18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

Gaëtan Thomas
President & CEO, NB Power
(Fredericton, N.B.)

“As for leadership, always give it your very best”

A Powerful Record Thomas has stickhandled the often-difficult business of providing comparatively inexpensive, reliable power to New Brunswick and environs since 2010. Over his 30-year career, the electrical engineer has led some of the most complex and innovative projects in the utility’s history, including: the Belledune Coal Plant New Build with the first scrubber in the country; the $747-million Coleson Cove Project; the Point Lepreau Refurbishment Project; and the SmartGrid Program to implement a virtual power plant at NB Power that will avoid over $1 billion of generation investment in the future. In 2015, Thomas employed more than 2,000 people at NB Power, posted revenues of more than $1 billion and registered year-over-year, 36-month growth, of 11.6 per cent.

Smart Grid Champion Thomas is clear about the immediate future. Over the next five years, he expects NB Power to become capable in “Smart Grid” technologies — those that use electronic information to save money for both customers and energy providers. In fact, he says, he wants the corporation to “become the North American Smart Grid Leader, seen as one of the most innovative utilities in the world.”

Grounded in Leadership Values are legacy propositions for Thomas. As he says, “My parents and grandmother greatly influenced me with the importance of continuous learning which really shaped my growth as a business leader.”.

Richard Tiller
President & CEO, Tiller Group of Companies
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“The point of leadership is figuring out where to go from where you are”

Towering to Success Richard Tiller runs a high-performance, professional engineering consulting firm that specializes in structural engineering, consulting services for the telecommunications, infrastructure, and energy sectors. Its services include design, analysis, project management, inspection, asset integrity solutions, design, and field reports. With 23 people in its employ, it has posted revenue growth, over the past three years, of 15 per cent. Since 1999, Tiller Group has grown to become one of the largest structural engineering companies in N.L., specializing in Tower and Telecoms, as well as Energy and Infrastructure.

Innovation as Strategy Tiller says invention and creativity are foundation blocks of his company’s continued success: “Innovation is one of the strategic pillars. The company has established its ability to utilize the latest engineering software and innovative tools, while adapting to extreme, unconventional service environments.” This, naturally, will provide a key, competitive advantage in the months and years ahead.

Leading by Situation Tiller prefers to describe his leadership approach as situational. In other words, it all depends on the needs of the team from day to day. He supports personal and professional growth as a matter of course. As he says, “Being able to succinctly describe what you want done is important. If you can’t relate your vision, you won’t be working towards the same goal.”

Mike Timani
President & CEO, Fancy Pokket Corporation (Moncton, N.B.)

“Being in business is not always easy. It’s important to be optimistic”

The Pita King Mike Timani, a Venezuelan-born man of Lebanese roots, arrived in Moncton in 1989 with $22,000 in his pocket. Now, he runs a company with annual revenues that hover around the $5 million mark and employs 60 people. The annual growth rate since 2013 tops six per cent. Fancy Pokket has become, over the years, Atlantic Canada’s leading manufacturer of pita bread, tortillas, flabtbread, bagels, and naan bread. Its sister export company, Fancy Pokket USA, produces gluten-free loaf bread, rolls, hamburger buns, bagels, baguettes, muffins, brownies, cookies, banana bread, and pound cakes. Says Timani: “I am committed to making my company a success and push through with a result in mind.”

Spreading the Dough Timani’s five-year “end result” is clear. He wants to upgrade and expand his facilities in Moncton to accommodate new product lines and support a major, new build in the U.S. to house his burgeoning export business down south. He explains: “By accessing our new U.S. facility we are expecting to double our business within three years.”

Positive and Committed In business, especially an entrepreneurial one, positivity is crucial, Timani notes. “Positivity influences the people around you and that makes your team stronger,” he says. “If people are not committed to the long hours, they will fail.” Of course, for Timani, failure is no option.

Andy Turnbull
CEO, Nunacor Development Corporation
(Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.)

