Part 1: Local business leaders reflect on year past
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Dave Veale interviews Gerry Pond, Chairman of Mariner Partners, Debbie Cooper, ED Saint John Boys & Girls Club & Dan Martell, co-founder Clarity.fm as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
I feel very fortunate to have opportunity to interact with a variety of leaders through my interviews for this column and in my role as an executive coach. Every single meeting seems to contain a valuable lesson, and I have also noticed some distinct patterns emerging as I talk to leaders.
One example is the discipline some people have in taking time to reflect – no easy task in today’s busy world – on the past and using this information to be intentional about their future in the pursuit of the growth and development of their organization.
As we leave 2011 and look forward to 2012, I thought it would be interesting to ask three New Brunswick leaders with different backgrounds, representing different sectors of the economy, what they learned from the last year and what they are looking forward to in the upcoming year.
The three leaders:
Gerry Pond, chairman of Mariner Partners, Inc. Gerry brings over 40 years of in-depth experience in the information and communications technology industry. He was the president of Aliant Telecom and CEO of NBTel. Gerry is a proven innovator with such start-up IT companies as Q1 Labs, iMagicTV, Brovada Technologies and Radian6.
Debbie Cooper, executive director of the Saint John Boys and Girls Club, the oldest boys and girls club in Canada. She has received many awards, including the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal, Saint John sportsperson of the year and her selection as the official torch bearer for Saint John in the 2009 Olympic Torch Relay.
Dan Martell, co-founder of Clarity.fm. Prior to Clarity, he co-founded Flowtown, which was acquired by Demandforce earlier this year. An award-winning Canadian entrepreneur, Dan started his entrepreneurial journey at 24 when he formed his first company, Spheric Technologies Inc. He’s also a board member of the non-profits Startup Weekend and Propel ICT.
Today, we focus on reflections. Tomorrow, the future.
Q: What was your biggest win in 2011? Pond: Radian 6’s sale to Salesforce.com and Q1Labs’ sale to IBM. These are two of the world’s software powerhouses, and it speaks volumes to the global class of talent we have in the Maritimes. Each buyer also retained their acquired local workforce and are putting local senior leaders in charge of bigger global mandates. I was proud to be part of the founding teams of these great ICT successes. There will be more.
Cooper: Our biggest accomplishment for 2011 was the successful operation of the Heart of the Possible – Change a Life Forever $750,000.00 capital campaign. These funds were badly needed to improve the club’s facilities. Another major win was the establishment of YOUTH SJ (Youth Organizations United Together Helping Saint John).
Martell: I sold my company Flowtown and made our investors and team money. That made me happy.
Q: Who has inspired you in the last year? What did they do to inspire you? Pond: Bud Bird was back in the news after receiving the Junior Achievment Business Hall of Fame award. He inspires me with his energy, his community and country involvement as well as his business savvy. He doesn’t just take on the easy assignments – he takes on the thorny ones, the “no-win” ones. He does what is right, not what is fashionable. I admire his stamina and his courage and yet, I have never worked closely with him. Maybe that will happen soon.
Cooper: The community has inspired me. Without the generosity of goods and services and the kindness of spirit from individuals, businesses, unions, corporations, foundations and the general public; we would not have the resources to offer programs and services to over 350 children and youth per day.
Martell: There’s way too many to mention. Ryan Holmes, founder of Hootsuite, for building a great company and not selling. Mike McDerment, founder of Freshbooks, for caring deeply about his customers and building an amazing company. Marcel Lebrun, CEO of Radian6, for putting New Brunswick on the map.
Q: As you reflect on 2011, what were some of the most important decisions you made as a leader? Pond: Perhaps the most important decision I made was to pick the emerging leaders that I wanted to mentor. I think I’m fortunate to have a great group with me. The second decision was to plan more regionally. The Maritime provinces need to really get serious about meaningful cooperation.
Cooper: We did not replace three full-time staff upon their departures. Instead, we re-vamped our staff structure. Other decisions were my advice to our board to undertake a $750,000 capital campaign and to focus on cooperation and collaboration with other youth serving agencies with the development and announcement of YOUTH SJ.
Martell: I refused to hire anyone that wasn’t smarter and more talented than me.
Q: What is the biggest leadership lesson you learned – or possibly relearned – in 2011? Pond: Cool products or services don’t create cool markets – pain usually does. It is in every business textbook on the planet, yet we love to ignore it. Market timing is everything, so having an early pain detection process is very useful.
Cooper: I gained a new appreciation for time management, accountability, delegation and teamwork. 2011 has been one of the busiest, most challenging years of my 24-year tenure as executive director. I needed to step back, delegate and truly appreciate the strengths and talents of our staff and volunteer base.
Martell: Start with the “why.” The why is more important than the “how.” Your team, investors, and customers care about the why. Ask “Why are you and your team in this business?” Once you truly understand this, go tell the world.
Q: If you could repeat 2011 what, if anything, would you do differently? Pond: I would have started more social enterprises and should have sought out a resource to assist me in this thrust. I’m about six months behind.
Cooper: It is as it was meant to be. However, funds being allocated to staff development were minimal, and we would do this differently should funds have been more available.
Martell: I would’ve spent more time documenting the journey. It happened so fast, and there were so many amazing moments that I wish I would’ve taken more pictures, written more notes and really savoured the journey.
Q: What one leadership skill did you leverage and find most beneficial in 2011? Pond: Persevere in the face of adversity. Try different things, but stay the course. Many people give up too soon. That said, you can’t spend money that you don’t have either.
Cooper: My vision and passion for the work we undertake on behalf of our children and youth was instrumental in the numerous presentations to potential capital funders. We needed to tell our story in a manner which spoke to funders and was also clear, concise and human while respecting the privacy and celebrating the resiliency of our children and youth with their struggles and challenges.
Martell: The power of in-person conversation. Every meaningful hire or business development deal – even the acquisition – only ever worked because we pushed to meet face-to-face right at the beginning.
Q: Were there any technological developments in the last year that you feel had a big impact on business in general? Pond: I was heavily connected to the social media technology through my involvement with Radian6, so that would be my choice. Technology runs in waves that usually exceed a year. Social media has been five years in the making and probably has another five years of business upheaval before it is superseded by the next wave. That is a good run.
Cooper: The development of our social media usage with Twitter, Facebook and a monthly e-update with mass email distribution. We also are using a service for online donations. The general recognition and realization that as a non-profit we must be technologically savvy.
Martell: Obviously, the change in Facebook’s privacy settings. What’s exciting to me is that there are nearly 800 million people on Facebook. If you consider identity important online (and I do), that means a whole host of new applications will be born to leverage this. Companies like Airbnb.com and others in the collaborative consumption space are using this to create new marketplaces that require trust to unlock the value. That’s going to be huge.
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 every other Thursday. To read past columns go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca
Read the next column, the same three leaders look ahead to 2012.
Published Thursday December 29, 2011 in the Telegraph Journal
Photos: Gerry Pond: Kâté Braydon/Telegraph-Journal Debbie Cooper: Cindy Wilson/Telegraph Journal Dan Martell: Yvonne Berg/Telegraph Journal