Dave Veale interviews Andrea Feunekes, co-CEO and co-founder of Remsoft as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
One of the many refreshing qualities Andrea has is her progressive philosophy on the role of change in business world.
Andrea Feunekes, co-CEO and co-founder of Remsoft, understands what it takes to build a successful enterprise. As her bio on the Remsoft website states, she leads a company that ‘helps clients simplify complex, high variable decisions to fuel long-term sustainability and meet critical objectives.’ As I read this, and after interviewing Andrea, it became clear to me that this is exactly the experience that makes her such a great fit as chairwoman of Future NB with a mandate to ‘retool the way New Brunswick invests and creates jobs.’
Andrea and her husband – Ugo Feunekes, the co-founder and CTO – established Fredericton based Remsoft in 1992 and helped it grow from a start-up to one of the world’s leading providers of advanced analytics, modeling and spatial planning technology. Among her many accolades, Andrea was the 2005 recipient of the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award for innovation and a Top 50 CEO of Atlantic Canada.
I started my interview by asking Andrea what changes she has seen in her industry in the last 20 years . . .
A: We’ve been through two or three recessions. Globally, forestry has completely changed a couple of times. We lived through a period six years ago where a lot of the large integrated forest companies were divested of their lands. They sold off all of their land and a lot of our customers disappeared. After a while you get some perspective and realize that is the nature of business and you have to keep watching what is changing and know where you need to be to stay ahead of the game.
Q: How do you deal with an environment in constant change?
A: I try every day and every week to make sure that only a piece of my time is spent on what is happening right now and that a piece of my time is spent on where we need to be next week, next month, next year and in three years. We are always looking out ahead. It’s a constant process of evolution and an understanding that change isn’t bad.
Q: How effectively do you think we, as a province, deal with change?
A: I think a lot of people resist change and it is a huge challenge for us as a province – this openness to something new, something different, something uncertain. Uncertainty is difficult for a lot of people. I find change quite interesting and a little bit exciting.
Q: When you look at New Brunswick’s business environment, what do you see?
A: I’m seeing lots of opportunities. I don’t see giant ones but I see lots of good ones. I see that we need to be really open to those opportunities that involve changing the way we do things. It comes back to openness to change. We as a province have to be open to the fact that if we are not ready to change we have some big challenges coming ahead.
The Future NB initiative is to see if we can accelerate and facilitate the growth of private sector businesses. If we have more private sector businesses and more private sector jobs this provides us with a tax base so we can pay for some of the things that we are going to need as a province.
Q: What motivated you to get involved in Future NB?
A: Looking at the province over the last few years, I was getting a little discouraged by the resistance to change. I started to look at my own business and I thought, “we’ve chosen to stay here in this province”, (my husband and I are not from here). We want this to be a place where we can grow old with the services we’ll need. We also want this to be a place where our kids can come back and work. It’s not okay to sit and complain and then not do anything. I thought it seemed reasonable to put a little time and energy into the Future NB initiative and to try to be part of the solution.
Q: What inspires you?
A: What I am inspired by is big, giant, ridiculously huge ideas. People who can aspire to dream a giant dream – that is interesting and exciting.
Q: From a business perspective, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: I think it would be what Remsoft, as a company, has accomplished. There are three things that I feel really good about. First, what we have been able to accomplish as a team – create some good jobs, operate with a lot of ethics, integrity and decency. The second is the technology that we have created. The third thing, which is really important, we believe through our technology that we have been able to contribute to the sustainable management of forests around the world. We have become the standard in forest planning and our technology allows our clients to deal with very complex issues.
Q: What are the current challenges Remsoft is confronting?
A: One of the things we are trying to do now is expand beyond our forestry borders into new sectors. It is an interesting challenge and it is also a difficult challenge. We are doing some work in the transportation sector and we just signed an agreement with a software company in Calgary that works in the oil and gas sector, so that is going to be huge for us – to move into new sectors and be relevant and continue to grow the company.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence “A leader’s job is to…….”?
A: A leader’s job is to help find a way to get things to happen.
Q: What advice would you offer emerging entrepreneurs?
A: I would say “go for it and do not be afraid to fail”. There is no shame in not succeeding, the only thing to be ashamed of is not trying. I think my mother invented the slogan “Just do it” long before Nike did. You know, somebody would say something and she would say “Just do it.” I think that is important.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com. His column appears monthly. To read past columns go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca
As published in the Telegraph-Journal on January 12, 2012.