This is a magazine that chronicles corporate Canada's highs and lows, and business was on a roll last year. Once a year, however, we also get to cast a much wider net. The ninth annual selection of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 reminds us that innovation and success come in many different forms.
Once again, the honorees were selected by a panel of 31 business and community leaders (see page 84) assembled by The Caldwell Partners International, the first and largest executive search firm in Canada. Caldwell received more than 1,400 nominations. The panel then rated nominees on five criteria: vision and leadership, innovation and achievement, community involvement, impact, and growth and development strategy.
The honorees come from many fields, and from across the country. They include Bay Street hotshots such as CIBC investment banker Dan Daviau; Alberta oil patch winners such as Paramount Energy Trust president Susan Riddell Rose; and achievers who are about as far from the corporate mainstream as you can get, such as Gregor Robertson, co-founder of Vancouver-based juice maker Happy Planet, and medical researcher Proton Rahman from St. John's. All have inspiring stories.
To nominate someone for next year's Top 40, please call 1-800-688-5540 or visit .
Eric Schneider, 39
President and CEO, Redwood Custom Communications Inc., Toronto
South African-born Schneider departed from his roots in accounting and in sales and marketing to found Redwood Custom Communications in 1998. An adjunct to Britain's Redwood Publishing, his company is now North America's largest custom publishing agency, producing direct-mail magazines for clients such as General Motors and Kraft. Redwood publishes more than 70 million copies of its magazines a year.
Something caught his eye: "I used to love watching thirtysomething," Schneider says, referring to the popular 1990s TV show. "I don't know how old I was at the time, but I was just looking at the work environment, which was an ad agency, and thinking, 'That's quite cool.'"
Love your reader: Schneider strives to create content that satisfies marketing objectives, but also makes good reading. He says Farm Inc., which is targeted at professional farmers, would interest any food consumer. "The way we typically talk internally is with respect to two clients: the reader and our [paying]client. We can't be dismissive of either. That means sometimes we push back with our sponsor client on a certain issue."
David Ossip, 37 President and CEO, Workbrain Corp., Toronto Ossip's first job was at CIBC, doing "absolutely nothing," he says, for the first three weeks. Then he peeked over his cubicle and showed a staffer a Lotus command, which helped reduce a year's work on a data-exporting project "to about two minutes." The bank declared Ossip a genius (he argues otherwise) and put him to work analyzing profitability models. Ossip envisioned a program to help CIBC improve the way it gathered and used its customer data. He developed a prototype and sold it to his bosses, and his compensation financed a Harvard MBA. Next, he built his own labour management software and a company, Business Machine Interfaces, to develop and market it. He sold BMI to a Japanese company in 1996, then consulted while waiting out a non-compete clause that expired in 1999. Ossip promptly launched Workbrain, a software company that helps large corporations deploy and manage their workforces. Its first three clients were British Airways, the Tennessee Valley Authority (North America's largest public utility) and Russell Athletics. Revenue climbed from $16.8 million (U.S.) in 2002 to $33.8 million (U.S.) in 2003; last December, the company launched Canada's first tech IPO in three years.
On emigrating from South Africa to Toronto at age 12: "My parents liked the weather in Canada. I think they were on drugs when we came here."
On Workbrain's corporate culture: "Our hockey team has the best uniforms [blue, orange and white, with Workbrain's swirling logo on the chest] but we're zero for eight. It's a real tragedy."
Allan McLeod, 34
President and CEO, Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba, Winnipeg
"I'm busier than a one-legged butt-kicker today, if you can picture that." In addition to his duties with TCIG, which manages long-term investments for 52 of Manitoba's 63 First Nations, McLeod is chairman of Anishinabe Mazaska Capital Corp. (Manitoba's first capital corporation for aboriginal people); president and CEO of First Canadian Health Management Corp. (a national medical claims processing service for aboriginal people) and Arctic Beverages Ltd. (the world's only aboriginal-owned Pepsi bottler); and managing director of Rupertsland Holdings Inc. (an investment consortium consisting of TCIG and its counterparts from Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories). Little wonder that he recently asked for "a bit of a reprieve" from Kingston's Queen's University, where he is pursuing an executive MBA (via remote study).