Gerry Pond gets recognized—again—for a lifetime of helping entrepreneurs find their footing in the business world
Gerry Pond knows where his talent lies.
“Some people are good at carpentry or other trades. I like building the economy and helping people build businesses,” says the Saint John-based serial entrepreneur.
That zeal to build businesses and the economy—something the 73-year-old Pond has done since he started his career at NBTel more than 45 years ago— is a big reason why he is the winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ Atlantic Lifetime Achievement Award.
The professional services firm says Pond received the honour in recognition of his contribution to Canadian business, his philanthropic efforts and outstanding leadership within the community and Canada. This kind of recognition is old hat for Pond. He was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada this year, and has also received the Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian Award for New Brunswick, the Order of New Brunswick, and been named the first-ever Business Development Bank of Canada Entrepreneurship Champion over his four-decade career.
His passion for mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs comes naturally. He says he’s a fifth generation United Empire Loyalist—Americans who resettled in Canada (known then as British North America) during or after the American Revolution. Pond’s ancestors came to the Miramichi region looking to farm the land. But the soil was poor, so they got into forestry instead, and built communities and businesses in their new home. “How did they do that without government help?” Pond asks. “They were entrepreneurs.”
Since leaving NBTel, Pond has exhibited his entrepreneurial streak time and time again. He’s co-founded a number of successful information and communication technology businesses, and been a cornerstone of organizations aimed at accelerating start-up companies in Atlantic Canada like Propel ICT, the University of New Brunswick’s Pond-Deshpande Centre and East Valley Ventures.
Pond’s most recent business venture is Mariner Partners Inc., a Saint Johnbased information technology company he co-founded in 2003. He says the company had $30 million in revenue in 2016 and is growing at a rate of about 15 per cent per year. But it says a lot about Pond that he’s not satisfied with that growth rate and says his goal for the company is to see it generate $100 million in revenues in five years.
Jim Lutes, EY’s Atlantic Canada managing partner, says Pond’s humble and curious nature, plus a willingness to listen, make him an ideal mentor. “He has rare leadership qualities to bring people along with him. I don’t think we can have enough Gerry Ponds in this region,” Lutes says.
Of course, what Pond really wants is to help mentor and inspire the next generation of Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs. In a region where the bad news often outweighs the good when it comes to the economy, Pond’s determined to show people they can succeed here. “We once had a vibrant economy but we’ve lost confidence in ourselves,” he says. “It’s possible to grow here. It’s hard work. But you don’t have to move away to do it.”