18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

Sean FitzGerald
President & CEO, Vocational Rehabilitation
Assessments, Inc.
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“We need to stop praying for a Hail Mary from Ottawa”

Politician Heal Thyself Sean FitzGerald – whose firm provides expert consulting services to workplace compensation boards, insurers, and law firms in the fields of vocational assessment, earning capacity and life-care planning – has a few choice words for politicians of every stripe: Think about what’s good for people. After all, he does. He was awarded the Canadian Commemorative Medal by the Governor General’s Office for his work with, and for, people with disabilities. He has launched three private companies in his field of expertise. He is an internationally recognized expert witness. Currently, 42 per cent of his firm’s revenues originate from outside Atlantic Canada. .

Lead by Example FitzGerald prescription for what ails the Atlantic region is deceptively simple. “Governments need to support economic growth by reducing financial costs to companies so that jobs can be created,” he says. “Government needs to also reduce the red tape and have business people with proven track records be the advisors.”

Innovation is Personal Over the past three years, FitzGerald reports, annual revenues at Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which currently employs 26 people, have advanced by 23 per cent. Shortly, he says, he will be the first in Canada to have earned a doctorate “in the area of earning capacity.” That, he notes, will help his company “keep abreast of trends in our field of work.”


Shelley Fleckenstein
Founding Owner & Director, Kings Physiotherapy Clinic. Regional Manager of Service Development and Innovation, CBI Health Group
(New Minas, N.S.)

“I lead by example. Two words exemplify this approach: servant leadership”

Bones of Business Shelley Fleckenstein built her private interdisciplinary rehabilitation practice on the principle of providing a broad range of patient services. In addition to physiotherapy, there are four in-house occupational therapists; two massage therapists; two clinical psychologists; two psychiatrists who confer on challenging cases; a specialist in custom-made orthotics; and two general-practitioner physicians. The model works. As she says, “We have in excess of 30,000 visits annually at Kings and the trickle-down impact of addressing and improving the health care needs of this many individuals on the provincial health care system is considerable. Additionally, our year-over-year growth from 2013 to 2015 was 7.9 per cent. We continue to be one of the largest interdisciplinary rehabilitation practices in Atlantic Canada.”

Holistic in Leadership To support the 21-year-old clinic’s success, Fleckenstein says she doesn’t ask any one of her 31 staff members to do anything she wouldn’t take on herself. She believes that true leaders embrace a “core value system”. In her case, that means adhering to a consistent model in daily interactions with employees, patients, health professionals and the community.

Stretching the Muscles For Kings Physiotherapy, the future remains as pliant as its approach to patient care. Says Fleckenstein: “As far as my company is concerned, I want it to thrive, with further diversified satellites affiliated with the primary clinic.”


Dr. Richard Florizone
President & Vice-Chancellor, Dalhousie University
(Halifax, N.S.)

“A powerful platform for success: Leading by enthusiasm rather than coercion”

Back to Basics Richard Florizone assumed the top job at Dalhousie University in 2013. Since then, he has focused on what he likes to call the “four Rs”: retention, research, returns to society, and respect. Under his guidance, the university has ramped up its entrepreneurship efforts, with startup “sandboxes” in information communications and technology, engineering and agriculture. Says Florizone: “We’re also focused on expanding the number of co-op placements for students with Nova Scotia companies. In 2014, about 1,775 students secured placements and we intend on growing that number, both so that our students can contribute to the success of N.S. businesses, but also so that our business community has the opportunity to connect with talented students.”

The Innovation Ecosystem Florizone contends that Dalhousie is a critical part of Nova Scotia’s broader culture of invention and creative commercialization. Few would argue. The institution currently hosts more than 80 per cent of publicly-funded R&D in the province. The reason, he says, is simple: “We attract and educate talented people.”

Seminars in Leadership For Dalhousie’s president, the ability to define core values and principles, to determine which most apply to any given situation, and to communicate them clearly are the keys to true leadership. This, he says, “requires not only a sense of those values, but also the ability to listen carefully.”


Dr. Andrew Furey
President & CEO, Team Broken Earth; Associate Professor Surgery,
Memorial University of Newfoundland
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“Leadership inspires others to act beyond the self-serving”

Humanity is All Andrew Furey, an associate professor of surgery at Memorial University of Newfoundland, established Team Broken Earth in 2010 to respond to the devastating consequences of the earthquake in Haiti. Since then, his non-profit’s volunteer medical staff has grown from a single team from Newfoundland and Labrador to include teams from across Canada, totaling over 1,000 volunteers on the ground during missions to Haiti, and thousands more operating from home. It has expanded to include projects in infrastructure, education and capacity building. It has also grown to meet the needs of Bangladesh and Nepal.

Teamwork is Everything Furey’s management approach is both convivial and irresistible. He describes himself as, at once, “empathetic” and “empowering”. He tries to leverage the “elements of emotional intelligence” to understand what others are feeling, and the lenses they wear before acting. He says, “I like to empower people for roles making sure they have the skills and tools necessary to create wins.”

Innovate for People For an exclusively volunteer organization, with precisely one staff member, Team Broken Earth is an object lesson in felicitous bootstrapping. Furey says the group’s innovation is linked entirely to the needs of the people it seeks to help: “For us that has meant changing focus from just providing clinical care to providing education and infrastructure, allowing us to create capacity.”


Tim Gillis
CEO, STI Technologies Ltd.
(Halifax, N.S.)

“People are more engaged when they know what they are working towards”

Health Tech Ascending Tim Gillis knows he’s at the cutting edge of health care delivery in Canada. After all, through partnerships with the country’s top pharmaceutical companies, STI supports the system by delivering financial reimbursement, patient management and patient engagement solutions that improve health outcomes. By making its user-friendly solutions available online, and through physicians and pharmacists across the country, Gillis’s company has become the industry leader, and millions of patients have benefited from its programs. “Our mission,” he says, “is to enable and build intelligent solutions that interconnect healthcare stakeholders and improve patient engagement and outcomes.”

Leadership is Trust Gillis embraces a management style that’s both situational and individual. He believes in sharing information across his company of 80-plus employees. That includes convening quarterly “Town Hall” meetings at which financial results are distributed, along with key updates on the company’s strategic priorities. “I believe great leaders are seen as both trusted and competent,” he says. “With competent people, trust will allow for faster actions, effectiveness and innovation.”

Disrupting the Crowd STI Technologies takes its principles and thrusts them daily into the global marketplace where competition and time are persistent obstacles. But for Gillis, who wants to see annual growth of at least 20 per cent, over the next five years, time and competition appear to be on his side.

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