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19th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

19th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

Matthew Pope
Corporate Director & CEO, RMS POPE INC. /
Servpro of St. John’s
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“The most important quality for leaders is having an open mind to recognize shortcomings and surround themselves with good people.”

Giving back When he graduated from university, Matthew Pope’s occasional work with his father’s transportation and freight-moving company blossomed into a career. “This was a very proud moment for me to have my father trust me with his 20-year business,” says Pope, who today leads the company. “Having an organization to implement my leadership skills has been rewarding,” he says, because it’s allowed him to create jobs for more Newfoundlanders and give more to charitable organizations, something he was raised to do. “I am able to continue that tradition on a level my family never imagined possible.”

Harnessing the power “By surrounding myself with the right people with complementary skills, I’ve been able to develop an entirely new division and grow the company exponentially,” says Pope. He’s confident their transition from “a one-trick pony to multi-faceted organization” will help achieve his goals for RMS POPE. In less than 30 months after the diversification, the company geared up from 40 to 107 pieces of equipment, nearly tripled annual revenue, and last, but not least, grew from 70 employees in 2014 to 122 last year.

Milking the opportunity With Pope’s success at securing a large dairy contract (among other business initiatives), the company went from having only one national client into a “full-blown transportation company,” he says. “This momentum opened the doors for more opportunities and street credit that put us into the big leagues.”


Mandy Rennehan
Founder & CEO, Freschco/RennDuPrat
(Yarmouth, N.S.)

“We like to say we’re ‘bringing sexy back’ to the retail facilities industry with personality, style and innovation.”

Act naturally “I felt a natural urge to lead and I was a hard worker,” says Rennehan. Those traits inspired her to take on entrepreneurial projects so when she started Freshco in 1995, at the age of 20, she was already an experienced business woman. “There was a huge demand for a full-service company handling building and retail maintenance. Freshco was the first full-service, 24/7, on-call retail maintenance provider across Canada and the eastern U.S.,” says Rennehan.

Emerging patterns In the last decade, thanks to her financial stability, Rennehan has been giving back to her hometown. “I started buying rundown buildings in Yarmouth to restore them and attract business and inspire residents,” she says. One challenge was the lack of local trades people trained in fine woodwork and the absence of local companies able to fabricate her designs. So she founded RennDuPrat—a complete design fabrication firm to train and employ local people in carpentry and wood restoration. In operation less than a year, they’re shipping product internationally.


Gregory F. Roberts
CEO/Owner, Mary Brown’s Inc.
(Pilley’s Island, N.L.)

“Find your passion in your work and it will feel like you have never worked.”

Food for thought It’s been a challenging couple of years for Gregory Roberts. When absentee franchise owners undermined his company’s brand, he initially found it “hard to accept”. That didn’t stop him from completely reconfiguring the franchise model and investing in capital-intensive corporate stores with corporately-trained (and accountable) operators.
Integral to this quantum shift in corporate culture was a focus on the guest experience: serving fresh from scratch locally-sourced food, “delivered by operators who care.” And, in a revolutionary move for the food service sector, profits that used to be shared with franchisees are now being invested in frontline workers. “Rather than pay ROIs to investors, we will pay ROIs to workers.”

Quick service, not fast food Mary Brown’s chicken, fries and taters aren’t fast food, asserts Roberts: it’s quick service. He says they use fresh ingredients instead of a “frozen to fryer” approach. It’s a disruptive practice that’s being noticed in the marketplace: Mary Brown’s has grown over 50 per cent in the last three years, and he estimates another 28-32 per cent growth this year.

A sense of self Roberts says that being a leader has allowed him to “develop my sense of who I am and what my true values really are.” It has also allowed him to see that life is not about money, pride or what someone else thinks of him, but about having pride in his work. And one more thing: he really loves chicken.


Brent Scrimshaw
President & CEO, Atlantic Lottery Corporation
(Moncton, N.B.)

“People follow the people who demonstrate passion and commitment toward a goal.”

All for one “It comes down to my belief in people,” says Brent Scrimshaw of his leadership at Atlantic Lottery. “No amount of data, no technology no matter how robust, no advertising, can match the contribution that aligned, engaged and passionate people make in advancing a company. If you believe in them and take care of your people, they will take care of the rest.”

Brent and the bean (counter) stalk Scrimshaw faced his biggest career challenge in 2016 with the release of a 26-month audit of Atlantic Lottery Corporation. The region’s four Auditors General presented broad recommendations, many of which required change in long-term practices. As is typical with these types of audits, the findings fueled questions about management oversight. “As CEO I was the face and voice of our response to the audit. Strong, visible leadership was important,” says Scrimshaw. That effort continues as they work to assure employees, shareholders, the public and media that trust in the leadership and in the integrity of operations is justified.

Innovation on steroids “At our Innovation Outpost in Halifax, a small but mighty team of designers and architects is generating products at breakneck speed,” says Scrimshaw. While it may be the smallest lottery in the country, Atlantic Lottery is leading the national invention effort—a must if Atlantic Canadians are to have safe, secure gaming products (and to keep lottery profits in the region).


Ken Shea
President & CEO, East Coast Credit Union
(Antigonish, N.S.)

“I am reserved, which some may find interesting because they likely consider all good leaders to be extroverts.”

Gifted with the baton For Ken Shea, a leader is like a conductor, not necessarily exceptional at playing any instruments, but outstanding at bringing all the pieces together for an orchestral performance. “You need to surround yourself with a talented team and provide them with a supportive environment so they can perform at their best,” he says. As president and CEO of East Coast Credit Union—a member-owned full-service financial institution—he’s proud of their performance since 2011 when he stepped onstage. They’ve grown through amalgamation to include 20 branches, 205 employees, more than 41,000 members and assets that have increased from $311 million to $650 million. “That makes us one of the largest credit unions in Atlantic Canada,” says Shea.

Yeah sayer “Never listen to those who say, ‘It can’t be done.’ This seems to be the first response of many to new ideas. If we allow negative sentiments to rule the day, we’re eliminating our chance for progress,” says Shea.

Symphony of service Shea chairs Connecting People for Health, a cooperative enterprise serving N.S. doctors and patients. Partially funded through the credit union system, they help patients control their health and, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, manage the Medical Services Insurance process for many physicians. “This is an example of thinking outside our current business to deliver value to all Nova Scotians by taking advantage of cooperative principles in action,” he says.

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