find new ways to grow and expand my company.”

Sean Stephen O’Regan
President & CEO, O’Regan’s

Sean O’Regan, a third-generation car dealer, started in the business as an eight-year-old pumping gas and washing cars on his father’s lot. After graduating from St. F.X. in 1992, Sean worked his way up the corporate ladder, beginning on the sales floor.

But he wasn’t just the boss’s son. As sales manager at O’Regan’s Chev Olds Cadillac, his dealership “achieved the highest ranking in Atlantic Canada for customer satisfaction.”

In 2002, after a brief stint as assistant to the general manager of a Quebec City Lexus-Toyota dealership, Sean returned to the family fold as general manager of its new Infiniti-Nissan dealership. By 2008, he was president and CEO of O’Regan’s Automotive Group. The next year, O’Regan’s had its best year ever, selling 10,000 vehicles.

His most difficult challenge came last year with the unexpected death of his father and company founder, Paul. “Paul taught me that true leadership is about building teams that are stronger than their predecessors,” he explains. “Because of that, O’Regan’s is stronger than ever.”

Today, O’Regan’s owns and operates 19 new vehicle dealerships covering 14 brands, three used car centres, a national leasing company, a collision centre, three auto detailing centres, a NAPA AutoPro and a car rental company.

Stephen Plummer
Group president & CEO, I.M.P. Group International Inc.

When Stephen Plummer is asked about his biggest accomplishment, he talks about the fact he has worked with just one company for 35 years coupled with the reality he’s “earned the responsibility and role of group president and CEO” of a company that has grown right along with him—from $10 million in annual sales when he joined fresh out of university to $700 million today.

Driven by the need to “achieve sustainable and profitable growth across a diversified business base… and the fear of failure,” Plummer says his most difficult business challenge these days is “to equitably balance the need to cut costs, improve productivity as the Canadian dollar strengthens and grow profitably.” I.M.P. has met that challenge by increasing its investments in innovation, tooling and facilities expansion, allowing it to capture “new export market opportunities.”

The inaugural recipient of Dalhousie University’s Outstanding Achievement in Business award and now a fivetime Top 50 CEO, where does he see himself in five years? “I see myself retiring after 40 years of service. And I see the company larger, more profitable and more global in its operations.”

Topping his personal bucket list? “A photographic safari in Africa.”

Christine Power
President & CEO, Capital District Health Authority

When Christine Power was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, she experienced a few days of “grieving and being frightened,” but then “decided I was far too young to leave this world… I had too much to live for.” While the experience helped refocus “on what truly mattered”—family and health—it also “taught me about the power of positive thinking.”

She’s needed positive thinking to survive the past year.

Eight-hundred-million-dollar-a-year, 12,000-employee Capital Health is Nova Scotia’s largest provider of health services: its hospitals, health centres and community programs serve 400,000 local residents plus provide specialized services to the rest of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.

Last year, its health care workers threatened to strike.

Although not her first time, Power says it was her most challenging. The central government was making all the decisions, leaving her bargaining team “completely in the dark.”

After the threat was averted at the 11th hour, Power moved quickly to bring services back to full steam before arranging to meet with the health minister to “air our concerns and develop a go-forward plan. As a leader, I needed to … let go of the anger that I was feeling and help move myself and our team forward.”

Joe Randell
President & CEO, Chorus Aviation Inc.

After a decade in the Atlantic Canadian aviation industry with Eastern Provincial Airways, Joe Randell saw an opportunity when government de-regulated the airline industry. In 1986, he launched Air Nova with 40 employees and two turbo-prop aircraft serving five regional destinations.

In 1991, Air Canada bought Air Nova and, by 1999, Randell had been tasked with consolidating the other major regional airlines in Canada into a new entity called Jazz. “Nothing in the world prepared me for this very complicated and onerous merger,” Randell admits, but two and a half years later, it was done. In 2006, Jazz, by then the country’s second largest airline in fleet size, went public.

Today Jazz—now owned by dividend-paying holding company Chorus Aviation Inc.—employs more than 5,000 people and operates to 82 different destinations, but is still headquartered in Halifax.

While describing being CEO of the company since its beginning and “growing it into one of Canada’s publicly-traded companies” as his biggest accomplishment, Randell isn’t satisfied. “In five years, we envision Chorus to be a successful, diversified company with interests in a number of aviation-related businesses, with its head office firmly established in Halifax.”

Robert Risley
President, RCR Investments Ltd.

After a devastating fire leveled the main lodge at his White Point Beach Resort on Nova Scotia’s south shore, Robert Risley remembers consulting architects and contractors who told him it would take at least two years to replace.

But White Point was the largest employer in Queen’s County with 170 local residents depending on it for their livelihoods. And the resort was committed to hosting an international music event a year to the day of the fire.

“I challenged myself to complete the building in time for the music conference,” he explains. “It was a year of complete dedication to the project, to the virtual exclusion of my other operations and my family. At the end of it all, we have a wonderful new lodge… My other operations prospered and I still have my family.”

