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Eric Chouinard, founder and CEO of iWEb Technologies, poses in one of the company’s server rooms in Montreal on May 19, 2011. (Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)
Eric Chouinard, founder and CEO of iWEb Technologies, poses in one of the company’s server rooms in Montreal on May 19, 2011. (Christinne Muschi For The Globe and Mail)

CHALLENGE REVISITED

With experts’ advice taken to heart, top-job successor found Add to ...

How have companies fared since appearing as subjects of our weekly The Challenge series? From time to time, we will follow up to see what’s happened since the experts weighed in with advice on the challenges they presented.

Nearly a year and a half ago, Eric Chouinard, the founder and chief executive officer of Montreal-based Web-hosting service iWeb Technologies Inc., had a goal to turn his company into a $100-million business within three to five years.

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To get there, he admitted, he needed to hire someone with far more experience than he had to take over the company’s day-to-day dealings and, eventually, replace him in the top job.

"I've never run a $100-million business," he said as the subject of a Challenge in May, 2011, during which he sought help to find a chief operating officer who could one day take over the CEO’s role.

A year after that Challenge appeared, Mr. Chouinard finally found someone who fit the bill. In May of this year, Christian Primeau, a former Bell Canada and Sun Microsystems Inc. executive, became iWeb’s president and chief operating officer, and could soon take over the CEO’s role at iWEb, which is expected to generate $47-million in revenue in 2012.

Mr. Primeau “is running the company’s operations,” said Mr. Chouinard, in a recent interview. “We’ll give him a year to make sure he’s a good guy. So far, so good.”

Mr. Chouinard took a lot of the advice given by the Challenge experts to heart in conducting his search.

Brian Scudamore, the founder and chief executive officer of Vancouver-based 1-800-Got-Junk? LLC, suggested that Mr. Chouinard spend as much outside time as possible with a potential COO to make sure he or she was the right fit, and bring in the candidate to meet the leadership team.

Mr. Chouinard did just that. “We went for a beer, we went biking together, we had dinner with our wives and dinner with board members,” he said. “Over a month, we met five times and had a lot of phone calls.”

He also heeded Mario Patenaude, a Halifax-based senior manager at Deloitte Human Capital, who advised Mr. Chouinard to carefully define his role. “When there’s no clarity, things go sideways,” Mr. Patenaude warned.

Mr. Chouinard also acted on that advice.

“I did create a résumé of the CEO position, and included all the key things I really wanted out of the job,” he said.

Mr. Primeau was actually interviewing for a different position, but because Mr. Chouinard had defined the role, he realized that the former telecom exec had what it took to become the COO.

With Mr. Primeau now running the company, Mr. Chouinard can take a step back. For now, he’ll be the face of iWeb, but he’s confident that when he does eventually leave, his company will be in good hands.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “I took my time, and listened to advice, and now I found a great fit.”

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