"I have the benefit of not being afraid to not hesitate," says Mr. Lacavera, whose revenue on the Globalive side alone grew to $60-million in 2005 from $35-million in 2003. Sixty per cent of that comes from U.S. clients, he says. "No matter how radical it is, I do it."
Buying pay phones in an era of mobile communications certainly seemed radical, if not foolhardy, to some. But Mr. Lacavera is quick to note he's not taking all the risks or generating all the ideas himself. Globalive's strategy has put other entrepreneurs in charge of new services. "I'm quite prepared to partner with an entrepreneur rather than have an employee who is entrepreneurial," says Mr. Lacavera, who has more than 80 employees. "If they could build that business alone, why would they want to work for me?"
Given the sinkhole the telecom sector descended into soon after Globalive's birth, it's good to have such choices.
"From 1999 to 2001, ten of our first twelve customers either went into receivership or liquidated into bankruptcy," recalls Mr. Lacavera. "There were days I woke up and said, 'this can't possibly get worse' -- and then it did."
But Globalive was built on the concentrated customer service its larger competitors couldn't provide, and clients have returned the favours. "We don't have the brand equity of a Telus or a Bell, [but]we have virtually no customer turnover at all and I'm very proud of that. There's really not a lot of loyalty in the Canadian telecom market."
Sean Murray, 37 President and chief executive officer, Advocate Printing and Publishing Co., Pictou, N.S.
BY LISA STEPHENS
Sean Murray's philosophy is a straightforward one: the only thing standing between yourself and success is you.
To hear the CEO tell it, "nothing is impossible." Then he adds helpfully, "Some things are expensive and may take a lot of time, but there's nothing that can't be done."
Mr. Murray's attitude has been put to the test more than once since he graduated from university in 1990 to rejoin his family's printing and newspaper publishing business, which is based in the tiny Nova Scotia hamlet of Pictou (population 3,800).
The small, traditional enterprise was growing smaller. Mr. Murray dug in and transformed the company from a small regional publisher whose most noteworthy enterprise had been the weekly Pictou newspaper into Atlantic Canada's largest and most dynamic print communications company. He led Advocate to take a pioneering role in electronic data transfer, digital proofing and commercial printing on heat-set web. The company reached out to take advantage of distance-shrinking technologies while promoting its small town values and stability.
Disaster struck in 1996 when a fire swept through Advocate's newspaper offices, photo studio and warehouse. Undaunted, Mr. Murray published a paper the very next day and processed clients' film in the company parking lot.
The unanticipated showed its hand again in 2003 when Bruce Murray, Advocate's president and Mr. Murray's father, partner and mentor, died suddenly. "I had to become an instant expert in succession planning," he says. "I give talks about it now to groups."
While dealing with the grief, Mr. Murray had to act quickly to restore client and public confidence in the viability of Advocate.
"The rumours were saying we were bankrupt, for sale, falling apart," Mr. Murray says. The company was, in fact, debt-free and rock solid, but long-time clients were hesitant. "We had to advance what was to have been a 'reasonable' business expansion into a 'major' expansion," he says.
"My father had always been the public face of the company, the clients' man. I had to promote our entire management team."
Recognizing that a regional printing enterprise would not fare well in an increasingly commoditized marketplace, Mr. Murray focused his team on choosing clients who could benefit from Advocate's consultative approach.
A source of great personal satisfaction to Mr. Murray has been Advocate's ability to provide stable employment and opportunity for his hometown community. "The opportunity to 'give back' to the way you grew up is wonderful. It's unbelievable how it changes you and your local community" when you can play a role in its development, he says. "But," he adds, "there's always more to do."