19th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

19th Annual Top 50 CEO Awards

Dallas Mercer
President & CEO, Dallas Mercer Consulting (DMC / Innu DMC)
(Mount Pearl, N.L.)

“Stay true to your company’s core values. Never waiver from the fundamentals of why you started.”

Enabling productivity In line with her belief that a decisive leader instills enthusiam and confidence in her employees, Dallas Mercer is proud of the way her team fulfills DMC’s corporate mission. They deliver disability management, safety training, consulting and industrial hygiene services to companies across Canada. “For employers, who are our clients, employees are their greatest asset. When a single employee is sick or injured there can be far reaching consequences,” says Mercer. “DMC helps employers navigate the growing cost of injuries and sick leave and keep employees at work,” she says. One measure of their effectivness is DMC’s 160 per cent growth in less than five years.

A stitch in time Mercer was an innovator before she launched DMC. At the Employer’s Council in 1998, she recognized the need for youth-focused occupational health and safety training. She established a committee, secured funding and hired professionals to develop a course that’s still offered in high schools.

Ahead of the curve DMC’s original business model focused on the fishing industry. But dependency on a resource-based industry left them exposed during any downturn. So they expanded the industries they serve and broadened their services. “We continually assess the workplace and develop courses in anticipation of our clients’ needs.”
“We recently launched another course on Respectful Workplace and we are developing courses on how to manage mental health issues and marijuana in the workplace,” says Mercer


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

“I’ve developed the habit of ending each day as organized as possible for the next.

The protocol of success With a newly minted BBA from St. Francis Xavier and a natural tendency to lead, Dan Merzetti landed a position with a large multinational office equipment company. Earning top sales awards for several years, he was promoted and relocated to Halifax. There, Merzetti became Canada’s top sales manager before “graduating” into telecommunications as Sprint’s Atlantic district manager. The company offered him the opportunity to serve regional clients as a third-party agency. So he incorporated DSM. Then in the mid-2000s, he saw business trending towards IP and cloud-based VoIP. “So I wrote and financed a business plan to transition DSM to a full-service, independent phone company,” says Merzetti. Today DSM employs 17 people and revenue has grown 62 per cent since 2014.

Head in the cloud DSM was the first to bring carrier-grade digital phone service to the Maritimes and Canada’s only carrier-grade mobility service that enables cell phone Voice Over the Internet, bypassing cellular carriers. “The world’s rapidly moving to an internet phone environment connecting users to multiple devices regardless of location. Our service pushes the phone system into ‘the cloud’,” he says.

One-two punch With a tenacity due in part to his silver-medal boxing days, Merzetti, “at great personal risk, invested in the future of a rapidly changing telecom industry,” he says. “Each milestone is motivation to continue and, given the popularity of cloud-based solutions, we’ve timed the market well.”

John Norman
Chief Operations Officer & Managing Partner, Bonavista Living /
Bonavista Creative / Bonavista Creative Workshop
(Bonavista, N.L.)

“Creativity must be encouraged and fostered at every age.”

A beautiful obsession To say John Norman is passionate about rehabilitating and repurposing heritage buildings in his hometown would be an understatement. “I have to stop myself and say, ‘Go to sleep,’ or ‘Don’t forget to eat.’” His business model is to capitalize on Bonavista’s heritage resources to create a more liveable community for all. “The rewards from this work … are all I want in life. Every job I create, every young family I see move in, reassures me that this is my magnum opus.”

Regular diet of entrepreneurship Norman says more work is needed, in rural Atlantic Canada, to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship. “There’ll always be born-and-raised entrepreneurs with great ideas, but many others can be encouraged to think business and find opportunities,” he says. He believes this should start in school. Public schools “manufacture professional students who regurgitate information, but have trouble thinking on their own,” he says, lamenting that the same problem persists in universities and colleges.

Unique business opportunities With revenue growth at 60 per cent, Norman employed 20 people last year. His five-year plan is to increase revenue 15 per cent annually, pay off loans, and provide annual bonuses. The greatest challenge? The declining provincial real estate market—down seven per cent in 2016. “But Bonavista increased 11 per cent,” he says. “That’s an incentive to work hard at branding this rural community as unique and sustainable.”

Michael O’Blenis
CEO, AV Group NB Inc.
(Nackawic, N.B.)

“Innovative investment and a clear future strategy are critical to short- and long-term success.”

The long haul As the public face of AV Group NB Inc. in New Brunswick, and Aditya Birla Group in Canada, Michael O’Blenis sees his role as “creating a legacy” for the company by ensuring stability and sustainability for generations. “I set strategic directions and oversee planning and execution of those plans,” he says. “I’m responsible for driving innovation and fiscal responsibility, championing business excellence… and supporting the people whose initiative earned the 2016 and 2017 Atlantic Canada Top Employer Award.”
With pulp For the past three years they’ve produced 300,000 tonnes of pulp annually for the Asian clothing and household textiles industries, says O’Blenis. Concurrently, the number of employees increased slightly from 630 to 640 people and revenue growth reached 23 per cent from total corporate revenues of between $100 million and $500 million.

Investing in innovation Under O’Blenis, AV Group NB is constantly seeking technologies to improve process, quality and production. They have strong affiliations with UNB and links, through the parent company, to three internal R&D facilities. “We have full-time business excellence staff … driving and improving our innovation culture down to the floor-employee level,” says O’Blenis. Results of R&D usually lead to significant capital investment to benefit the overall business, secure the future, generate employment and increase economic activity. “Business excellence is driving a six per cent improvement rate annually, outpacing our competitors and ensuring we lead our industry,” he says.

Karen Oldfield
President & CEO, Halifax Port Authority
(Halifax, N.S.)

“I am motivated by the potential of our region.”

Navigational issues Karen Oldfield joined the Halifax Port Authority, an organization that manages the Port of Halifax, in 2002. At the time, she was a self-described “young woman with no marine background,” but she saw her new position as a welcome challenge.
While the Port Authority wasn’t struggling when she came aboard, it wasn’t operating at maximum capacity either. Oldfield knew improvements could be made. To her, they needed to conquer new markets, specifically Asia. Oldfield made sure she worked with those around her, including the provincial government, to show how beneficial the Port Authority would be as a “national trade asset.”
Even though her decisions were “heavily criticized at the time,” Oldfield had to make them happen to “mandate transformational change.” Now Asia accounts for more of the Port’s trade than Europe does.

Rowing together Each quarter, Oldfield challenges her team to pitch innovative ideas and solutions that could potentially improve Port operations. From new sources of revenue to higher yields from existing funds to better expense management, everything is open for discussion.One of the fruits of their labour is, a shipping app now widely used by the Port community.

Looking forward As for the future, Oldfield is looking for the Port Authority and the Port of Halifax to grow even more. Goals for the next five years include record-setting cargo increases, improving cruise growth and improving sustainability through infrastructure investment.

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