Warning: content may offend some readers (and I really hope it does)

Sometimes, Atlantic Canadians make me so damned mad.

Year over year, do you know how many Top 50 CEO nominees decline the opportunity to even be considered for the award? Too freaking many. Some say they’re too busy to fill out the nomination materials and some don’t think they’re worthy of the honour — but an uncomfortable number say they don’t want the publicity. Apparently, success isn’t such a good thing in this part of the world.

Ninety per cent of the time, Atlantic Canadians are the nicest people in the world — generous, hard-working, outgoing, fun, and funny. But there’s some weird genetic perversity hardwired into the regional DNA that turns us into petty, jealous backstabbers when we see someone getting ahead (especially if it’s someone we know).

Harsh, perhaps, but maddeningly true. That person who sat two rows away from you in high school chemistry class, the one who made it big in the music industry? Now you’re telling everyone he’s a stuck-up prig because he didn’t recognize you on the street 20 years, 40 pounds and a full beard later. The girl who juggled two part-time jobs and a full university course load? You claim her rapid climb up the corporate ladder is due to who she knew, not what she knew. And that guy — the one who didn’t go to college or university but had the courage and tenacity to borrow enough money to buy the service station where he worked, then leverage that business to expand into used car sales and commercial snow clearing, yeah — that guy… he’s nothing but a shyster. He’d sell his own mother to make a dollar. On and on it goes, a litany of similarly pathetic stories whispered here and there throughout every corner of Atlantic Canada.

One nominee, a past winner in fact, noted that the downside to recognition was that it made him and his family a target for rumours and innuendo. He told me about nasty comments on social media and snide remarks at public gatherings, that his kids were tormented in school about their ‘Daddy Warbucks.’

“Unfortunately, success while living in a small region brings a lot of attention,” said another nominee. “It’s unnerving and a lot of my privacy has been lost.”

Our aversion to individual wealth and prosperity (unless it’s our own) is, quite frankly, sickening. Enough already.

I think that our negative mindset is a huge part of what’s historically wrong with our regional economy. Here we sit, blessed with an abundance of resource wealth (mining, oil, gas, wind power, hydroelectricity, agriculture, fishing) that far exceeds the needs of our population. Economic downturns should be virtually non-existent in a region with such vast potential, and yet, it’s the upswings which are the outliers — clear evidence that karma is rewarding our jealousies with a swift kick right where the sun doesn’t shine.

Here’s a thought: Wealth. Is. Not. A. Crime. Particularly when you’re a Top 50 CEO. Integrity, fairness, job creation, and social responsibility are all built into the selection process. You can’t be a Top 50 award winner unless you provide documented proof that you’re dedicated to building your company and the regional economy, that you’re an active volunteer and industry innovator, and that you believe in generously giving back to your community.

None of us is perfect. So instead of tearing down our innovators, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers, isn’t it time we nurtured them instead? Time that we made success something to crow about and aspire to?

I believe in celebrating corporate leadership excellence. I WILL salute our Top 50 CEOs. I WILL cheer their achievements. I WILL applaud the people who generate wealth for themselves, their companies and communities. And I WILL proudly share their stories with readers throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond.

If you don’t like it, you can bloody well bugger off. It’s your problem — deal with it.

Dawn Chafe
About Dawn Chafe

For the past 19 years, Dawn has been editor of Atlantic Canada’s most award-winning and largest circulation business magazine: Atlantic Business Magazine. Under her editorial direction, Atlantic Business Magazine has won 14 Atlantic Journalism Awards, three TABBIE international business press awards and two KRW national business press awards.

3 Comments to “Warning: content may offend some readers (and I really hope it does)”

  1. Perfect!! I couldn’t have said it better myself, and have thought all of these things many, many times. Thank you for putting it in words and sharing it!!! If, no, WHEN, my business gets me far enough to be a nominee, I will proudly accept that honour as a reward for all of my hard work. If people don’t like it, that’s too bad for them!!

  2. Avatar Vicky Knee // May 21, 2015 at 6:37 pm // Reply

    Excellent article! Dawn, you’ve hit this issue right on. Successful people should not have to hide there success under an invisibility cloak. I’m far, far from being thought of for these accolades but I’m SO proud of the people being recognized and appreciate their efforts and sacrifices. They inspire me to greater things, so how’s that bad?
    Keep up the great work.