An admitted “perfectionist” who likes to be involved in every detail of his businesses—which include many of Halifax’s best known restaurants, a catering firm that provides exclusive services to hotels, golf courses and museums, as well as a specialty construction firm and retail operations— he has come to realize “I have built a team that works smarter and harder than I do.”

Tom Ruth
President & CEO, Halifax International Airport Authority

Tom Ruth was in an uneasy limbo. In 2007, after three years producing record profits as president of Canadian North Airlines, an aboriginal-owned full service airline in Yellowknife, Ruth had taken a new job as president and CEO of Oceanex, a Montreal-based publicly-held income trust.

The company immediately ended up “in play.” Recognizing a new owner would want to run the company, Ruth was caught between the need to keep quiet during months of due diligence and his own need to look for a new job.

He not only landed on his feet at the Halifax International Airport Authority soon after the sale went through, he’s still friends with Oceanex’s new owner. “It just goes to show you that often when one door shuts on you, another door is opening.”

Ruth’s recent accomplishments include not only the success of the HIAA—the airport welcomed a recordsetting number of passengers in 2012 while achieving a profitable bottom line and becoming the first airport in the country to achieve a service excellence benchmark award two years in a row—but he’s also the first chair of a new public-private Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, which is supposed to “re-energize” the province’s tourism sector.

Jean-Claude Savoie
CEO, Groupe Savoie Inc.

The secret of Jean-Claude Savoie’s success is, perhaps, his ability to recognize the value in everything—even the burned husk of a saw mill in 1980. He and his father had mortgaged their homes to purchase the facility only two years earlier. Instead of giving up, the now-CEO of Groupe Savoie Inc., a leading Atlantic specialty wood-based fuel and construction products manufacturer based in St-Quentin, N.B., picked himself up from the ashes of his and his father’s operation and started all over again.

Since then, the company has grown from 20 to 500 employees and from sales of $2 million to $100 million in 2012. In fact, he says his biggest accomplishment was “turning a 20-employee operation into one with more than 500 people earning a good living.”

As for the future, he says “we still have value to add. What will be the next step? Maybe transforming biomass into a liquid fuel? Who knows. But we are committed to keep doing it. The plan is to extract everything the forest gives us on a sustainable basis.”

Making the most of what you have is another way to define “value”.

Brent Scrimshaw
President & CEO, Atlantic Lottery Corporation

For Brent Scrimshaw, no better word captured life at Atlantic Lottery Corporation last year than “transformation”. The regulated lottery and gambling entertainment Crown Corporation, with four provincial partners and 600-plus employees, made a commitment to face the always uncertain future with determination. “Roughly a year ago, to firmly position this Atlantic Canadian success story, we engaged an aggressive and forwardthinking strategy,” he says. This meant, and continues to mean, change.

ALC’s president and CEO says it has begun to augment its traditional product lines by participating in business ventures and investments that are calculated to generate new revenue. Of course, he adds, “As we evaluate potential opportunities, social responsibility will always act as our compass and Atlantic Canada will always be our home.” All of ALC’s profit goes back to its provincial shareholders.

Still, his point is that the world is a digital playground. With a limited regional population, growth for ALC can no longer lie exclusively in its own geographic backyard. Scrimshaw’s plans are nothing less than catalytic: To use the organization’s international-calibre skills and resources to spur economic growth, job creation and innovation in the region.

How’s that for transformational change?

Karen Sheriff
President & CEO, Bell Aliant Regional Communications Inc.

“Simply put,” says Karen Sheriff, “I love to work. I loved my first job at a jewelry shop when I was 16 as much as I love heading up Bell Aliant.”

But she learned early on, during a stint running United Airlines $100-million advertising operation, you need to find balance. “I started working 20-hour days, every day and weekends.” Realizing “something had to change,” she says she learned to “focus on the key things I needed to do to hit my and the company’s objectives.”

At Bell Aliant, fibre optics is the objective. The company was the first in Canada to cover an entire city with fibreto- the-home technology. In 2012, it passed a milestone by connecting 650,000 homes and businesses.

But the huge investment, Sheriff admits, represents a “tightrope walk between investing and our future, and asking our investors to have confidence.”

She’s won plenty of accolades—Canadian Women in Communications’ Woman of the Year for 2012, the Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame—but her focus remains fibre optics.

Fibre optics, she says, “has changed our company. It’s turning our numbers around. It’s given our people pride and confidence. And it allowed us to begin hiring again.”

Ian Smith
CEO, Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership

Prior to joining the Halifax-based seafood giant—North America’s largest vertically integrated seafood company— Ian Smith spent 24 years in the global food and consumer products industry, including senior leadership positions at Campbell Soup Company in the United States, China and Canada, as well as in international business development with Colgate-Palmolive and the Gillette Company.

So he knew a thing or three about the vagaries of the international economy.

