Banishing the green-eyed monster

How unfortunate. This entire edition is dedicated to celebrating Atlantic Canada’s exceptional corporate leaders. Our 2012 Top 50 CEOs generate almost $20 billion in annual revenue, employ over 82,000 people, donate $33.9 million to charity and volunteer with 462 community and industry organizations.

Why is this so unfortunate? Because I know that no matter how accomplished or hardworking the Top 50 are, regardless of their generous charity work or the number of jobs they create, there are people out there who will use our celebration of their efforts as an opportunity to criticise.

It could be a disgruntled employee, frustrated competitor or someone stuck in an unrewarding job. Whoever they are, they’ll find some reason to “justify” sneering at triumphs, downplaying achievements or claiming that results are exaggerated. They’ll argue that so-and-so had it easy – that they were “given” their job and wealth because they were born into an entrepreneurial family. Or they’ll insinuate that favouritism, nepotism, or some other skulduggery was involved in the awarding of a lucrative contract.

Enough already. Success is not a birthright. And it does not happen by chance.

In an April 3, 2012 article on fastcompany.com, Josh Linkner rightly pointed out that there is no such thing as an “overnight” success. He explained that it took Rovio eight years to create the popular Angry Birds video game – and they nearly went bankrupt doing it. James Dyson reportedly had 5,126 failed prototypes before he perfected his revolutionary vacuum. Well-known lubricant WD40 is so named because the first 39 experiments failed. Even Groupon had a near death experience in its earlier days.

Paul LeBlanc of Extreme Group (and a Top 50 CEO alumnus) has a message for everyone afflicted with the lobster pot syndrome: “If you think anyone driving a BMW, Audi or Mercedes was handed a golden opportunity or just dealt a better hand, and that there should be an equalization of success, (there are) challenges, hazards and stress that come with risking it all … I can promise you that there’s a more than good chance that Sobeys and Irving had many close calls that could have tanked their business at some points in their life cycle.

“The public needs to know that without risk takers, our economy would cease to exist. Jobs are created on the backs of those brave (or crazy) enough to pursue an idea and we need to respect that, not shoot them down.”

His self-described “rant” was spawned by online comments about SeaFort Capital, a new investment company started up by the Sobeys and McCains. Launched March 26, SeaFort will focus on making controlling investments in Canadian businesses with $2 million to $10 million in earnings. Negative public response ranged from “fat cats getting fatter” to “maybe they will both lower the price of the foods they supply so us common folk can pay for oil and electricity that they probably are shareholders in also.”

LeBlanc says he was extremely angry at the sentiment and ignorance of the general public about this “exciting” announcement. “Perhaps if they shadowed an entrepreneur for a month, they would happily return to their jobs with an appreciation for what it takes, day in and out, to run a successful business.”

Personally speaking, I’ve never resented someone else’s success. Envy them? Yes. Begrudge them? Never. When I was growing up and I wanted something that someone else had, or was bested in something that mattered to me, my parents invariably responded with a question: What are you going to do about it? There’s a wealth of power in that question, in being taught that you yourself have the ability to effect change. So, rather than be intimidated or threatened by the exemplary achievements of the Top 50 CEOs, I am instead inspired. They make me want to work harder, take risks, reap rewards.

That’s why we began publishing these awards 14 years ago: to recognize the singular strengths of award-winning leadership and to show other Atlantic Canadians that this is a great place to do business.

If you’re looking for the motivation or inspiration to pursue your dreams, please read on. If you’re one of those sadistic crustaceans I hear so much about, please put the magazine down. You don’t deserve it.

Dawn Chafe
About Dawn Chafe

For the past 19 years, Dawn has been editor of Atlantic Canada’s most award-winning and largest circulation business magazine: Atlantic Business Magazine. Under her editorial direction, Atlantic Business Magazine has won 14 Atlantic Journalism Awards, three TABBIE international business press awards and two KRW national business press awards.

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