  3. A little piece to build on a great article!

    Atlantic Canada, Entrepreneurship and Why?

    During an interview with a local newspaper to announce our most recent property purchase I was asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. It was a question I don’t believe many entrepreneurs think about very often and would find themselves stumbling as I did to answer the question. It’s far more complicated than a one line simplistic answer but yet the question itself is so simple to ask. The question was, “why are you expanding your business?” I foolishly answered, for something to do and quickly reverted to the age old answer of the money was pretty good. Since that interview I’ve stopped to think about the question along with other questions people have asked me such as why buy something in Miramichi or Bridgewater. For those of you who may be outside of the Maritime’s these are small rural communities that for the most have seen better days. So why is it, that we continue to invest in these small communities, why do we continue to put in 80 hours a week, and why do we as business owners in Atlantic Canada not crumble from the fear of negative headlines week after week?

    In order to get to my point I have to give you a bit of history. Shortly after World War II, my grandparents immigrated from The Netherlands (Holland) for greater things and greener pastures in Canada. Their first stop was Charlottetown PEI, where my Opa worked as a labourer on a farm just outside of the city. After a few years there they had saved enough money to move to Earltown, NS, a quiet village between Truro and Tatamagouche where they bought their first farm where they raised their seven children and the odd foster child.

    They eventually decided to sell the farm and move to Pictou County where my Opa and his three son’s including my father started a construction business, van Veld Construction which is still owned and operated by one of my uncles. After the construction business my father bought and sold a local tavern and finally settled into a job working for my uncle and in the early 90’s bought his first property. The property consisted of 28 apartments and has been our flagship from the start. Over the years he continued to buy properties and in 2006 purchased the first land lease community Twin Rivers Park.

    During my earlier years I hated every minute of collecting rent, cleaning apartments and mowing lawns. On weekends, after school, snow days and holidays I found myself working with Dad while a lot of my friends had the odd part time job or didn’t work at all. I felt like I was missing out on all the fun social things. Through my last couple years in high school I vowed I was never going to work in the business or even stay in the Maritimes for that matter.

    I found myself entering university truly unsure what I wanted to do, however I was certain I wanted nothing to do with the business. Within my first year of economics, a major I choose for really no reason at all I found myself switching to business and thinking the family business didn’t look so bad after all. During my education I pushed Dad to purchase more property. Within the four years it took to complete my degree we had purchased 6 properties consisting 236 units. My marks certainly suffered as I was consumed by the business over those years. I did complete my degree and am now a proud alumni of Dalhousie’s Rowe School of Business. After university we continued to grow the business and purchased 3 more properties and expanded another bringing our unit count to 540 units with plans for further growth.

    So why is it that we work long hours and continue to invest in a region that is so economically depressed? We love what we do. We love every breath, every minute of what we do. It’s not just a job or even a career. We can’t stop thinking about it and it fascinates us at every turn. Yes there are stressful days but who can beat the rush of expanding a business and watching it grow. It’s a high like you wouldn’t believe, watching your market share grow, your assets and sales increasing.

    We as entrepreneurs live for these moments and we know there’s others out there in other communities, both rural and urban who think the same. Who are all working towards building their babies up into something bigger? We know theirs others who are capable of propping up and adding jobs to the Maritimes. We know there are more Sobey’s, Bragg’s, Joudrey’s, McCain’s and Rowe’s out there. Every day I read the negative headlines and think, well what about the MacKay Meters, Armour Transports, Sunny Corner Enterprises, Velsoft’s, or MacGregor’s Industrial Group.

    Let’s as Atlantic Canadian’s stop focusing on the negative and start focusing on our up and comers along with our existing golden girls such as Sobey’s(no offense intended) and bring Atlantic Canada out of whatever slump we’ve created. Let’s look to the future and stop focusing on the past. Finally, let’s stop talking about it and let’s start doing and support your local businesses who have already begun the transition. I believe in Atlantic Canada, both rural and urban and we can turn our provinces around if I didn’t, do you think I would continue to invest?

    Blair van Veld
    Twin Rivers Properties and Home Sales

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