17th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

On the most superficial level, you can easily spot a good leader by their results. Increased profit. Expanded facilities. Staff growth. New products. But to understand and appreciate truly exceptional leadership, you have to look beneath the surface. Dive into the how and why those results were achieved. Explore their motivations and inspirations. Observe their ripple effect throughout the community. Examine their reactions to stressful situations. That’s the depth of insight you’ll find over the coming pages.

The stories behind Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEOs are an unofficial guide book to exceptional leadership and a must-read for aspiring CEOs everywhere. Where to start? Turn the page and jump right in — the water’s fine.

By Alec Bruce, Darren Campbell and Dawn Chafe

Paul Antle
President & CEO
Pluto Investments Inc.

“Innovation is a key driver of growth and I have been encouraging this creativity in all my staff throughout all my holdings.”

As the owner of St. John’s, N.L.-based Pluto Investments, serial entrepreneur and Harvard Business School co-valedictorian Paul Antle is in charge of a host of public and private companies, including two environmental firms, a Ford dealership, an e-learning company, St. John’s Dockyard Ltd. and a number of angel investments.

Like father, like son He credits his father with having the most influence on him as a business leader. Papa Joe Antle had a grade seven education but managed to create and own his own business to support his family of eight. “He was the person who taught me about the value of hard work, integrity, pride and that being employed was a privilege that came with great responsibility,” he says.

What’s next Paul says his biggest opportunity right now is the enormous environmental market developing in China. With partnerships in place with three Chinese companies as well as a significant Chinese equity investor, Pluto Investments seems well ahead of its competitors. No surprise there.

John Atkins
John Atkins
Chief Executive Officer
JAC – John Atkins & Co.

“Giving it your all, while inspiring your employees to do the same, is possibly the most valuable business skill I have learned thus far.”

John Atkins’ fascination with digital technology has paid off in a big way. Admitting that he spent “every second” he could in university sitting in front of a computer, John has turned his obsession into a thriving St. John’s-based digital marketing agency with over 300 clients. His latest claim to fame is a Canadian first: ensuring all of his company’s online technologies are accessible to people with disabilities.

Proudest accomplishment John has learned that, regardless of what happens at the office, his family (especially his wife, daughter and son) take precedence. “Finding the right balance is a challenge,” he says. “But it is extremely important if you want to be successful in business and with life in general.”

Leading by example Some executives manage through fear. John, however, says criticizing employees won’t motivate them to give their best every day.” A good leader is in the front driving, encouraging and motivating the team,” John says. “Not behind them barking orders and directions.”

Suzanne Bachur
Suzanne Bachur
Premiere Executive Suites/Atlantic Limited

“Your attitude has a lot to do with your outcome. Being positive brings positive.”

At Premiere Executive Suites/Atlantic Limited, which provides extended-stay furnished apartments and executive suites in Halifax, Moncton and St. John’s, Suzanne Bachur leads from behind: inspiring staff with infectious enthusiasm and empowering them to voice their opinions and ideas. “A good leader recognizes their weaknesses and surrounds themselves with people who have the strengths and skills they may lack.”

When the going gets tough The implementation of a new CRM system was a significant headache for Suzanne last year. Requiring exhaustive (and frustrating) cross-referencing, it didn’t take long for staff morale to take a real hit. Her response? To stay calm and focused on the prize. Now that anticipated efficiencies are finally being realized, she routinely thanks her team for their dedication during the trying months.

Suite upgrade With her Atlantic division having recently acquired majority shareholder status in Premiere Executive Suites’ Montreal franchise, Suzanne Bachur is overseeing the creation of a new super “Eastern” division. It’s a big deal, but with seasoned staff on the ground in both jurisdictions, she sees the merger as a thrilling opportunity rather than a daunting challenge.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia
Ulrik Bahr-Gedalia
President & CEO
Digital Nova Scotia

“The lone leader, who has alienated almost everyone, won’t get far for long.”

Ulrike’s can-do attitude has transformed Digital Nova Scotia from an organization fighting for survival to a nonprofit juggernaut that has $800,000 in revenue and a host of initiatives aimed at helping the province’s $1.5 billion digital sector flourish. In Ulrike’s role, she leads the operation, tactical direction and fundraising efforts for DNS.

Valuing variety Ulrike insists that leaders must engage as many perspectives as possible. “I look to diversity, whether it relates to people, products and services or technology, as a vehicle of growth and innovation,” says the woman who was recently named one of the Top 40 Change-Makers in Canada by Canadian Living Magazine.

Investing in people During a career that stretches over 20 years and has seen her work in North America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, Ulrike has learned that supporting professional development among her team must be a priority. “People are an asset that requires consistent investment,” she says. “I’ve learned throughout my career that one cannot build a successful and sustainable business if one does not build its people first.”

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