18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

John Griffin
President & General Manager, W.P. Griffin Inc.
(Elmsdale, P.E.I.)

“We are always looking for ways to improve and add value”

Turning the turf It takes someone special to create a culture of innovation in an industry that’s been around for thousands of years. Especially when you consider how little the fundamentals have changed: plant, water, harvest. Or so it appears to the uninformed. Dig a little deeper into John Griffin’s potato adventures and you’ll find that this is one farming business that’s constantly finding new ways to grow: from value-added packaging and modernized grading equipment to fresh product varieties and new retail markets. The revenue side has grown too: 34 per cent in recent years.

Most Important Ingredient John believes that a leader is nothing without communication. You can have the skills to do the job (vision, delegation, organization, development, motivation, mentorship, coaching and supervision), but they mean nothing if you can’t share them with your team. “Good communication,” he says, “is like the blood in our veins. It keeps our company alive and growing.”

Roots Run Deep W.P. Griffin has been a family business for almost 70 years; John, his sisters Barbara and Eleanor, and his brother Peter (operations manager) all did their share of farm chores over the years. John says he learned everything he knows from his father and company founder, Wilfred Griffin. “He was the best person I ever worked for.”


Michael Hanrahan

President & CEO, petroforma laboratories
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“I characterize my leadership style as push and praise”

Sustainability in Action Michael Hanrahan makes no bones about the fact that he wants to improve the world. The company he founded and leads specializes in laboratory services, and associated field services, to the oil and gas, mining, forestry, fisheries, food processing, and municipal government sectors throughout Atlantic Canada. In fact, petroforma laboratories is the largest commercial lab in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since its inception in 2007, the company – which employs 20 accredited scientists – has doubled in size and maintains a seven-digit payroll. Revenue growth over the past three years has hovered around 100 per cent.

Mitigating the Risk Hanrahan is clear about his market niche. His lab, petrofroma, is unique. Specifically, he says, “Last year, we began offering nationally accredited drinking water quality testing in Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time since John Cabot landed on the island.” What’s more, he notes, “In 2008, we became the first laboratory east of Alberta to offer reservoir fluids testing services to support a decades’-old offshore oil and gas industry.”

Keeping it Real For petroforma, applying good science to manage environmental oversight is just the beginning. Says Hanrahan: “I have spoken regionally and nationally on the benefits of having a culturally diverse and gender balanced workforce.” In the final analysis, he insists, Atlantic Canada’s strength relies on the diversity of its human capital.


Brian Harriman
President & CEO, Alcool New Brunswick Liquor
(Fredericton, N.B.)

“A leader needs to define a vision that is inspirational for the team”

A Spirited Leadership Brian Harriman is justifiably proud of his big track record at one of Canada’s smallest liquor corporations. Since assuming the top job at the New Brunswick Crown entity in 2014, he has led the transition from government agency to world-class retailer. In the year before his arrival, the business had declined by one per cent to $389 million in sales. During his first year, the business grew by 2.5 per cent in sales and 3.5 per cent in net income. In his second year, sales have advanced by 4.5 per cent. As he says, “We are on pace to hit $408 million this fiscal year.

The Lifestyle Retailer Harriman’s goal is to deliver $445 million in annual sales by 2020. To do this, he is working to create retail environments in which, he says, “people will want to come and shop for any occasion. This will mean having world-class service and an enhanced portfolio of products, emphasizing customer education.”

The BEST principle Better Every Single Time (or BEST) refers to Harriman’s overarching approach to customer satisfaction and commercial development. “Historically ANBL was a command and control culture,” he says. “I am working hard to make it a collaborative, empowered culture where people are rewarded for being honest about what is best for the business.”


Tom Hickey
CEO, Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd.
(Eastern Passage, N.S.)

“Trust your managers, be strong with delegation and support when needed”

Paving Success Alley Tom Hickey’s Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd. is a heavy civil construction contractor focusing on paving, mass excavation and pipe work. But this is not the only feather in his cap. Over the years, the civil engineer by education and training has launched 14 companies, all of which have been successful. Over the past 36 months, his interests have employed between 114 and 174 people and posted revenue growth of 100 per cent.

The Serial Entrepreneur Since 2008, Hickey has spearheaded four ventures. In 2009, he founded Frontline Asphalt Limited; that same year he started Atlantic Road Construction and Paving and Taylored Safety Services. He was a director and major shareholder of Taylored, before selling his interest to HSE Integrated in January, 2011. Tom also started a new publicly traded company, Frontline Gold Limited. Through T. Hickey Enterprises, which has operated since 2001, he manages his various interests in the construction, finance and investment fields, always looking for fresh opportunities.

Beyond the Neighbourhood For Hickey, innovation means adding strong value. As he notes, “We have gone into an industry that just paves. We added storm-water systems, concrete services, flatworks and site services. These have made us strategically more competitive. We can offer more to our customers, and this opens other areas for growth.”


Bert Hickman
President & CEO, Hickman Automotive Group
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“Good leaders are passionate about the work they do”

License for Growth Bert Hickman’s business is a legacy enterprise and he wouldn’t have it any other way. His Group has been a family affair since 1905. Today, it encompasses several vehicle franchises in Newfoundland and Labrador, including Hickman Chevrolet Cadillac, Hickman Chevrolet Buick GMC, Hickman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat, Hickman Nissan, Hickman Honda, Hickman Truck Centre, and Hickman Select Certified. The family-owned and operated business works to provide outstanding customer experiences. With annual revenues above $100 million, a year-over-year growth rate of nearly 17 per cent since 2013, and nearly 500 people on the payroll, longevity seems to be in the cards.


Drivers are First
Hickman is clear about the future. Over the next five years, he plans to consolidate all initial customer contact to a Customer Care Centre where buyers are “followed-up during their ownership experience. The role of this department is to seek out new business and renew existing business so that loyalty is increased.”

Pedal to Metal For Hickman, invention and creativity is bred in the bone. One hundred years of top quality service must stand for something. Or, as he says, “Hickman Automotive Group constantly strives to ensure that our company is ever-changing. It is essential to continuously look for new ideas to fully engage our customers and adapt to the needs of today’s society.”

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