18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards
Shane Bruce
Shane Bruce
President, ACME Group of Companies
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“While cutting needless costs is always prudent, I look for ways to grow revenue instead”

The Unreconstructed Entrepreneur Shane Bruce is, by every definition in the industry he occupies, a full-blown outlier. After spending 10 years in the banking sector, he incorporated ACME Financial in 1997, which has since funded more than $1 billion worth of mortgages. He then created ACME Financial Services Inc., which houses investment and insurance advisors around Atlantic Canada who manage $400 million in customer investments. In 2005, he launched ACME Consulting. He calls what he does “boutique”, and it’s working out just fine for him and his growing roster of customers.

The Evangelist As someone who describes his leadership style as “transformational,” Bruce sees his role as three-old: to inspire an entrepreneurial mindset among his employees; to educate team members by sharing project knowledge with everyone involved; and, to plan for his own succession. ACME Financial Services is an example of the latter; Bruce’s first hire (Roch Martin) and fellow employee Rob Thomas are taking over the company.

Boutique is Innovative Lying outside both the comforts and requirements of the big banks gives Bruce the headspace to work on his passion: increased financial literacy. “I am working on e-books and partnerships with others to get myself out there to volunteer when necessary and get my message to a greater number of people.”

Don Bureaux
Don Bureaux
President & CEO, Nova Scotia Community College
(Halifax, N.S.)

“I believe that we must be clear on our destiny, our cause and our calling”

Educating the Future Don Bureaux’s passion for higher education shines through every word he utters. But his deeds say even more. Since becoming president of the Nova Scotia Community College in 2011, he’s been gratified by the results. Serving the province through a network of 13 campuses, NSCC offers over 120 programs across five academic schools. These programs reflect the labour market needs and opportunities of the provincial economy and set graduates on a course for career success. NSCC serves some 24,000 students every year through these programs, as well as through apprenticeship, continuing education and customized training. According to a recent study, 86 per cent of graduates are employed, most in their field of choice. Of those, 94 per cent live and work in Nova Scotia.

Leading by Sharing Bureaux says he works each day to create an environment in which individuals are able to assume leadership roles regardless of their positions within the College. With a shared leadership style, he’s able to focus on inspiring individuals, on opportunities, skills and passions.

Change the Curriculum Bureaux suggests that instead of asking someone if they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, try asking them what kind of entrepreneur they want to be. “To truly provide our region with the promising future that is within our reach, we need to empower our future workforce, our future leaders.”

Dr. Robert Campbell
Dr. Robert Campbell

President & Vice-Chancellor,
Mount Allison University (Sackville, N.B.)

“We are going places and I want you all to come along for the ride”

Sis Boom Bah Robert Campbell happily describes himself as Mount Allison University’s chief fundraiser, its number one cheerleader, lead strategist and manager, and chief external “interface” with governments, media, parents, alumni, the town, and the broader community. Since assuming the top job, in 2006, at this small (2,400 student body), but prestigious institution, he has, among other things: Increased enrolment by 30 per cent; balanced the budget for 10 consecutive years; maintained financial sustainability with no external debt; and built the endowment to over $150 million (the largest per capita in Canada).

Positive, Personal, Professional As principles of leadership, Campbell strives to project energy and momentum, exude and demonstrate competence and experience, and communicate humanity, empathy, and caring. A leader, he says, “must have strong values and must self-consciously work to inject them into the organization’s strategic goals.”

Creating beyond Classrooms According to Campbell, Mount Allison epitomizes innovation in real time. It maintains a flat, horizontal organization, with very little hierarchy or bureaucracy to get in the way of creativity and inventiveness. Although its budgets are tight, considerable opportunities for innovation exist within, of course, “a fiscal constraint”. Up to now, he notes, “we have experienced very little government intervention or regulation. Our Board is independent and highly supportive of management, if it stays on budget.”

Donald Clow
Donald Clow
President & CEO, Crombie REIT
(New Glasgow, N.S.)

“To grow our economy, we need to remain committed to providing jobs”

Bricks and Mortar Donald Clow, the lead executive at Crombie REIT since 2009, shoulders the weight of the real estate investment trust with cheerfulness and brio. Over the years, the portfolio has grown to include 260 commercial properties across Canada, comprising approximately 17.6 million square feet. Crombie possesses an enterprise value of approximately $3.8 billion; and a market capitalization of roughly $1.7 billion.

Creative Disruption Innovation is inextricably linked to Crombie’s mode of operation. The company is currently developing 14 major mixed-use properties (each valued at more than $50 million) – where customers will live, work, shop and play – by creating new grocery stores in tandem with complimentary retail outlets, residential apartments or condominiums in downtown locations in cities across Canada. Though potentially very profitable, these developments also pose significant risk. Under Clow’s supervision, Crombie’s exposure is minimized via a dedicated task force and joint venture partners.

Sky’s the Limit “During 2015, we announced our intention to develop a major mixed-use development strategy including the development of up to 4,700 rental apartment units worth approximately $1-2 billion as well as plans to renovate and redevelop several of our benchmark properties in St. John’s and Halifax over the next five-15 years. These new developments will unlock significant value and new cash flow from our portfolio.”

Brian Dalton
Brian Dalton
President & CEO, Altius Minerals Corporation
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“I’ve never had a serious job that involved me reporting to an individual”

Reaping the Royalty Brian Dalton is clear-eyed about the prospects for the mining royalty company he co-founded in 1996. The former prospector and geoscience student now leads a team with interests in 13 producing mines in Canada, including operations that produce thermal (electrical) and metallurgical coal, potash, nickel, copper, zinc, cobalt, gold and silver. Altius’ project generation “pipeline” contains a diversified portfolio of exploration stage projects and royalties, many of which benefit from various partner-funding arrangements. As he says, his job is to motivate his team members in the face of adversity.

Against the Herd During the current mining market downturn Dalton led Altius to acquire royalty interests in 12 producing mines that have resulted in increasing high-margin royalty revenue from $3 million to $40 million per year. “Our contrarian conviction continues to grow,” he notes, “and we will take advantage of the continuing implosion of real asset values while remaining nimble enough to switch gears when the inevitable cyclical turn happens.”

Full Global In the end, Dalton is bent towards growth. His definition of innovation can be summed up in a few, choice words: “We are brave when others are fearful, and vice-versa.” As for the future of Altius, he will settle for nothing less than “full-cycle returns” that are unrivalled anywhere in the world.

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