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With the financially savvy Ms. McCurdy at the helm -- she holds both an MBA and CGA -- K-Bro has shown annual revenue growth of 10 per cent over the past five years, with earnings growth of 75 per cent over the same period. The company has successfully entered major new health-care markets by constructing a new $10-million facility in Vancouver to serve the burgeoning market there.

But although the company's financial performance has been, well, spotless, Ms. McCurdy's real satisfaction has come from what she describes as "driving through a culture of excellence" among the company's staff.

"We all have a comfort zone," she says, "and it's wonderful to move people beyond theirs into a zone of excellence."

In developing the corporate culture, Ms. McCurdy notes the importance of letting people feel free to make mistakes.

"Stuff happens," she says, "but [corporate change]is not about laying blame or retribution."

Having fun in your job is crucial, in Ms. McCurdy's view. "If you don't [enjoy your job]you'll just get burnt out."

Ms. McCurdy is sharpening K-Bro's competitive edge for what she sees as the growing challenge of containing the tremendous cost pressures that hospitals are facing.

"They're increasingly focusing on the core strength, which is patient care, and contracting out other services," she says.

Ms. McCurdy's career has taken her from accounting at the Overwaitea Food Group in B.C. to controller of Buy-Low Foods for the Jim Pattison Group there. She moved to Canadian Innovatech, a biochemical, egg and dairy processing operation with seven plants in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Europe as chief financial officer in 1996 and came aboard K-Bro as chief financial officer based in Edmonton in 1998.

Karen Radford, 37 Executive vice-president and president, Telus Quebec and Telus Partner Solutions, Montreal

BY AUGUSTA DWYER

The challenge presented by Karen Radford stems from the fact that both her work and her outside activities sound equally interesting. Freshly arrived in Montreal, where she deals with both TELUS Quebec and TELUS's Partner Solutions wing, she works with wholesale partners across North America, providing carrier and operator services, buying and selling technology.

"It's not traditional wholesale," she points out, "but everything from consulting services to smaller telcos, hiring and recruiting -- you name it. And then I do all of Quebec which is the best example of fractal geometry in the world."

For Ms. Radford, it means providing leadership to two groups of "very strong people, talent that has grown up within the organization. It's almost like finding a way to just let these people step into their own greatness, to do what they want to do." Her challenge, she says, is how to honour that history "at the same time challenging every single thought process to say, 'how do we grow more out of territory, and how do you do that with focus?' "

On a personal note, she is just settling into a new home with husband, Jason, and two small boys. "So the opportunity I have," she says, "is to get embedded in a whole new very dynamic culture, to make a new set of contacts and friends and community involvement and board involvement."

The latter is important to a woman who is full of broader ideas about what she wants from life. Originally from Moncton, N.B, she believes that being from a small city and from Atlantic Canada has taught her a great deal "about the values of and being part of your community."

Ms. Radford sits on a number of boards, including the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. Last year, she gathered a group of like-minded friends and set up the Woman's Leadership Forum, a project that has her tremendously excited. In a matter of a few months, they organized and did fund-raising for a conference on what she calls the ABC's of leadership -- "awakening to your dreams, balance and career" -- that attracted more than 750 women from across Canada. This year, she's working to have the forum expanded to three more cities across the country.

"As a woman in business," she says, "I believe that sometimes we need someone to talk to who's living in the same world and that we can just bounce ideas off of, to ask things like, if we had the courage to act, what would we do with our lives."

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