“A leader must seek out and understand different perspectives and opinions”

Building Social Economies Andy Turnbull sees his role as a facilitator of opportunity for the clutch of wholly-owned companies that comprise the business arm of the NunatuKavat Community Council, which represents the Southern Inuit people of Labrador, who reside primarily in central and southern regions. In this capacity, Turnbull leads the group (as well as strategic partnerships) in a wide range of sectors, including: real estate, fisheries, engineering, mining services, and safety training. Says Turnbull: “I would describe my leadership style as inclusive and decisive. I like to engage my team, hear out new options and opinions, look for new ideas.”

Driven by Entrepreneurs Over the past three years, Nunacor Development’s various subsidiaries have shown percentage revenue growth of anywhere from 20 per cent (NDC Fisheries) to 1,363 per cent (Komatik Training Solutions), all while maintaining vibrant staffs. Says Turnbull: “The Atlantic Canada economy is driven by small business. An important aspect of this is the prominence of aboriginal business in (this region) and Canada as a whole.”

Innovation Builds Communities Innovation is a crucial component of Nunacor’s agenda. In fact, one of its greatest strengths is the youthful staff it engages. “Our entire team has an open mind,” Turnbull says. “It’s always looking for new ways of doing things. We use a variety of technologies to run our business.”

Pat Whalen
President & CEO
LuminUltra Technologies Ltd.
(Fredericton, N.B.)

“In today’s fast-paced world, multi-tasking is a requirement”

Illuminating Commercial Opportunity Pat Whalen began his career in 1995 working in the chemistry lab at his father’s consulting engineering firm. Today, the chemical engineering graduate from UNB is the point man for a firm that manufactures, sells and supports a revolutionary method of measuring microorganisms in water. Fortune 500 companies and major cities around the world use this technology to identify microbial contamination before problems occur. Employing 33 full-time staff, LuminUltra recently posted a three-year revenue growth rate of 58 per cent. Says Whalen: “Thus far, we’ve been able to solve countless, tough problems that others have traditionally shied away from.”

High-density Dreaming Whalen’s objective for his company is decidedly entrepreneurial. It is nothing less than to maintain a high-growth trajectory over the next five years. “I have conservatively planned an average 20 per cent year-on-year growth for this period. I believe this is both possible – based on a relatively low market penetration to date as well as our recent performance – and necessary – based on evolving competition.”

Show and Tell Leadership Whalen considers himself a leader by example: “I maintain an active involvement in the analysis of data, whether from our customers or from our own development activities. I attempt to teach others what I have learned over the years in this area, and attempt to demystify the complexity of such analyses.”

Michael Whittaker
President, Investments Incorporated
(Dieppe, N.B.)

“I am aggressive in my approach to changing the status quo”

Food for Growth Michael Whittaker is no pastry chef. He is the president and co-owner of a suite of successful food companies under the Trucorp brand. These include Bonté Foods Limited and Grinner’s Food Systems Limited. Altogether, he says, the Trucorp brand touches almost every Atlantic Canadian firm that deals with food manufacturing, sales or distribution. What that means, bottom-line-wise, is a group that employs 175 individuals, posts revenues in excess of $20 million a year and enjoys a three-year annualized growth rate of between four and 25 per cent (depending on the division).

Results R UsWhittaker is clear-eyed about the five-year prognosis of the commercial group he leads. “Our goal at Grinners is to have 250 points of distribution in Atlantic Canada and have annual revenues in excess of $100 million,” he says. “Bonté’s mission statement is to become Atlantic Canada’s dominant brand for deli meats. Our vision is to become the largest meat and meal production company in Atlantic Canada with over $100 million in food sales. We plan to double our current sales by 2020.”

Fracking the Franchise Whittaker has little time for “minutia”. A business leader, he insists, must take the 20,000-foot perspective. In his commercial universe, day-to-day woes only fog a leader’s ability to position his company for long-term growth. Job number one: Increase shareholder returns.

About the awards: Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO awards recognize corporate leadership excellence. Winners are bold, savvy and entrepreneurial in spirit. They are proud community supporters and active volunteers. They are dedicated to advancing their industry, increasing their organization’s financial well-being and improving the quality of life in Atlantic Canada. The first step in the Top 50 CEO selection process is a public call for nominations. Eligible nominees 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. If an individual accepts their nomination, they complete a detailed Nominee Information Form and advance to the judging portion of the selection process. The judging panel is comprised of members of Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Hall of Fame.

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