When the Euro-zone banking and sovereign debt crisis sucked the wind out of the European economy last year, Smith knew he had to do something—and quickly. Europe was Clearwater’s largest sales market.

Clearwater management, he says, “acted rapidly… redeploying resources and supply to North America and Asia.” The result: the company was able to more than offset its European losses with new sales to those other markets. And for the third year in a row, it achieved “top quartile performance in our globally competitive industry without compromising my standards, integrity or my family life.”

Smith says finding work-life balance and the time to just “hang” with his wife, kids and dogs “and just enjoy each others’ company” is important to his well-being—and his success.

Jon Stanfield
President, Stanfield’s Canada, Stanfield’s Limited

Stanfield’s legendary men’s underwear may be ubiquitous among Canadians but it’s barely known in the United States. Which posed a problem for fifthgeneration company president Jon Stanfield.

With ongoing, never-ending consolidation in the retail industry, Stanfield says, the reality is “the retailers that are either consolidators or survivors are largely American.”

With the demise of Zeller’s and the rise of U.S.-based Target, Stanfield’s had to be nimble to maintain its retail windows. In addition to bringing together all facets of the business (manufacturing, marketing and sales), Stanfield says he “personally was involved in all face-to-face meetings and negotiations with Target.”

Stanfield’s has leaped its first hurdle: getting its products listed. Now it must achieve sales success but Stanfield expects Target’s potential business will be twice that of Zeller’s in 2012.

And Stanfield’s isn’t sitting on its long johns. To remain competitive, it has been acquiring compatible companies specializing in everything from sporting goods to fire retardant industrial wear to women’s underwear and intimates.

His biggest challenge, he says, is a corporate culture that believes “we have existed for many years so we will continue to exist. The entrepreneur in me suggests a sense of urgency, a need to be innovative and adapt to change.”

Camille Thériault
President & CEO, Caisses populaires acadiennes

2012 was not what Camille Thériault would call an easy year. But it was a necessary one.

The president of Caisses populaires acadiennes, based in Caraquet, N.B., says “We had to change our business model so that we could offer our members a better service, be more competitive in our marketplace and remain as pertinent today as we have been for 75 years.”

Given that the Caisses is much more than a financial institution, but also a vital agent of social, cultural and economic development in the mostly rural, French-speaking communities of New Brunswick it serves, the choices were indeed tough: closing roughly 20 per cent of its locations, consolidating business lending and administrative functions, and installing a long-term growth plan.

It was a challenging process that entailed countless meetings and negotiation, “but, in the end, all 15 Caisses populaires signed on the dotted line,” he says. “During the past year, our products’ sales increased by 187 per cent.”

Thériault, who once served briefly as New Brunswick’s premier, envisions that the Caisses will, in five years, be able to compete with all the major players in the world.

Anne Whelan
President & CEO, Seafair Capital

If Anne Whelan is the unreconstructed enterpriser she says she is, (she calls herself a “serial entrepreneur” who is always on the lookout for new business opportunities), then the St. John’s, N.L.-based owner and/or partner in local and diverse businesses comes by her inclinations naturally. Both her parents worked for themselves at various times.

Today, Seafair Capital’s operating companies include Caregivers Inc. (home care), Blue Sky Child Youth & Family Care, and Brenkir Industrial Supply (industrial, fire and safety products). Anne also maintains interests in The Three Sisters Pub, Care Connection Newfoundland and Labrador (health technology) and several other small business and holding companies.

For her infectious energy and success, in 2010, she won the NLOWE Entrepreneur of the Year Award and snagged an RBC Canadian Woman of the Year nod.

According to Anne, who likes to think in “broad strokes” and relies on her executive team to figure out the details, the five-year plan is to “more than double revenues and have an operating footprint throughout Atlantic Canada. We will be expanding in all three segments: community care, industrial, and real estate. . . I’ll probably still be working as much as I do. . . and still having fun.”

Stephen Winter
President & CEO, Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation

Stephen Winter is uniquely qualified for his job running Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation, a position he assumed in 2004. Prior to that, he had a 25-year track record running his own packaged goods business, representing several wine and spirits enterprises and, “being somewhat of an oenophile, having collected wine since the mid-eighties.”

That experience has helped him shake things up at NLC in the best possible ways. Under his stewardship, the corporation has revitalized its store network, and delivered consistently good results to its shareholders and customers. Last year, he focused his attention on the executive suite and restructuring the regulatory service department. Starting with a staff review, then moving on to outdated technology, he led a departmental overhaul that has allowed NLC to conduct “risk-based inspections” while monitoring performance measures.

Under Winter’s leadership, NLC received the 2012 Employers’ Council of N.L.’s Employer of Distinction award. “I consider this a significant accomplishment for a public sector employer to be recognized by a private sector organization,” he says.

As for the future, he doesn’t see the mandate of the corporation changing drastically. Regarding his own prospects, he’s sanguine: “I’m not in a rush to retire.”

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