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Henry Demone is the chairman and former CEO of High Liner Foods.

Janet Kimber/The Globe and Mail

- I grew up in Lunenburg, where my father was a sea captain. My grandfather was a sea captain. All of my male role models were pretty much sea captains. Who knows what effect that had on me, but it was probably big and probably good.

- From the time I was 16, I worked in the fishing industry, either in the plants or as a crewman. For the 1970s, I made good money. Actually, it’d be good money by 2018 standards.

- I’m still a sailor. It’s not like what my forefathers did, but it’s still reasonably athletic, and I enjoy the competition. Plus, a lot of thinking goes into winning a sailboat race.

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- After getting a master’s in biomathematics from Dalhousie, I applied for a job as an export assistant in the international department at National Sea Products. My father had worked his way up to vice-president of fleet operations there, after being forced to take a job on land in his mid-40s. I don’t know if he had anything to do with it, but I got the job.

- In 1989, the board asked me to take over as president. I was 35. There were a lot of challenges: A number of acquisitions hadn’t worked out, and it was obvious quotas were decreasing, though no one imagined they’d go down by 95%.

- We had to lay off thousands of people, in little towns where the fishery was the only option. If there’s no seafood resource, you can either make-believe there’s no problem and go bankrupt, or you can make some difficult decisions.

- We started making money again in 1994 and got our minds focused on frozen, value-added seafood—the most basic product being the fish stick—in the late ’90s, when we changed our name to High Liner. We’d sold off all our trawlers by 2003.

Mr. Demone is a lifelong resident of Lunenberg, N.S., and an avid sailor.

Janet Kimber/The Globe and Mail

- One thing I’ve learned is that a strategic shift like that is easier when you’re in dire straits than it is when you’re profitable. People tend to follow you more willingly when you’re on a burning platform.

- You need to make decisions. They won’t always be right, but I think when you stand still in the face of disruption, it’s like the proverbial frog in the pot of hot water.

- I’m proud of High Liner’s track record on sustainability. The issue was hotly debated within the company, and we came to the consensus that, look, let’s not be a laggard here. Let’s take a leadership position.

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- Success is not just about the brightest people—that was Enron, right? But you get a team that has talent, where everybody knows their roles, performs them well and works together—that team might just win the regatta.

- I worked with Keith Decker for eight years, and we got a lot done as a CEO-COO team. But when he became CEO... I think the results speak for themselves. [Decker was fired after two years.] You make that jump from No. 2 to No. 1, and all of a sudden you own the decisions. It’s like Phil Kessel—he was a disaster in Toronto, but then he went to Pittsburgh and won two Stanley Cups. Because in Pittsburgh, he wasn’t the guy.

- I’ve been with High Liner my whole career. That’s unusual. Now that we’ve hired a new CEO, I plan to stay on as chair as long as the board will have me.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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