From the moment you walk into the Weather Network's broadcast centre in Oakville, Ont., you think weather. Its soaring wraparound glass walls make the sky feel like an integral part of the decor. Looking out his vast office window, Pierre Morrissette, founder of Pelmorex Media Inc., owner of the Weather Network and its French counterpart, MeteoMedia in Montreal, says he's constantly checking the weather, but his expansive view overlooking an expressway also gives him a snapshot of the traffic for his ride home.
"Weather impacts everybody's life," says Mr. Morrissette, 63. "I'm involved in quite a few outdoor activities - golf, boating, tennis and skiing - all very weather-dependent activities. And then there's travel, planning social events and vacations, just like anybody else."
Pelmorex turned 21 years old recently. The company originally ran a radio network and dabbled briefly in magazine publishing, but since acquiring the Weather Network in 1993 it has focused exclusively on the weather. The company's 400 employees deliver information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, across all platforms: TV, Web, desktop and mobile.
"We're the leader in Canada of weather-related information services," says Mr. Morrissette, who reveals revenue "in the range of $75 to $100-million" and growing steadily. The company increased profits by 12 per cent last year at a time when most broadcasters were in trouble. "We're in every home, operate Canada's largest Canadian websites, and we're the leader in the area of mobile applications, which is a new frontier."
The company's television broadcasts reach about 16 million people a month, most of them every day, and its websites about seven or eight million, most every day. That's more than any other media service in Canada, says Mr. Morrissette. That huge reach has enabled the company to sign up lucrative advertising.
One challenge, he says, is to prioritize where next to apply development efforts. "As a managerial team, we're very innovative," says Mr. Morrissette. "We embrace change. We're constantly looking for new territory to occupy."
"We sit around the table and discuss very complex issues constantly as a group and strive for consensus," says Mr. Morrissette. "I've often told my son that one of the important recipes for success is to surround yourself with great people, listen to them and then great things will happen."
Mr. Morrissette was born and raised in Montreal, where his father ran a big food company. This inspired him to want to run his own business. After earning a degree in economics and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business in 1972, he went into banking "because he wanted to find out what made bankers say yes." He went on to become chief financial officer of Telemedia Communications Inc. until 1982, and then was president of Telemedia Ventures in 1983 and of Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. (CANCOM) from 1983 to 1989.
"By that time I was turning 40 and I said, 'Okay, it's time to take the plunge,' and I did," says Mr. Morrissette. "It helps if you build up a network of people and a track record. That will stand you well when you're out there trying to raise capital. A lot of people who invest in business look at the idea, yes, but they really look at the team behind it and what they have accomplished."
When Mr. Morrissette sits down with his management team or a prospective hire, he applies the same rule. "I want to know what they have accomplished, that's the real yardstick."
His favourite motto, and one that's "a religion" to him, is to "underpromise and overdeliver. It's all psychology."
As a passionate supporter of entrepreneurship in Canada (there is a Pierre Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship at Ivey), his advice to entrepreneurs is to never take no for an answer.
"You have can-do people and can't-do people," says Mr. Morrissette. "There's always a way to resolve a complex issue. Tenacity describes the attitude here."
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