18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

Dan Merzetti
President & CEO, DSM Telecom
(Halifax, N.S.)

“Too often business fails to push through the low points and stay focused”

Hello Smart Operator Dan Merzetti might no longer call himself an outlier in the telecom business. The head honcho at DMS has been operating his Halifax-based phone company – which now offers a complete line of business communications products, including carrier-grade digital phone (aka hosted PBX or cloud-based VoIP), SIP trunking, TruMobility, long distance, toll free, audio-web and video conferencing services to businesses across Canada – since 2002. Today, the company, which earns revenues of under $5 million a year, employs 15 people, and maintains a sales growth rate, over three years, of 58 per cent, is expecting more of the same success in the years ahead. As Merzetti says: “We expect to grow and ensure we always keep customer centered.”

On the Line Merzetti’s principles of leadership involve leading by example: “Get the right people on the bus, build a reputation for success, set a clear vision for the future and communicate it often to your team.” In other words, perhaps, don’t just be on the line; but stay there.

A linked-inFuture Merzetti recently aligned his company with two large multinational companies to synergize products, services and market strategies in this fast moving industry. As he says, “We all compete against a couple other large industry players and together we complement and help drive each other’s services and operations.”


Jason Muise
Managing Director, Technip Canada Ltd.
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“My favorite definition of a leader is as a conductor of an orchestra”

Above Sea Success Jason Muise has directed the Canadian operations of the Technip Group since 2012. The company he overseas is one of the leading subsea solution providers in the country – a groundbreaker in the fields of project management, engineering and construction in the nation’s oil and gas industry, offering a comprehensive portfolio of innovative solutions and technologies. Says Muise: “The management team of Technip Canada has just completed a five-year strategic plan. Part of this initiative was the development of a new Vision and Mission statement. By 2020, we want to be considered the best subsea office in the Technip Group, known for our professionalism and quality.”

Caution Don’t Enter Muise, an engineering graduate of Memorial University in St. John’s, thinks Canadians are cautious by nature. He says this has to change: “Innovation in our industry is essential. We need to innovate to grow our business.” Presently, Technip is getting ready to commence a “Marginal Field R&D program”. In 2016, the managing director says this will be his big goal.

Leading the Orchestra Muise notes that his role is to help define the vision for the company, and set overall targets: “I have learned you have to empower your managers, involve them in developing a common vision. I have to ensure they keep the beat.”


Larry Puddister
Co-chairman of Pennecon and CEO of Newcrete Investments Partnership Inc.
(St. John’s, N.L.)

“Great leaders possess the skill to gather people around them”

An Established Force Larry Puddister, a veteran of the construction industry, formally assumed the co-chairmanship of Pennecon in 2014. Today, under the man’s varied, 12-year tenure, the company has grown in revenue, geographical footprint, and employee base. When he joined Pennecon in 2004, its revenues were $92.6 million; since then, under his leadership, revenues have expanded to $347 million. It now employs some 1,100 professionals and skilled trades across Atlantic Canada.

The Platinum Rule For Puddister, leadership is about recognizing that everyone is different and that people work best when leaders appreciate this. As he says, “Some of my team members need oceans of autonomy; others need daily guidance. Some members need very clear boundaries and direction, while others thrive in a more flexible environment.”

Dismiss all Fear The future, Puddister suggests, is for the bold. In 2015, Pennecon penned a strategic plan and growth strategy to help increase revenue by 50 per cent over the next five years, and 300 per cent in the next 10. “Recognizing that organic growth cannot support that goal during this economic climate,” he says, “we have pinpointed geographical expansion as the main way of achieving our plan. Never let fear get in your way.”


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

“Be a part of something where peers push one another to another level”

Homegrown Comfort Business Gregory Roberts is the “colonel” of homegrown chicken and taters in Atlantic Canada. When he started out in 2007, he had a negative net worth. In the beginning, he used credit cards, personal loans and credit from suppliers to get this business started. Today his company is a multi-national corporation employing over 2,000 people – the nation’s fastest-growing franchise system, with revenues above $100 million in 2015 and a year-over-year growth rate approaching 70 per cent over three years since 2013.
Scaling for Growth Roberts says his goal is to make Mary Brown’s one of the most respected brands in the industry. He notes that in the past three years the company grew by nearly 70 per cent. Still, he says, the company has chosen to manage its expansion responsibly. Specifically, he says, “In 2016 the company will grow by 27-30 per cent.” The system for Mary Brown’s, he says, is all about creating trust..

Food for Thought As a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) chain, Mary Brown’s is breaking new ground. Roberts says he’s using hospitality professionals and trainers from leading hotels to bring “guest experience to the quick-service industry.” He’s also removing frozen products from his restaurants. All of which, he believes, will maintain Mary Brown’s as the fastest-growing QSR operation in the country.


Erik Sande
President, Medavie EMS
(Dartmouth, N.S.)

“Leaders need to understand the skills and capabilities of their organizations”

The Corporate EMT Erik Sande runs Medavie EMS (MEMS), a healthcare services organization that specializes in the design, implementation and ongoing management of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) including ground ambulance, air ambulance, medical communication and training services. MEMS is the largest company of its kind in Canada with subsidiaries in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. It also operates the largest ambulance service in the state of Massachusetts.

A People Company Employing 4,000 healthcare clinicians and support staff, MEMS is a world leader in designing and implementing innovative and award-winning Mobile Integrated Health Programs. Its paramedic teams provide mobile, 24/7 primary care services that deliver healthcare in the home and the community. Its organization commits 10 per cent of its annual net income to health-related community programs through the Medavie Health Foundation. Since late 2011, the Foundation has committed more than $6.4 million in support of its two core health causes, with some $4.5 million of that committed in Atlantic Canada.

Chief Customer Advocate Sande says: “A CEO requires a keen eye for strategy and an even sharper sense for operations. As a wise leader said, ‘strategy is easy but execution is hard’ and the organizations I have led have been known for their ability to focus.” What’s more, he notes, a team needs to understand its goals.

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