18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

18th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

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

“I like people. I try to be approachable and not take myself too seriously”

The Happy Gamer Brent Scrimshaw has been working to build a stronger Atlantic Canada, one game at a time, for several years. As the main man behind the region’s lottery corporation, this principle is central to his and the company’s vision. As such, 100 per cent of profits are returned to fund provincial investments in hospitals, education and other necessary public services. Since its founding in 1976, Atlantic Lotto has returned more than $8.2 billion to its provincial government shareholders. In 2015, the company employed 517 Atlantic Canadians; its revenues totaled more than $1 billion; and its three-year growth rate between 2013 and 2015 nudged 13 per cent.

Building Online Platforms As Scrimshaw says, Atlantic Lottery was the first North American operation of its kind to offer online gaming. Currently, it’s working on a comprehensive response to the 2,500 online gaming providers operating in this region without regulatory oversight. Specifically, it’s putting together a competitive product that augments its existing ones. Notes Scrimshaw: “This will be a leader in both responsible and sustainably profitable gambling online in Atlantic Canada.”

Propelling Responsible Growth Scrimshaw comes down to first principles: Make the products he offers relevant to the customer; operate efficiently; and “continually expand the company’s social license to operate.” In this context, that means achieving meaningful, responsible growth.


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

“There is power in what committed and skilled individuals can achieve”

The Social Banker Ken Shea leads one of the largest credit unions in Atlantic Canada with 20 branches and 205 employees, managing assets of more $650 million. In his role, he’s been responsible for the performance of the cooperative since 2011. During his tenure, assets on account have grown from $311million to $650 million. Between 2013 and 2015, revenue growth posted a strong 7.4 per cent; employment rose over the same period from 124 to 188. Says Shea: “Our future will be defined as a balance between maintaining great relationships locally with our members and communities while building our capacity to serve them when, where and how they want to be served.”

Synergies and Connections In fact, the five-year plan for East Coast Credit comes down to thinking locally and acting globally. Says Shea: “We need to continue to develop products and services that allow us to compete at the national level but at the same time constantly (remind us) what brought success in the past.”

Outside the Vault Shea says East Coast Credit is always innovative and willing to look at new ways of doing things. In fact, just over the past year, the Nova Scotia Community College approached him with an idea: Create a credit union for students. It’s a notion, and Shea thinks he’ll jump aboard.


Janet Simm
President & CEO, Northwood Group of Companies
(Dartmouth, N.S.)

“Dream big, be fearless and challenge the status quo”

The Care Giver Janet Simm, who holds a BSc in Nursing from Dalhousie University, has been running the Northwood Group of Companies – a non-profit organization that responds to the needs of older adults and people at risk – since 2014. She’s been accountable for seven, diverse subsidiaries, as well as 1,700 staff, more than 500 volunteers, 641 nursing home beds and the largest home support apparatus in Nova Scotia’s provincial Home Care Program. Over the past three years, the multi-million-dollar institution she guides has shown a 36-month revenue increase exceeding 13 per cent.

Playing the long game Simm believes that to be an authentic leader, you must truly embrace the vision and mission of the organization. As she says, “Be committed and respond to the needs of your customer. Live these values.” At the same time, she notes, don’t be afraid to make a mistake, as long as doing so becomes a learning opportunity for the entire organization.

Toward the Future Simm says the elder-care sector is facing exponential growth and funding cutbacks. Still, she insists, “Our strength is in our relationship with our communities and the long-serving staff who believe in our mission. We must continue to achieve further economies of scale, streamline our business model and closely monitor trends in our environment to enable our responsiveness to impending change from funders.”


Ian Smith
CEO, Clearwater Seafoods Ltd. Partnership
(Bedford, N.S.)

“Inspire trust by demonstrating competence; honour your commitments”

Ocean to Plate Ian Smith presides over one of North America’s largest vertically integrated seafood companies with over 1,400 employees in offices, plants and vessels around the world. The company operates from “ocean to plate” – owning fishing quotas, vessels, processing facilities, and providing delivery to customers worldwide. It is recognized globally for its wild-caught and premium-quality scallops, lobster, clams, coldwater shrimp and crab. With corporate revenues above $100 million in 2015, and an employee base exceeding 1,500, its three-year growth rate, as of 2014, is 10 per cent.

Fishing for Growth Smith says Clearwater has recognized an increase in consumer demand for “convenience-based meal solutions.” With a variety of new value-added items hitting seafood shelves, buyers are gravitating towards healthier options and protein variety. “We remain focused on building our presence in this category,” he says. Presently, the company is actively investing in its access to wild and sustainably harvested seafood through acquisitions, partnerships, joint ventures and commercial agreements.

Never Cut Bait Smith believes there’s no substitute for direct action in business leadership. “There are some fundamental traits that are vitally important, because together they lead to trust,” he says. “This is an essential element of a strong team. Those traits are simple and straightforward: having clear goals, strong principles, confidence, courage, drive, openness to ideas, and working hard to be inspiring and compelling.”


Carl Sparkes
President & CEO, Devonian Coast Wineries Ltd.
(Malagash, N.S.)

“No one wants to be part of any environment where trust doesn’t exist”

Grape to Glass Carl Sparkes was once an oil-field geologist. Now he’s a vintner and a self-described “hand’s on CEO” enjoying every aspect “from grape to glass”. He should. His various enterprises earn annual revenues north of $10 million. His percentage growth rate over the past three years tops 34 per cent. He employs 74 people, up from 58 in 2013. Now, his companies include wine agriculture, processing and distribution operations. His production and sales volume exceeds that of all other wineries in Atlantic Canada combined. What’s more, he’s managed to build vineyards in all four provinces of the region. Says Sparkes: “I feel blessed to be able to do what I love in the part of the world that I love the most.”

Pumping the Volume Sparkes doesn’t want to push his luck too far, but he does say that his five-year goal is to double his sales volume as he works to improve profit margins and “quadruple the capacity for future growth.”

Re-inventing the Barrel To achieve these ends, innovation is front and center. As Sparkes says, his operation has invented an innovative system to dry grapes to enhance the quality of red wines and introduced “a new wine style to this region that has become an overnight success”.

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